“What kind of company did Jesus keep?” Once Levi (Matthew) had responded to the invitation to follow Jesus, he opened his home, hosted a purposeful ‘Open House’ and his circle of contacts poured in. New Christians have a passion and network with family and friends that God can use in mighty ways.
Mark 2:15-17 opens with Jesus reclining at a table in a house with a ‘tough crowd’ gathered around him. Many tax-gatherers and sinners had responded to the invitation and had joined Jesus and His disciples for a meal.
“Where you go, I’ll go… I will follow you….” was the declaration this group of broken people were making to Jesus. There were many of them, and they were following him. What did they recognize in Jesus? One who evidenced grace and unconditional love, something they had never experienced. A ‘movement’ had begun. Reach one tax-collector and you reach the entire GST (Galilean Sales Tax) department. Reach one sinner and you reach a multitude of sinners. Why? People are watching. People see life changes and they follow the example of others. Word of this ‘popularity’ spread. I’m sure if Levi had been the only follower, little attention would have been made but with a multitude from the same community, this ‘front-line’ news, of a crowd gathering, spread to the religious establishment. Were the Pharisees concerned that they were about to lose ground? They somehow gained the attention of the disciples (can we assume just 5 – Simon, Andrew, James, John and Levi?) and pressed them with a question.
“Why is He eating and drinking with tax-gatherers and sinners?” They spoke to them (the disciples) about Him. They expected them to know Him and the ‘why’ of this part of His ministry. That’s what discipling is all about, isn’t it? We get to know all about the One we are following. He’s taught us. He’s exemplified truth for us and now we have become associated with Him. It’s a privilege when other ask us about Him.
Notice that the disciples don’t get to answer the question. Jesus hears of this inquisitive probe and steps up to answer the critique head on. That’s leadership, isn’t it? Facing your criticis directly, answering their question, even if you are not sure they will understand.
“It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17 NASB)
Healthy people typically don’t make medical appointments. The waiting room at the physician’s office is filled with those who are sick, some with minor ailments, others who have arrived, desperate for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Spiritually sick people need help and those who admit their need gain the attention of the Great Physician. I suggested, as I preached from this passage in recent weeks, that we should remove the word ‘church’ from our signs and change it to ‘hospital.’ Maybe then, we’d be more open to admit sick people.