While reading the book "Under the Overpass", a testimony of two Christians who walked America's streets as homeless for five months, I came to a section where they, smelly and dirty from their months on the streets, go to a potluck a church they're visiting is having. A woman welcomes them like they're been acquainted for years, and takes them to a table. In the next paragraph, I came across this line:
"They say that in Jesus's time, eating together was one of the greatest signs of friendship, honor, and acceptance."
Reading that made me think of Matthew/Levi, who gave Jesus a big feast in his house, with tax collectors as the main guests. In "Under the Overpass", the guests at the church potluck were church people and a few homeless, dirty guys; at Matthew's feast, you could say the reverse was true.
If eating together in that time truly was such a great sign of friendship, honor, and acceptance, I wonder how much courage Matthew had to throw this feast. He gave this huge party out of love for Jesus, full of other tax collectors and people Matthew probably accepted when he was a tax collector.
The best part? Jesus accepted them, ate with them! He showed his friendship and acceptance to these sinners, something the Pharisees must have been appalled at. No wonder they "complained against His disciples"; to them, tax collectors weren't people to show this great sign of friendship and honor.
But to Jesus, they were, and are, worth it 100% to Him; being with tax collectors and sinners was something worth his time. And to Him, every sinner was, and is, welcome under His love, too, because He was there to love and heal them. He honored them, accepted them, and were always worth His time and friendship.
We're all just sinners like Matthew. But God's throwing us a huge feast, too, because he's accepted us and always has. We're asked not only to come as ourselves, but to bring as many people with us as we can.