Friday, June 23, 2017

48 - Tax Collectors and Sinners

   Again he went out beside the sea; and all the crowd kept coming to him, and he began to teach them. 
   But as he was passing along, he caught sight of Leʹvi the [son] of Al·phaeʹus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: “Be my follower.” And rising up he followed him.
   Later he happened to be reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many of them and they began following him. 
   But the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw he was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, began saying to his disciples: “Does he eat with the tax collectors and sinners?” 
   Upon hearing this Jesus said to them: “Those who are strong do not need a physician, but those who are ill do. I came to call, not righteous people, but sinners.” Mark 2:13-17 NW

The Tax and Toll Collector

It seems that Christ was an outdoorsman; when possible He was out in the wilderness, or walking along the seashore, or teaching as He was walking along the road with His friends or even strangers.

The tax collector's office, very conveniently, was standing on the sea shore and the tax collector was also the man who sold the tickets to take a boat across Galilee. 

This lake is 12 1/2 miles long, and from 4 to 7 1/2 broad. It(s) surface is 682 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. Its depth is from 80 to 160 feet.

We know that Christ already had four distinct followers. Namely, Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John.  Now He met a man who was not in the same category as the first disciples.  Mark and Luke call him Levi but the Gospel of Matthew calls him by the more familiar name, Matthew.  This is the same Matthew that later wrote the Gospel of Matthew.

The fishermen could be supposed to have been hard working, honest men but Matthew was a tax collector.  Back then, in the Roman culture, the tax collectors were known to be shysters.  Many of them would collect as much from the public as they could get away with and then probably give to the government as little as they absolutely had to.

Christ called him to follow And rising up he followed him.  Upon meeting Christ, Matthew became a different man.  He left his "shady" job.  After that, he invited Christ and His disciples to his home for a meal and many of Matthew's tax collecting friends and other sinners also came to enjoy the feast.

This great feast very likely was made some time after his call, though recorded here; for it is not reasonable to think there could be time enough that day to get ready so great a feast. 

Levi, it should seem, was a rich man else how could he afford to feed so many people?  Can't help but wonder if, in his case, his riches were ill-gotten. Gill.

The NW writes the scribes of the Pharisees.  This statement at least makes sense but unfortunately, it is not like that in the Greek text.  In Greek, it is this way, the scribes and the Pharisees.

Many translations have And there was a great company of tax-collectors and of others who were reclining with them. But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against His disciples. Luke 5:29-30 MKJ.  It sounds as if the tax-collectors and sinners have their own scribes.  

Not the Scribes of the publicans and sinners that sat down, but the Scribes of the people in general; the Scribes of the Jewish nation: all the eastern versions leave out the word "their" so that it would read But scribes and pharisee's murmured. Gill

when they saw he was eating with the sinners and tax collectors.  To keep the scribes happy Christ could have foregone eating with the sinners and tax collectors and stood at the end of the room and preached while the meal was going on.  Really though, is there a better way to break down barriers than to eat together? 

The scribes asked Christ's disciples does your master really stoop down so far as to eat with such lowlife?  

Upon hearing this Jesus said.  Maybe Christ overheard the scribes whispering to the disciples.  Or perhaps, the meaning here is that the disciples told Christ what the scribes were upset about.

I can picture the following rebuttal. Upon hearing this Jesus sarcastically said to them: “Those of you who are morally strong do not need a physician, but those who are ill do.  Just look at these people I am eating with.  If they hear Me, maybe they will change their lifestyle, but you are so much better than they are.  You will probably never see your need to change because you were "brought up" in a synagogue.

I came to call, not righteous people, but sinners.” Mark 2:17.  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.1 Timothy 1:15.  The church is the only group in the world where you have to be unqualified before you can join. Guzik

Matthew is the only one to include the following statement in this story.  Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, 'Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.  Mat. 9:13  CEV.   Or, in other words, You are overly strict about following all the man made rules you have been taught since childhood.  Why don't you spend some time providing food for the hungry, or visiting the lonely; then you will be following the Scriptures.