bread of life

On Tesla, Levi the Tax Collector, and Proving a False Thesis


Have you ever believed something so strongly that you would do anything to prove it? Sometimes, that might be a good thing, but when we are trying to prove a false thesis, that can be a problem. We leave ourselves open to a life dedicated to something that isn’t true!


I studied a passage this week in preparation for a sermon this coming Sunday. As I approached the passage, I had a thesis in mind and kept trying to prove the thesis, only to find that my thesis was off and God had something much better in mind!

The passage is Luke 5:27-39, a passage where the religious leaders of the day approached Jesus at a feast (trying to prove a thesis about him, by the way).

I approached this passage trying to prove the thesis that God wants to do new things and we all better get with it or else we will be left behind! I looked up Elon Musk (Tesla / Space X) and Alan Mullaly (Boeing, Ford) hoping to find inspiring stories of people moving forward with innovation. I read Henry Cloud and Karl Vaters looking for self help and church help. All these guys are studs by the way and we have a lot to learn from the; I just didn’t find what I was looking for.

What I expected to find in this passage: Get with the program people, Jesus is doing something new.

What I actually found in this passage: Something much more beautiful. Whether you are young or old, jew or gentile, Pharisee or tax collector, white or black, republican or democrat, Jesus wants you to feast with him.

  1. In this way, he isn’t what we expect.
  2. In this way, he is the life of the party.
  3. And in this way, life in him is entirely new.

When Jesus Isn’t What We Expect (vs. 27-33)

In the opening portion of this passage, we see that Tax Collector (Levi) gave his life to Jesus, left everything, and followed him. Understand that the tax collector in this day is considered a despised and scandalous individual by many. Think of such an individual today (and it may be different for each of you reading). Jesus approached, gave life to, and feasted with a despised and scandalous outcast. Those who follow Jesus must do so today.

Then Levi throws a party for Jesus. Isn’t this exactly what Levi should have done? If you are with Jesus, you are feasting. It’s what he does. He created the world and all that is in it. He prepares a place for us to lied down and a table in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23). He offers his very body as the bread and the cup. He will throw an elaborate wedding feast for all his friends one day.

But, the religious leaders show up and try to bust up the party. I picture the brief conversation going sort of like this:

Religious Leaders: Jesus, you’re not we expected. We expected a Messiah who would come and pat us on the back.

Jesus: No, I’m the Messiah who came to put you on my back. I’m one who has called for sinners to repent. I’m a doctor who has come for the sick.

Do you see the religious leaders trying to prove a false thesis here?

When Jesus is at the Party (vs. 34-35)

The religious leaders accused Jesus and his disciples of just going on an eating and drinking on the Sabbath. But, the disciples doing exactly what they should do! When you are with Jesus, you feast. This is why Jesus asks, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast when he is with them?”

  1. When one is celebrating, can you force them to stop?
  2. Jesus is calling himself the bridegroom. Who is he marrying? Who are his friends?
  3. How are we to behave as friends of the bridegroom? As his bride? While he is with us?
  4. A time for fasting. Have you ever done it? What does it say? What does it do?

Jesus and his disciples feasting is a statement of what life in Christ is. It’s an affront to those who do not live this way. And, it’s an invitation to those who want to.

When Jesus Does a New Thing (vs. 36-39)

Jesus then tells two parables: (New patch on an old coat / New wine in old wineskins). Here we learn a few things:

  1. If we are proving our thesis, we are tempted to conclude: See Jesus says the new is better than the old (new wineskins).
  2. If we are proving our thesis, we are tempted to conclude: See Jesus says the old is better than the new (nobody wants new wine).
  3. If we stop trying to prove our thesis, we can step back for a moment and see Jesus’s actual message: whether you prefer an old coat, a new patch, old wine, or new wineskins, we need Jesus to make us new.

Jesus Wants Everyone to Feast (young and old, male and female, jew and gentile, black and white, rich and poor, tax collector and religious leader)

  1. In this way, he is not what we expected
  2. In this way, he is the life of the party
  3. In this way, life in him is entirely new

This kind of life is available to you, a life beyond our expectations, a life with the one who is the life of the party, and a life that is entirely new with Jesus Christ.

Some of us have been trying to prove a thesis about a spouse or friend. Some of us have been trying to prove a thesis about a job. Some of us have been trying to prove a thesis about ourselves. Some of us have been trying to prove a thesis about Jesus.

If we are not careful, our whole life will be spent trying to prove a thesis that isn’t true. May be flexible enough to let Jesus prove our expectations wrong, show up as the life of the party, and do a new thing in our lives, our church, our families, our jobs today. Will you take him up on this life today? Will you let him make you new? Will you join him at the feast?

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:1-5)

Desert Opportunities

“My prayer is that we would change the culture, our mindset, that we would arm people so that they don’t walk away from Jesus when life gets difficult, but that we arm them with a proper theology of suffering. We actually embrace it as a church because we rejoice in it. So no longer are we surprised, but we expect it, no longer do we complain when it gets difficult, but we rejoice in it, and no longer do we set our lives up so that we avoid suffering at all costs but we actually want some of it so that when Christ returns we go, ‘I am one of yours. Look at my scars; look at my life; I’ve lived the life of Christ.'” – Francis Chan


There is a beautiful passage in Exodus 16 which describes the great love that God has for his people. YHWH has passed-over the homes of his people in Egypt, has freed them from slavery, has parted the red sea, and has brought justice to the Egyptian slave masters. The Israelites sing a song of praise for who God is and what He has done in Exodus 15 and then, just a month and a half later, there it is; grumbling in the desert.

I guess, I shouldn’t say just a month and a half later. I mean, think about it. Forty-five days in the desert? I suppose that would be enough to make most of us grumble. I’ll confess freely to times that I have grumbled when the internet is slow. Now, forty-five days in the desert. I suppose we can understand and give a little empathy to the people of Israel. They’ve been through a lot. More than what most of us have been through. And so, they grumble.

I’m fascinated by this passage for three main reasons:

(1) We have all had rival longings. I’d imagine each of us can point to a time that God was leading us on to freedom in some area, and we have had a rival longing to return to the way things have always been. Addictions, challenges, and just plain comfort. I can point to several times in my life that God was leading me in the direction of freedom and I turned back because it was just easier. Such is the nature of our rival longings. We long for freedom, but long for comfort at the same time. And sometimes, as one pastor said, “We prefer the slavery we know to the freedom we don’t know.” Exodus 16 points to the freedom that God longs to bring in our lives, even in the midst of the desert.

(2) Desert experiences become desert opportunities. At the heart of the Exodus 16 passage is the message that God can use the desert experiences of our lives in order to build our faith and draw us closer to Him. In other words, our desert experiences become desert opportunities. While our tendency is to hide when things get tough, God invites us, as He invited the Israelites, to draw near. It is precisely these times that God uses the difficulty to cause our growth and reveal His glory.

(3) We all have a testimony of what God has done in the desert. As God provided the people of Israel with quail in the evening and manna in the morning, he continues to provide the Bread of Life for his people today. The instruction was for the people to take a jar of manna and keep it in the ark of the testimony for future generations. Generations later, the author of the book of Hebrews notes the faithfulness of God throughout history to provide the way of life for His people. Jesus, who said he was the very Bread of Life has come to be the lasting source of salvation for the world. Just as future generations of Israelites pointed to the desert as a time that they drew near to God, so we can provide a testimony of what God has done the desert opportunities of our lives.

John Piper says, “It is free. Christ died in our place. He rose again from the dead. He lived a life of perfect righteousness. He stands freely available to everyone who will have him and stop working for him and start eating the bread of heaven and finding him to be more precious. Fall in love with him. Fall in love with him now. You need to love him now, know him now, Trust him now. My task on this planet is to eat the bread of heaven and be satisfied and overflow for others.” Whether you are currently in the desert or on the other side, may our satisfaction be ever found in Jesus, the eternal Bread of Life. God can use the desert experiences of our lives to build our faith and give us a closer walk with the Bread of Life.