And He [i.e. Jesus] went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him, and He was teaching them. As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “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 2:13-17 NASB
A common element of the passages we’ve meditated upon for the last four days is the criticism from religious leaders that Jesus was attracting sinners and His refutation of that criticism. We see that dynamic again in today’s passage. How might this apply to our day and age?
American society today is quite secular and usually dismissive of religious concerns. When God-fearing people voice an objection to some godless public policy (e.g. the redefinition of marriage or the fluidity of gender), they will often be opposed by someone who says “Jesus preferred the company of sinners to that of religious people.” The point being made is that Jesus “loved” people and did not give them rules. Thus religious people are cast as modern-day Pharisees who would have criticized the sinners that Jesus loved.
Acceptance of this logic requires ignorance, or a superficial knowledge, of the New Testament. The type of sinners who were attracted to Jesus were repentant sinners. Unrepentant sinners kept their distance. The problem with the Pharisees wasn’t that they were religious – it’s that they were unrepentant.
To repent means to change. The kind of sinners who were attracted to Jesus – like Zaccheus yesterday and Levi today – were those who submitted to Jesus’ authority. Jesus came not to change the rules to fit our behavior; rather, He came to change our behavior to fit His rules.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, I want to be more like You. I know this means I have to change. show me what to change today…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.