Tuesday, January 17th. Mark 2:13-17

Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.


And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him.  When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” Mark 2:13-17


What happened?


All four gospels, beginning with Mark, the earliest of those, tell us that Jesus invited a tax collector to join him as a follower.  All four gospels tell us that Jesus didn’t hesitate to enter the homes and sit at the tables of obvious ne’er-do-wells.  Jesus didn’t apologize for such behavior.  On the contrary, he welcomed sinners and he joined them in the most intimate of gatherings, dinner at home.


What happened?


We need to remember that the word for “sinner” didn’t simply mean someone who broke the rules.  Rabbi’s used the word as a designation for an “outsider”.  This isn’t an apology for the heartless behavior of tax collectors but it is a reminder that “sinner” was a term that freely referred to what we might call the “wrong crowd” or “that kind of people” or sometimes simply “them”.


Mark and the other gospels all tell us that Jesus didn’t avoid “them”, he went out of his way to include “them”.


What happened?


How did the church ever get the reputation as the home court of the morally pure?  How did it happen that, if a church person was caught doing something wrong, that they would feel shunned or ostracized from church?  How did it happen that the church became known for being judgmental and self righteously superior?


When asked why he mixed with such people, Jesus tells us “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”  Do we really believe that?


Why is it that the church rushes in to be helpful when someone is suffering from a physical illness but shies away from mental illness?  Why do those with broken bones feel comfortable in church but those living in broken homes feel like the church is no longer a safe or helpful place for them?


Certainly not all churches are like that, and certainly no church is like that all the time.  But the reputation lingers and, we have to admit, often deserved.


What happened?  It is the same old story.  At some point we took matters into our own hands.  At some point we gave up on grace and sold out to moral improvement.  We traded looking good for doing good.  Which means, if Jesus really meant it when he said he came for sick sinners, that he also came for us.


Let us pray:  Dear Lord, you see us exactly as we are and love us anyway.  We pray for the humility to let you love us, to accept the gift of life as it is that you give us.  And we pray that we might love others as they are.  We pray that we might do all we can to make sure that our congregations, as well as our homes, are open and inviting to anyone.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


3 Responses to “Tuesday, January 17th. Mark 2:13-17”

  1. Georgene Says:

    This was really a good message. You have a way of hitting at the heart of the matter.

  2. Julia Says:

    Thank you once again. You KNOW and your writing helps me through the constant fire and rain! I may still suffer; but you constantly help me remember that the truth will surfaceand will eventually set me free. Please keep on helping me “keep on” keeping on. jch

  3. Anonymous Says:

    A devotional that is a strong reminder to avoid exclusion in our church and in our lives. I’m always amazed that we sing “All Are Welcome” in such strong, united voices and then plunge right back into holding on and spreading our prejudices against those who are “unike” us. Thank you for reminding us to heed the words of the gospel! JSA

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