The Gospel of Mark: a commentary & meditation 
"Many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus"

Scripture: Mark 2:13-17

13 He went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gathered about him, and he taught them. 14 And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. 15 And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

Meditation: Do you know God's mercy and do you treat your neighbor with mercy? People in Palestine were divided into roughly two groups: the orthodox Jews who rigidly kept the law and all its petty regulations, and the rest who didn't keep all the minute regulations. The orthodox treated the latter like second class citizens.  They scrupulously avoided their company, refused to do business with them, refused to give or receive anything from them, refused to intermarry, and avoided any form of entertainment with them, including table fellowship. Jesus' association with the latter, especial ly with tax collectors and sinners, shocked the sensibilities of these orthodox Jews.  In calling Matthew to be one of his disciples, Jesus picked one of the unlikeliest of men -- a tax collector who by profession was despised by the Jewish people.  When the Pharisees challenged his unorthodox behavior in eating with public sinners, Jesus' defence was quite simple.  A doctor doesn't need to visit healthy people; instead he goes to those who are sick.  Jesus likewise sought out those in the greatest need. A true physician seeks healing of the whole person -- body, mind, and spirit.  Jesus came as the divine physician and good shepherd to care for his people and to restore them to wholeness of life.The orthodox were so preoccupied with their own practice of religion that they neglected to help the very people who needed spiritual care. Their religion was selfish because they didn't want to have anything to do with people not like themselves. Jesus stated his mission in unequivocal terms: I came  not to call the righteous, but to call sinners.  Ironically the orthodox were as needy as those they despised.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Do you thank the Lord for the great mercy he has shown to you?  And do you seek the good of all your neighbors and show them mercy and kindness?

"Lord Jesus, our Savior, let us now come to you: Our hearts are cold; Lord, warm them with your selfless love.  Our hearts are sinful; cleanse them with your precious blood.  Our hearts are weak; strengthen them with your joyous Spirit.  Our hearts are empty; fill them with your divine presence.  Lord Jesus, our hearts are yours; possess them always and only for yourself."  (Prayer of Augustine, 4th century)

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 (c) 2000 Don Schwager