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The Great Physician


Levi, the tax collector, had just made the decision to follow Jesus,
and celebrates by giving a farewell dinner to his friends, old and new;
as might any new convert filled with enthusiasm and closing the door behind them.
He was a typical modern man - out for himself and his financial gain.
His individual profit replaced any thought of local loyalty.
Many commentaries portray him as a much hated man.

I suspect that people don't change their nature as dramatically.
Levi probably hated his job, but it was a job and where could he find another.
Perhaps Jesus let him see how much he hated it, and gave him a chance to move on.
It might be that the same applied to those fishermen, as they tried to earn a living
from a lake that was (as is reported) no longer as fruitful as it used to be.

Maybe we all respond when opportunity arises to take the step that we already know we should take.
Maybe conversion is, or can be, less of a leap, more a small step from one path to another.
We seize the opportunity to branch down the slip-road from the motorway of conformity
because we are already looking for a turning, sometimes any turning.
More often than not, we end up on yet another major highway,
when hoping for the peace of a wandering country lane.

Jesus is challenged by those on the religious super-highway,
the one with such high banks that you can't even see the passing countryside.
They were called Pharisees, in those days. They were righteous, certain, assured.
Those who didn't follow their way were bound for eternal torment.
They observed the letter of the Law as set in the Bible,
the inspired, inerrant, eternal Word of God.

Here we see the great clash between Jesus and most churches,
for the church is the gathering of those who have been brought into the fold, the believers.
'Jesus' is out there with tax collectors and sinners and all who suffer from spiritual sickness.
'Jesus' has no place in our churches, nor have those who would truly emulate him.
They too are out there in the world, healing their unsavoury neighbour.

The tragedy is that such healing brings a longing to meet others who are healthy,
and this brings a fear of the contamination that might reignite their illness;
a fear that builds barriers and rules and doors and creeds
and criticism of those beyond the crenelated walls.

Jesus takes us
from the super-highway of secularity,
down the slip-road of conversion,
to the roundabout of decision.

We tend to land up on
the carriageway of religious conformity,
perhaps because that is the main traffic flow
but then off-roading as just too dangerous,
and muddy and uncomfortable and.....
can often be rather lonely.