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Jesus -- the Messiah # 7

Read Mark 2:13-17.

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.”

In chapter one, we read how Jesus called ordinary fishermen to become His disciples.  Now we see Jesus calling somebody else.  He calls a tax collector named Levi (also called “Matthew” in other gospel accounts).  To have a tax collector among His disciples was a radical step.  It shows how deep and wide the love of God is for all.  

Tax collectors at that time were despised by their fellow Jews. It was not merely that they resented having to pay taxes. The Jewish nation had been conquered by the Roman Empire, and all their taxes were going to this foreign power. The Roman authorities would auction off the right to collect taxes to the highest bidder and then protect him and enforce his collections. These tax collectors become very wealthy at the cost of their own people. They were despised as traitors to the nation.

Yet, Jesus would invite a tax collector to join His inmost circle. He would even go to Levi’s house to eat together with other “sinners” (the common term for prostitutes) and tax collectors. (v. 15) How could Jesus honor and respect such people, the teachers of the law asked. They should be despised and excluded, especially by anyone who claimed to be a spiritual leader in the land.

Jesus’ reply was to confront these religious leaders’ self-righteousness and pride. The way they showed it was by condemning and shunning others. However, Jesus was bringing the love and compassion of God into the world: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (v. 17)

God does not want to condemn and shun and exclude people.  He wants them to repent and enter the joy of the Kingdom.  He even wants them to partner with Him in His struggle to establish righteousness on earth.  Everyone is invited, no matter what their past or status is.  That is the good news.

Do you know how deep and wide God’s love is for you?

Have you felt shunned and condemned by “teachers of the law” in your life? Would you like the opportunity for a truly new start, with respect and forgiveness and joy? Everyone is invited!

Hope to hear from you soon,


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