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)