Who doesn’t like a party? Not only are they are great way to enjoy some time with friends, they also can be a wonderful tool to help people meet Jesus. Who ever knew that evangelism could be so fun? If you’re not convinced, just look at the story of Levi in the Gospel of Luke. He’s a tax collector. That would have made him one of the most hated men in Capernaum. In the culture of that day, due to their status as traitors, they would have no social interaction with anyone else who was not also on the same low level as they were.
Levi, however, meets Jesus one day and his entire life changes in an instant. And what is the very first thing that he does afterwards? The Bible says that Levi gave a big reception in his house. The Bible also says that there was a great crowd that attended. We are talking lots of people. That tells us that Levi’s house was pretty big from the money he made as a tax collector. Let’s break this party down.
According to the Bible, Jesus is the guest of honor at this party. But remember, it’s a huge party with lots of people. So who else is there? The Bible says it is a great crowd of other tax collectors and sinners. That makes sense. Remember, if you're living in Israel at that time and Levi the tax collector called you up and said, “Hey, want to come over to my house for dinner?” What would your answer have been? It would have been, “Not on your life!” No well-respecting Jew would ever go in to the home of a tax collector. So the only people that tax collectors could hang around with were other tax collectors who were just as rotten and nasty as they were. And with them there were other sinners. This involved anyone else that wasn't welcomed in society like prostitutes, swindlers, robbers, and the like. This party contained the “who's who” of riff raff in Capernaum. Those at this party made up the underbelly of Capernaum.
With that in mind let me ask you a question. Do you think possibly there may have been some foul language at this party? Do you think there may have been a few dirty jokes told at the party? I bet there was on both accounts. But, yet, here's Levi and Jesus. And what are they doing? Nowhere in the text is there any evidence that Jesus preached at this party. Instead, the only thing it says that He did was to recline at the table with the guests. Keep in mind that in the culture of that day you didn't sit in chairs at a dining room table. The tables were very low and you reclined on pillows as you ate and talked.
Folks, listen, you would never recline at a table with an enemy. You wouldn't do it. You only reclined at a table with a friend. What's Jesus doing? He's reclining at the table with tax collectors. He's reclining at the table with sinners - with the riff raff, with the underbelly of Capernaum. This is such an incredible story to show us that Jesus Christ is a friend of sinners.
As Jesus reclined at the table with them, what does He do? The only thing we can guess happened was that there was a lot of incredible conversation learning each other's names and telling about each other. And what was the motive behind it all? Why did Levi do it? It's obvious from the text. He wanted his friends, even though they were the riff raff and underbelly of society, he wanted his friends to meet Jesus. Levi had just met Jesus. His life had changed and he was so excited about it that he wanted his friends to meet Jesus, too. So he throws a party designed for his friends to rub shoulders with Jesus, the ultimate friend of sinners.
Did it have an impact? When you read through the rest of the gospels, you discover that wherever Jesus goes, the tax collectors are trying to get close to Him. You know why? They did so because no other rabbi in all of Israel would dare befriend a tax collector. But Jesus did. And now they wanted to be with Him.
Folks, listen, that is a powerful lesson for you and I today as individuals and as a church. When we begin to rub shoulders with lost people and really show them that we care about them, they will be drawn to this place. And as a result, they will be drawn to Jesus. Party on!