Tax collectors and sinners

Published February 28, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

In Jesus’ time, the Herodians and the ruling elite control fishing by the Sea of Galilee. They sell fishing rights to “brokers” (translated as “publicans” or “tax collectors”) who, in turn, contract with fishermen. The fishermen receive capitalization from the brokers and are often indebted to them.

The Gospel notes that Levi sits at a customs post, probably in Capernaum that is an important fishing locale. Levi may be a contractor of royal fishing rights having business dealings with Simon and Andrew and Zebedee and his sons. The fishermen do not usually become wealthy by their catch; the gains go to the brokers and the rulers who impose the taxes. This accounts for the hostility of the general population towards the tax collectors whom they brand as “sinners.”

By attending the banquet prepared by Levi, to which other tax collectors are invited, Jesus appears to the Pharisees and the scribes as compromising His position as a teacher (let alone as the Messiah). Precisely because He is a “doctor,” however, Jesus attends to the sick: Sinners who are despised and avoided.

The banquet at Levi’s reminds us again of the “bridegroom’s” presence that calls for rejoicing, even from people branded as sinners.

Gospel • LUKE 5:27-32

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow Me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed Him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in His house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord 2020,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: