Scripture: Mark 2:13-22
Key verses: (16b, 18b) “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners? . . . ‘Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
Reflection: The Pharisees and John the Baptist’s disciples and people in the crowd were troubled by Jesus. They were troubled that he was not honoring the rules of religion. According to Mark, the first signs of opposition to Jesus do not come from the Roman occupying regime. They do not come from the local political authorities — Herod and his crowd. They come from the religious community.
Religion. It comes from a Latin word meaning to bind, to restrain, to obligate. It usually means fulfilling our obligation to God — giving to God what is owed. Yet, as Mark tells it, it is the religious, those most keen on making sure people fulfill their obligations toward God, that Jesus disturbs. As we read on in Mark we find it is this opposition from the religious community that leads to Jesus’ execution.
Into a very religious world in which the common understanding was that persons could not be welcomed into the community of God without fulfilling the obligations demanded by God, Jesus comes preaching. He shares good news, namely that the community of God is right at hand. By his actions Jesus makes it clear there are no prior obligations that have to be met in order for one to be welcomed into this Beloved Community. He demonstrates this by calling Levi, a traitor to his own people, likely a cheat as well, to follow him as a part of Jesus’ community. He demonstrates this by eating at the same table with “tax collectors and sinners” while they are still “tax collectors and sinners.”
This “good news” and this behavior deeply troubled the religious.
Today, does Jesus’ good news of such a community still trouble us? How would our life, especially our life as church — as a provisional demonstration of the community God intends for all people — be different if we truly believed this good news?
Let us ponder these questions.
Prayer: God of grace, still our hearts and minds from taking offense at your scandalous welcome into your Beloved Community. In the name of the one who has come among us full of grace and truth, Jesus the Christ we pray. Amen.
Author: Pete Peery
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].