27 Jan. Mark 2:13-17

27 Jan. Jesus dines with supporters of 'the enemy'

"Jesus went to the lake [the Sea of Galilee] again. The whole crowd followed him there, and he taught them. While he was walking along, he saw a man named Levi son of Alphaeus, sitting in the tax collector's booth. Jesus said to him, 'Follow me,' and he stood up and followed Jesus."

"Later, as Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and 'sinners' were eating there with Jesus and his followers. Many people like this followed Jesus. When the teachers of the [Jewish] law who were Pharisees saw Jesus eating with the tax collectors and 'sinners', they asked his followers, 'Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?'"

"Jesus heard this and said to them, 'It is not the healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick. I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners."

          (Mark 2:13-17)



According to the Jewish law in Jesus's day, Jews (such as Jesus and his followers) were forbidden to eat with Gentiles (non-Jews). Gentiles were considered to be ritually 'unclean', and they ate non-Kosher food which made then doubly 'unclean' in Jewish eyes,

When Simon 'Petros' Barjonas went to dine with a Roman centurion in Caesarea (in Acts 10:1-48), he told his Gentile host, "You people understand that it is against our Jewish law for Jewish people to associate with or visit anyone who is not Jewish. But God has shown me that I should not call any person 'unholy' or 'unclean'." (Acts 10:28)

Tax collectors like Levi were Jews, but they worked for 'the enemy' - the Romans who had set up Herod Antipas as a 'puppet' ruler (‘tetrarch’) of Galilee and Peraea on his father Herod the Great's death in 4BC.

By associating with Gentile (non-Jewish) Romans, tax collectors became ritually 'unclean', and anyone who dined with them would, in turn, become ritually 'unclean' themselves in the eyes of teachers of the Jewish law. So by dining with Levi (Matthew), Jesus was not only fraternising with those who supported 'the enemy', but he was also making himself ritually 'unclean' in the eyes of the Pharisees.

Jesus's answer was typical of his approach to the outcasts and dregs of Jewish society: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I didn't come to invite 'good' people [into the kingdom of God] but to invite sinners." (Mark 2:17)

It took a while for Simon Peter to learn this truth, and it has taken Christians even longer to realise that we need to spread the love and forgiveness of Jesus to those in our world who need him most - the criminals, prostitutes, cheats, liars, swearers and swindlers - indeed all those whose lives lack the love and forgiveness that only Jesus can give.

The photo shows a modern-day 'Roman centurion' outside the Roman Forum in Rome.

You can read more about way Jesus challenged the Pharisees @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/jesus-upsets-the-pharise…/

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