Red Letter Year: 7/4

Luke 5:27-39

27 Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. 28 So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.

29 Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. 30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”

31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”

33 One day some people said to Jesus, “John the Baptist’s disciples fast and pray regularly, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Why are your disciples always eating and drinking?”

34 Jesus responded, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. 35 But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

36 Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. 38 New wine must be stored in new wineskins. 39 But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.”


Here are just a few quick things to pay attention to:

  • Like Peter, James, and John, Levi (Matthew) leaves everything to follow Jesus. Once again, Luke adds this to text he has otherwise borrowed from Mark.
  • Peter called himself a sinner and Levi is a tax-collector, so it is quite correct to call Jesus a friend of tax collectors and sinners. It’s not just that Jesus went and ministered to such ‘unsavory’ people – he actually liked them, they were among his closest friends, and they were the ones he trusted to carry on building his kingdom.
  • The Pharisees, teachers, and even John the Baptist’s followers have such a hard time with Jesus eating with such people because having a meal with someone is more of a spiritual event than we tend to realize. In church lingo, we call this “table fellowship” and it’s a big deal because it creates a spiritual unity and solidarity – for good or for bad. Outside the power of the Holy Spirit this sort of thing could go wrong. But when you are operating in the Spirit like Jesus was, you can eat with anyone – and the spiritual unity you create will do them good without doing you harm.
  • Luke cleans up the wineskins/garment patch teaching; the grammar here makes more sense than in Mark. Luke also adds the line at the end about people preferring the old wine. Some people just prefer the status quo, even over something that would be better, because the better requires effort of some kind, while the status quo is already here – it doesn’t even require overcoming inertia. Following Jesus requires moving into the new of his kingdom and overcoming inevitable resistance that will most often try to push you back to your prior status quo or some invented religious status quo that skirts around doing the hard work of the kingdom – leaving all and following Jesus. The old may seem better, but the new is the best in the world.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.