Scripture

Mark 2:13-21

Jesus Calls Levi and Eats With Sinners

13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus Questioned About Fasting

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.

Reflection

Jesus taught and lived amongst Jews living under Roman occupation. For most of them, their primary concern was not some future heaven, but the immediate restoration of Israel as a sovereign nation. The Pharisees and Sadducees, both elite Jewish sects, believed the path to the fulfillment of that dream was in strict adherence to the law. They believed if they were good enough, God would restore their people to their rightful place. This was their understanding of how the economy of God worked. Jesus presented a different way. He intended to bring heaven on earth, now, through grace, not through rules and behavior.

What is of the utmost importance for us as Christians, today? Are we like the religious elite from Jesus’ time, thinking that following the “rules” or laws more strictly will save us somehow? Are we like Jesus who brought healing, love and grace to the worst rule-breakers? Or do you, like me, sometimes fall on each side of that dichotomy? Maybe it depends on the situation whether you think, “If only he would follow the rules,” or “If only someone would offer her grace.” We all need laws and rules to provide guardrails for our lives. Any functioning society has a set of rules that allow people to live together in peace. But there are times when grace is more important than any rules or laws. I challenge you to clarify for yourself where you fall on that continuum. When are the rules more important and when should grace prevail? And when in doubt, I encourage you to err on the side of grace. 

Prayer

Loving God, I know our world is not as it should be. Help me be an instrument of peace. Give me words to comfort and heal. Guide me to see through cultural barriers, hardened hearts, and destructive actions. Let me bring grace to those around me. Give me courage to see my neighbor as you see them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.