MARK 2: 13-17


Here’s our reading today – but let’s pray before we read it:

Dear Lord Jesus – we thank you so much for your Word – the Bible – and the Holy Spirit who inspired the writer to write these words and we now dare to ask, Lord, that this same Holy Spirit would come now and apply the truth of this scripture to our hearts that this written word – by the spoken word – would now become the living Word – our Lord Jesus – and it is in His name we pray. Amen.

13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Do you think sometimes Christianity is all a bit upside down? Not that it is wrong but it seems to go against certain principles.

For instance, who would you pick to be on a team? Easy – you’d pick the most gifted. Yet Jesus seems to call people who seem to have one qualification; they are totally unsuited to be on any team; let alone Jesus’ team.

Here Jesus is – wandering around the towns and villages of Galilee – calling people to come to him into this life of faith but the people he doesn’t recruit are the religious leaders who surely would be the ideal people to join his team.

So let’s go through this passage and pick up a few key details along the way.

In verse 13 a large crowd is following Jesus. Jesus always has time for people – all people. But of course some would come and hear; some would not. But Jesus, unlike the professional religious types was not hypocritical, judgemental or exclusive which is why ordinary people – anyone – would come to him. He didn’t turn people away. Elsewhere in the gospel’s Jesus is taunted as: “the friend of sinners” (Matt 11: 19) – and once again, Jesus’ enemies are accurate in their description of him.

But the name “friend of sinners” has two meanings depending on who uses it. If someone sneers at Jesus because of this description it is because they don’t consider themselves a sinner, in need of Jesus. Such a person is self-righteous. But to the person who knows their own failures and weaknesses, Jesus “friend of sinners” is utterly precious. A friend, Lord, Saviour who will not reject you but will come to you. He will always offer fresh hope; he will always seek your presence rather than rejecting you.

So Jesus then meets the “chief sinner” – Levi. Notice how tax collectors appear to be a special grade of sinner! These men were hated. Firstly they were Jews – so they were collaborating with the Roman occupier. Secondly they had power because of that. Thirdly they would demand tax. And fourthly they would keep as much as they could for themselves.

So by a long way, Levi was definitely unsuited to be called by Jesus. If these disciples were going to go preaching – who would listen to Levi – a hated tax collector? Who would call this dishonest, hated, scheming collaborator to a team that will change the world? Answer: Jesus.

Mark continues and in verses 15 and 16 – now Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners (sinners was the pejorative term for those people who did not follow the law. In reality of course, everyone is a sinner).  Now – in that culture, to eat with someone was to express friendship and acceptance. Again, what is Jesus doing? How can those who are on the outside of religious life be the people he wants to spend time with?

Jesus is doing a number of things here in eating with the outsiders. Can I draw out one thing: what Jesus is doing is modelling to his disciples the church. The danger is that the church is inward looking and looks at who is right and who is wrong and makes sure that only the right are in and the wrong people aren’t in. And never the twain shall meet.

Notice what Jesus says in verse 17; to the Pharisees he says: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus isn’t saying here that the Pharisees are righteous and the sinners are not. No – he acknowledges that all are sinners but of course to the Pharisees he is effectively saying: “None are so blind than those who think they can see.”

The church is a group of people who are sinners and know their need of the doctor. And continue their need. Christians are continually under doctors’ orders so we should know that non-believers are also in need of the Doctor Jesus and part of our job is to be in the world telling people in whatever way we do that there is a great friend, Jesus, who is calling them to him. He will never reject people – because his job is to be the doctor to those who know they are ill with sin and want to be healed and continue life under Doctor’s orders.

Maybe there is someone you know who needs to be under Doctor’s Orders. Why don’t you pray for them now and then make that a regular prayer? Maybe meet up with them. Have a meal or have coffee together.

I think that’s what Jesus would have done – don’t you?

Category: Family Service , Sermons , The Bridge

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