AT LEVI’S PLACE
Father, You are the source of my hope and the giver of grace. I surrender anew my life to You.
Read MARK 2:13–17
Jesus Calls Levi and Eats With Sinners
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.”
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New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Rejoice, the Lord is King! / Your Lord and King adore.1
From here to 3:6 there is growing conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. On the surface, it is conflict over the observance of ritual practices: eating kosher, fasting, Sabbath-keeping. Underneath are the real questions: ‘Who is this Jesus?’, ‘Why has He come?’ and ‘What authority does He have to act and speak as He does?’ – an issue that starts in 1:22. Jesus comes with new teaching, a threat to those who have a vested interest in the way things are. The poor have nothing to lose. The pious Jews have everything. In their defense, we might note that they have been brought up that way.
Levi is probably a customs officer, charging tariffs on goods in transit. The taxes are paid to Herod Antipas, since Galilee is not yet under direct Roman rule. The tax collector determines his own markup. He could frisk people and search their property. It’s not hard to see why they are so hated. Levi is almost certainly the Gospel-writer Matthew working, directly or indirectly, for Herod. He is not mentioned by name in the Gospel story after this.
The scrupulous Pharisees are scandalized at the company Jesus keeps. Do they misunderstand why He spends time with the tax collectors and sinners? The food He eats wouldn’t be kosher, would it? ‘Why does He eat with such scum?’ (16, NLT). ‘A man is known by the company he keeps’.2 Jesus replies with a proverb common in the ancient Mediterranean: ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor’ (17). My mother used to say, ‘There’s no helping those that think they don’t need help’. Notice the same thing happening here as we saw in the healing of the leprosy sufferer. Jesus, far from fearing contamination from the sick, reaches out and touches them. The ‘infection’ is the other way around.
How do you reconcile this passage with Paul’s command to be separate?3
Forgive me, Lord, when my faith is smug, cozy, and selfish. Pull me out of my self-centeredness and use me as a witness and to serve.
1 Charles Wesley, 1707–88 2 Aesop, 6th century BC 3 2 Cor 6:14–17
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