Year 2 Day 58
Read - Mark 2:13-17
Message - Alan Burke
‘A man is known by the company he keeps’, isn’t that right, that’s what we’ve been taught. ‘Birds of a feather flock together’ and all that. Keep that in your mind as we think of what Jesus does here. He had just called Levi who, if there was an award for scumbag of the year a strong contender. After all Levi was a tax collector, they were seen as no better than murders, they were seen as collaborators with the enemy, and as the account of the calling of Levi continues we are now told of Jesus having dinner in Levi’s house and there were many tax collectors and sinners eating with him.
There Jesus was hanging out with the social pariahs. It’s like today saying Jesus was eating with loansharks, people traffickers, paramilitaries, drug dealers, money launders, fraudsters, abusers, prostitutes, sinners. These were the despised of the day, the outcasts of society and Jesus was eating with. He did more than preach repentance to sinners; he befriend sinners. Those that he ate with were the people that the religious leaders had no time for and Jesus reclines at the table with them, eating and drinking, having conversation with them, and the religious leaders were outside looking in indignant.
We’ve heard this before haven’t we, Jesus eating with sinners, but take the time to think just how scandalous this was, how shocking, how outrageous. None of what Jesus was doing and how he associated himself with people like this was lost on the religious leaders, the teachers of the law, these were the scribes, and we see in verse 16 that shock when they saw him eating with the ““sinners”, and tax collectors, they asked his disciples “why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
To them Jesus was compromised. They couldn’t believe it, to them it was unforgivable, it was a disgrace. Notice here that Jesus does not make any demand on those who he eats with, he is not there with a list of conditions of how they should behave in his presence, that they transform their behaviour. If it was could expect the scribes to have applauded him. Instead here we have something scandalous, Jesus is meeting people where they are, he’s not coming with demands, he is instead initiating fellowship, friendship, were not told if any of them repented and reformed instead he meets them where they are at. Jesus could have talked to them in the street, made demands on them but he didn’t.
‘A man is known by the company he keeps’, ’Birds of a feather flock together’ and Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. I’m going to ask some questions and it might touch a few nerves. Have we so isolated ourselves from the world around us that we have diminished our witness? Do we make ‘church’ the things that we do as the people of God and in the busyness avoid contact with the world around us, in effect are we a middle class social club? Do we prefer to use christian doctors, christian dentists, christian plumbers, christian vets, christian window cleaners, etc etc, that we end up not being in the company of those who believe other than when we have to? Has our desire to live a life that brings glory to God in Christ Jesus, that we actually living in a way means we are not living like Jesus Christ, that we are not being what we are call to be and that is imitators of Jesus Christ our Saviour (1 Cor 11:1)?
I’m not suggesting for a second that we live recklessly, that we put ourselves in places of risk, after all we are “not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2). Yet Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners.
Q66 What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment?
The reason annexed to the fifth commandment, is a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God’ s glory and their own good) to all such as keep this commandment. (Deut. 5:16, Eph. 6:2–3)