Reading the Word
Mark 2:13–17 (ESV)
13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32
Understanding and Applying the Word
In this passage we read that Jesus called a tax collector named Levi (aka Matthew) to come and follow him. This means that Jesus was calling him to be his disciple. Tax collectors were despised by the Jewish people because they collected taxes for the Roman authorities and often collected a dishonest amount. Tax collectors were thought of as traitors and the worst kind of sinners. It would have amazed many and offended others that Jesus would call a tax collector as a disciple and even share a meal with such a scoundrel!
The scribes and Pharisees, religious leaders of the time, were especially ready to condemn such behavior. Jesus’ response to these religious folks is that he had come to save the sick, not the healthy. He had come to call sinners to himself, not the righteous.
What did Jesus mean with his response to the scribes and Pharisees? The religious leaders were self-righteous and looked down on the sins of others, while ignoring or denying their own sin. The tax collectors and sinners were listening to Jesus preach about repentance and forgiveness of sin and they were responding to Jesus’ message. The religious leaders did not feel a need for such a response of their own. They were righteous already, in their own minds. So, Jesus’ response is one of condemnation towards the scribes and Pharisees. They too needed to understand their own sinfulness and respond to the message of repentance that Jesus was preaching.
Jesus’ message is still the same today. All of us are sinners and need forgiveness. When we repent of our sin and call on Christ to forgive us, he will. Take a moment and call out to him now.
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