Later Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house. Many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples. They were part of the large crowd following Jesus. Some teachers of the law who were Pharisees were there. They saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors. So they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus heard that. So he said to them, “Those who are healthy don’t need a doctor. Sick people do. I have not come to get those who think they are right with God to follow me. I have come to get sinners to follow me.”
Mark 2:15-17 (New International Reader’s Version)
I wrote “Night of the Marginalized” for Christmas Eve 2014, describing how (baby) Jesus and parents were marginalized from the rest of society on the night he was born. From Day One, the God-filled Jesus lived a marginalized life. When you read the Gospels, you see a marginalized man emerging from their pages.
Being marginalized is a lonely place that hurts: for whatever reason. All of us has faced marginalization at one time or another, and we’ll be first to say it sucks. In Jesus’s day, it was no different. However, we see something interesting in tonight’s Scripture: we see Jesus reaching out and fellowshipping with the marginalized!
We see Jesus at Levi’s house, who he just called to be a disciple. Levi was a tax collector; part of a notorious profession in that day. Tax collectors worked for the Romans, and were known for using unconventional ways to get their money from the already-poor populace…hmm…kinda sounds like today’s IRS… Anyway, after hearing the call of Jesus, Levi has a change of heart and forsakes his shady profession to become a disciple. Not only were Jesus-and his disciples-dining at Levi’s place, so were other tax collectors and “sinners.”
Now a quick side note. “Sinners” were those who fell outside the circumscribed religious world of the the religious elites of Jesus’s day: the Pharisees and “Teachers of the Law”-the Moral Majority/Religious Right of the First Century. These “sinners” were also people who were unable to buy the animals necessary for sin sacrifices by the high priests; and they were stuck in an unforgiven state: thus the moniker “sinners”. Thus these unfortunate folks wound up being the marginalized of “proper” Jewish society.
Yet we see Jesus, the marginalized rabbi, chowing down and socializing with these marginalized people! He reached out to them and embraced them wholly! As the Scripture stated, the Pharisees and teachers were upset because of this. However, hearing the religious elites’ bellyaching, Jesus hits them with an interesting statement. Jesus tells the religious that it’s not the well-those who think they’re right that he came for; but the sick-the “sinners”. Jesus never mentioned that he wanted to beat the sinners over their heads with their pasts; no, just to follow him. Marginalized Jesus reached out and embraced the marginalized masses-all marginalized by the religious elites!
Now if this story doesn’t get you thinking for Lent, nothing will! We too are called to reach the marginalized in our world, and God knows there are plenty. We see them on the street, at work, at church, at our local hangouts. We even have marginalized people in our own families as well. We’re to “eat” with them as well, including them in our circle. Even if we’ve been marginalized ourselves, that shouldn’t stop us.
Plus, we can’t be so damn “religious” when it comes to associating with the marginalized. Too often, like the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law, we look down upon those who don’t hang out at our places of worship, or don’t believe all we think they should. I bet you the cost of a good Las Vegas buffet, those “sinners”-as we would call them today-could teach us a thing or two about being Christlike more than we could.
If the marginalized himself can reach out to the marginalized, why can’t we?
Prayer: God of the marginalized, empower us with Your love to reach out to the marginalized among us wherever they may be. Let us look to Jesus, who was marginalized himself, yet reached out to the marginalized. Keep us from the religious mindset that hinders us from seeing the marginalized among us as our fellows. Help us to be the “doctors” to reach a sick world as Jesus spoke of. In Your Name, Amen.
(Above image by Me).