After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him.Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Is there anybody that God cannot save? Well, although as Paul wrote to Timothy, “God our Savior, wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), there are unfortunately some people that God cannot save. Why? Because they believe they are so righteous they don’t need saving. Or, so they think. Sadly, there are many such people, even among Christians, who believe that if we lead good lives or follow a bunch of laws God will wave us into heaven.
The Pharisees were like that. In their tradition there were 613 commandments they had to keep (and you thought keeping ten was too much!) They kept them (or believed they did), and consequently, believed this merited them entrance into heaven, leading Jesus to tell them that prostitutes would beat them to the kingdom of heaven (see Matthew 21:31). Seriously? How does a prostitute enter heaven before a priest?
Lord Jesus explains: “For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did”. And what was the way of righteousness? The first part is repentance, but we can’t repent unless we first accept we are sinners, no? The prostitutes did that. They had no pretenses about righteousness like the Pharisees did.
In his first letter, John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (But) if we confess our sins, (God) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (However), if we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).
And the second part of righteousness is baptism in Christ. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21), and this happens in baptism. When we are baptized in Christ, we unite ourselves with him, dying with him to sin, and rising with him to new life.
So, let us not be the ones that God cannot save. Let us, as Peter said to his listeners in his first sermon, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).