Mark 2:16 – “And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” NKJV
You don’t have to look far to see the changes in our society. Since COVID-19 sneaked upon us in 2020, everything in life has been altered. When we leave our homes and go out in public, we wear masks. We are more mindful of the people we hang around when socializing. In church services we sing praises with a mask on, and when we greet one another we do so carefully. Change has come to us all, whether we like it or not.
Such was the case with the things we find in Mark 2. Mark gives us the impression that when Jesus called Levi, the tax collector, to be a part of His ministry, He was walking into un-chartered territory.
Then He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.”Mark 2:13-14 NKJV
The interesting thing to note about Levi is that he was a Jewish individual who worked for the Roman government. As part of his role, he also had access to Roman soldiers who enforced the collecting of taxes from the Jewish people. Therefore the Jews were not fond of the tax collectors. Commentators note that the Jewish tax collectors were excommunicated from the synagogue, along with family members, and were no longer welcomed in the Jewish society.
Jesus knew who Matthew was before He called him to be a disciple. He knew that the Jewish society looked down on him, and had ostracized him from their social circles. However, not only did He call Matthew, also known as Levi, but He went to his home for dinner.
Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.”Mark 2:15 NKJV
When Jesus called Levi, He stepped out of the standard way of doing things and demonstrated that a change had come. The person who the Jews excommunicated was accepted and honored by Jesus as His disciple! Levi recognized the change for what it was, accepted the call and followed Jesus. This change resulted in Levi leaving his job and his past to be a disciple.
And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”Mark 2:16 NKJV
Commentators state that Jesus was a friend to sinners, and this is true. But in being their friend, He wasn’t condoning their sin as being okay; He was opening the way for them to come to Him! We can learn from Jesus how to love the sinner without accepting the sin! Jesus was willing to eat with sinners because in doing so, He was offering them an opportunity to have fellowship with Him.
This was not normal. The Pharisees and scribes wouldn’t be caught dead with a sinner. And to them, most people were probably sinners. They heard Jesus teach and preach and understood Him to be a leader, but they had a problem with the way He was dealing with ordinary people. It just wasn’t done!
And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Mark 2:16-17 NKJVMark 2:16-17 NKJV
Jesus heard what the Pharisees said about Him and responded on His own behalf. He likened the sinners to those who were sick. (The theme of sin and sickness is being repeated with this comment). Jesus simply stated that it was the sinners who needed a Physician, not the righteous, and He had come for them. This was definitely not the way the Pharisees thought and conducted church business. Sinners were for exploiting and making them feel better about themselves. They had formed a twisted view of God. Jesus, on the other hand had come to change the way people viewed God. He had come to change the way sin was defined. He had come to change lives from the inside out!
Jesus answered the scribes and Pharisees in a manner that left them speechless, for the moment. Then they thought of something else:
The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” Mark 2:18Mark 2:18 NKJV
Jesus compared Himself to a bridegroom, stating that it was not appropriate for the friends of the bridegroom to fast while they were with the groom. Fasting is a discipline that everyone can benefit from, spiritually and naturally. We know that Jesus believed in fasting because He fasted for forty days and forty nights. But here we find Jesus stating that this wasn’t the time for fasting, although it would come. Here again, we see Jesus changing the way things were being done.
Change is inevitable in all of our lives, and when Jesus comes into the picture, things should be changing. We shouldn’t do life the same we did life before Jesus, there ought to be a change. There may even be things that will have to be let go, as Matthew had to give up his old job to follow Jesus. We shouldn’t hang out with the same people we loved to sin with, we need some different friends. And when we hang out with sinners, it should be to share the love of Jesus, not to have a time of pleasing the flesh! Many new believers struggle with the changes that are a part of the Christian life, for some it is hard. But when you have an encounter with Jesus like Matthew did, when you think about all that He has done for you, when you rest in the truth that He is all you need, you won’t struggle as much!
Yes, things are changing around us, but some times we need to just embrace the change! Wonderful Jesus!