The Scandal of Grace
Patient Father, give me the diligence to seek You, the patience to wait for You, and the willingness to obey You.
Read Mark 2:13-17
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:14). What extravagant generosity!
The second conflict with the religious leaders is introduced by the story of the calling of Levi. He probably encountered Levi (Matthew was his apostolic name, see Matt. 9:9) at a tax-collector’s booth on the major international road that went from Damascus through Capernaum to the Mediterranean coast and to Egypt. Employed by Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee put into power by Rome, and ritually unclean from his dealings with Gentile traders, Levi would have been despised by his fellow Jews for being a traitor and extortionist. Ostracized from Jewish society, neither he nor his family would be allowed to attend synagogue.
Levi took an enormous risk in responding to Jesus’ call. There would have been little possibility of his returning to his occupation, as tax-collecting jobs were greatly sought after as a sure way to get rich quickly. But it is Jesus that is the big surprise here. He goes against every cultural norm of the day. Surely if he was the Messiah he was going to set them free from Rome, not include among his followers known collaborators with Rome! There is worse to come: he accepts Levi’s hospitality, attending a meal to which all Levi’s friends with dubious reputations are invited. In so doing, Jesus powerfully demonstrates friendship with them. Unconcerned for his reputation, Jesus chooses to spend time with those who need him most. “If we dared to live beyond our self-concern; if we refused to shrink from being vulnerable; if we took nothing but a compassionate attitude toward the world; if we were a counterculture to our nation’s lunatic lust for pride of place, power, and possessions … the walls of indifference to Jesus Christ would crumble” (Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus, Multnomah, 1996).
Discuss and pray with others about how to practice hospitality among people on the margins. Step out in faith soon.
Lord, You’ve appointed me to be a friend to others. May I be open to who in my life needs a friend, a helping hand, a word of encouragement.