Gospel: Mark 2:13-17
When Jesus went out again, beside the lake, a crowd came to him, and he taught them. As he walked along, he saw a tax collector sitting in his office. This was Levi, the son of Alpheus. Jesus said to him, “Follow me!” And Levi got up and followed him. And it so happened that, when Jesus was eating in Levi’s house, tax collectors and sinners sat with him and his disciples; there were a lot of them, and they used to follow Jesus. But Pharisees, men educated in the law, when they saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does your master eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”Jesus heard them, and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
“I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Christians often contrast them selves favorably with the “Pharisees” —as if the very word were a synonym for “hypocrites.” Jesus does not vilify these good and “righteous” people. But he makes it clear that his mission is else where: to restore and heal what is lost and broken. The first object of his attention in this text is Levi, a tax collector. His job—which put him at the service of the Roman occupiers, and probably involved a certain amount of graft—would make him an object of derision. When the good people see that Jesus is dining in the home of Levi, along with a lot of other “sinners,” they are scandalized.We often assume that God’s priorities reflect our own scale of value, particularly when it comes to what causes “scandal” and what confers respectability. Respectability is a matter of appearances; what matters to Jesus is what is in the heart. As the author of He brews observes, “all creation is transparent” to God; our hearts our transparent to him. The question is not whether we are among those called sinners or among the righteous—but whether we are among those whose self righteousness effectively sets them beyond the reach of God’s mercy. The Savior comes only for those who know they need saving.
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