Jesus with the Sinners
The Pharisees and teachers did not say anything to Jesus in Capernaum, but they found their voices in the next incident that Mark records (2:13–17). When Jesus calls Matthew to be one of His disciples, they take heart. They are sure they have something on Him now.
We must be frank to admit that Jesus’ association with Matthew must have shocked many people. As a tax gatherer, his work was to take money from the Jews to support the rule of Caesar. He was the biblical equivalent of a Nazi collaborator in occupied France or Holland or Poland. The Phillips translation describes the scene at Matthew’s (or Levi’s) house: “Later, when Jesus was sitting at dinner in Levi’s house, a large number of tax collectors and disreputable folk came in and joined Him and His disciples. For there were many such people among His followers” (2:15).
Jesus’ compassion on such people loosened the vicious tongues of His critics. Note the cowardly way they criticized Jesus to His disciples instead of face–to–face (2:16), just as they would later criticize the disciples to Jesus.
But Jesus vindicated Himself, and very neatly too, in verse 17. He called Himself a physician. “Where should a physician be? In the hospital with the sick. You say you are well, so you don’t need me. I go where I am needed.”
When we associate with the depraved and the vicious, it is for reasons either of sin or of duty. All depends on the purpose. The Jewish leaders considered any association with the vile to be sin, which shows that it had been so for them. They had no compassion for a sinner’s needs. To pride ourselves on being whole, as these leaders did, bars us from getting any good from Christ. He can never come to the self–righteous, but the Pharisee who knows himself to be a sinner is as welcome as the outcast.
- What about fellowship with sinners and tax collectors disturbed the Pharisees?
- How does Christ’s interaction exemplify the Christian’s responsibility to “love” their neighbor?
- How do the Pharisees reaction exemplify how Christians ought not “love” their neighbor?
- Are there worse sinners than others? Are all sins equal?
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