Reaching a Matthew: Mark 2:14-17
“14) 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. 15) 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. 16) 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?” 17) 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 ‭2‬:‭14‬-‭17‬ ‭
Matthew was a tax collector. He was a Jewish, but worked for the Roman government. Most tax-gathers got wealthy by siphoning from the public more than what was actually needed. Rome got paid, but they kept the balance for themselves. The title “tax gather” was defamatory and sinful. They were despised by the Jewish people.
As Jesus walked by his tax office, He called Levi to follow him. He immediately closed the tax office and started following Jesus. He later became the writer of the gospel of Mathew and had a mastery of genealogical records and prophecy. Part of his job was knowing family trees for tax purposes.
He was a man of wealth and owned a home near the Sea of Galilee in the town of Capernaum. His home was large enough entertain large crowds. It appears that he put on a feast for Jesus, his disciples and many tax-gatherers and sinners. Mark specifically notes that there were many of them, and they were following Jesus. Welcome to backyard barbecue!
Upon seeing this, the scribes of the Pharisees scorned Jesus to His disciples because He was eating and drinking with tax-gatherers and sinners. In their minds, Jesus had crossed over a self defined social barrier. He was interacting with the “party crowd” and seemed to be fitting in well. These sinful people both welcomed Jesus into their company and many were following Him.
Upon hearing their grumbling, Jesus replied; “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.”
He was on mission to seek and to save the lost. He was actively seeking them and He was finding them… and they were not repulsed by Him. Jesus was very different from the judgmental, condescending and condemning Pharisees. Jesus was godly but not religious. He was joyous but not stuffy. He was light in dark places.
Many of these people were hurting, broken inwardly, most likely rejected, scorned and lost. They were seeking God, but not finding Him in the legalism of Judaism. They didn’t fit into the fake religious mold. But they were sincere, open, honest, transparent and searching. Jesus walked right into their hurting hearts and started healing them.
Jesus was not condoning their sin, He was ministering to their brokenness and sinful bondage. He was reaching out and “touching them” as He had the leper in the previous chapter. He wasn’t concerned about being defiled by them, He was establishing relationship with them. He was modeling relational ministry. He was breaking down barriers and false stereotypes. He was pulling down religious walls that were separating lost people from the Savior.
I’m not going to sermonize about this story. It speaks volumes all by itself. I find it very convicting. I confess, this story stretches me. I want to be more like Jesus! Matthew went on to become one of the twelve Apostles. He was radically changed by Jesus.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global