World English Bible translation
2:13He went out again by the seaside. All the multitude came to him, and he taught them. 2:14 As he passed by, he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the place of toll, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he arose and followed him.
2:15It happened, that he was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners sat down with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many, and they followed him. 2:16 The scribes and the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, "Why is it that he eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?"
2:17When Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Mark has told stories about Jesus that concern the power of Christ to heal the sick and those ravaged with leprosy. He has written about the authority that Jesus exercised over unclean spirits. In Yesterday's Scripture we saw that Jesus also had the power to forgive sin. Today's Scripture builds on Jesus' power to forgive sin and tells us something more about the nature of Christ and His mission while He was ministering to the people of Galilee.
Today's lesson concerns the calling of Levi. Levi is also called Matthew and he was a tax collector for Herod. Capernaum was crowded with people wanting to see Jesus and possibly to be healed by Him. When Jesus went out to the seaside to escape some of the crowds in the city, the multitude came after Him. It was in this situation that Jesus saw Levi at a tollbooth collecting taxes. Jesus went to Levi and told him, "Follow me." Just as Peter and John before him, Levi left what he had been doing and followed Jesus.
As it happened, that evening at the dinner that Jesus shared with His disciples, Matthew brought in many of his friends to eat with Jesus, himself and the other disciples. When the scribes and the Pharisees saw this, they wondered why a Rabbi would be eating with people who were obvious sinners. Under their rules and regulations, it was forbidden for a person pursuing holiness to associate with a person who lived the life of a sinner and one separated from the community of faith. Religious people shunned such peoples as tax collectors, prostitutes and petty criminals. They were not even considered to be Jews by most people.
But, Jesus treated these people with special attention. Jesus treated the sinner and the foreigner with compassion and kindness. He would often lose His temper with religious people like the scribes and Pharisees, but He never seemed to do so by the very people that everyone else treated as outcast. When Jesus healed the leper, He reached out and touched him and we spoke of how unusual that would have been for this man. In this passage, Jesus, in effect, reaches out and touches another group of socially untouchable people.
When He was questioned as to why He would do this, Jesus said, "Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Christ came so that those who were far away from God could be brought near. He came to bring the good news that salvation was available to all men. There is no one that is beyond God's mercy and compassion. In reaching out to the sick and the sinful, Jesus is demonstrating the heart of God who reaches out to those that are lost.
Are you demonstrating the heart of God in your life for those different from you? And, who has demonstrated the heart of God to you?
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