Jesus, Friend of Sinners-Mark 2:13-17

The Gospel According to Mark  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Jesus calling of Matthew and Jesus as a friend of sinners.

Last Sunday morning in our journey through the Gospel according to Mark, our passage was Mark 2:1-12 in the message titled: The Eyes of the Master Know No Limit. As we studied the passage together, we discovered that Jesus had the ability to see into the very hearts and mind of people. He also had the ability to see into the future. He was able to see the great faith of the paralytic’s 4 friends, their Persistent, Creative and Sacrificial faith. He was also able to see the heart of the paralytic and knew that his greatest desire, even above that of physical healing, was to be forgiven of his sins. Lastly, He was able to see the evil thoughts of the Scribes and Pharisees, that they were filled with hatred, pride, indifference and that they didn’t care for the people, but only cared for themselves. In the end He was able to demonstrate to them and all present that day, that as God the Son, He had the authority to forgive sins.
While Marks account of the life of Jesus does not always move chronologically, it appears to be very clear based on what we read in the other Gospels, that todays account in Mark 2:13-17, takes place immediately after what we looked at last Sunday. It appears that on the heels of the healing of the paralytic, Jesus left the home of Peter and what we will read this morning took place. Would you please stand for the reading of God’s Word? Next Slide
Mark 2:13–17 ESV
13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Please be seated.
By Jewish standards, what we see in the behavior of Jesus in this mornings passage is nothing short of scandalous. To understand this we need to look at this as if we were Jews in the time of Jesus. When we look at this based on our perception of taxes and those whose duty it is to collect it in our society, we really don’t consider it a big deal at all. I have known several who have been employed by the IRS over the years, and they are fine people, each one I have know has been completely trustworthy. This was not the case in the days of Jesus. In His times tax collectors were the worst of the worse. Which is why what we see here is truly:
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The Scandal of Grace. Mark 2:13-15; Matt. 9:9-10; Luke 5:27-29
As we have talked about a few times as we have been in the book of Mark, the Nation of Israel was a part of the Roman Empire at this time, and in that part of the Roman Empire there were basically 2 type of taxes that people payed, and in each of those types of taxes there were several sub categories. The first type was:Next Slide
The Stated Tax.
Under the stated tax there was 3 categories, the poll, the ground and the income.
The poll tax was for all men ages 14-65 and women 12-65, it was basically a tax for the privilege of being alive!
The ground tax was a tax on all your produce, grain, oil, wine and in many areas fish. It was very likely that the area of Capernaum had a ground tax on fishing since it was a big money maker for the Romans in that area.
The income tax was a 1% tax on their annual income.
This "Stated” of tax was a set tax, which meant there wasn’t much room for extortion. The next type of tax was: Next Slide
The Duty Taxes.
The duty tax was open for rampant extortion. The people paid separate taxes for the use of roads, for docking harbors for their boats, they had to pay a separate sales tax on certain items, as well as import and export taxes. They even had to pay a tax for use of their carts and it was a “by the wheel” tax. These taxes were all arbitrary, which meant the amount was completely at the discretion of the one collecting the taxes. The tax collector could be walking down the road and stop a cart, have the owner empty all of his belongings off the cart, then charge an arbitrary tax for everything as the owner put things back on his cart, the tax collector could even open the individuals mail to see if any business took place in the letter that would open up the door for more taxes. And If the owner could not afford to pay the taxes, the tax collector would oftentimes “loan” the owner the money to pay the taxes, which would then put people further under their greedy hands.
These tax collectors basically purchased franchises from Rome, they would pay for the privilege of collecting taxes in a certain area. The Roman Empire required that they collect a certain amount, and anything they collected over and above that amount was theirs to keep. Oh, and did I mention Rome provided protection? There was almost always a Roman soldiers near by and when there wasn’t, the tax collectors had paid thugs with them.
In Jewish society, tax collectors were considered traitors, and to a very large degree, that is exactly what they were. They were easily the most hated men in Israel at the time, and to be honest with you, that hatred was understood and earned.
All of these things make the way Jesus dealt with Levi, who at some point in times name was changed to Matthew, so remarkable. I guess what we need to understand is that nobody around felt that Matthew deserved to be forgiven. He was an outcast, a traitor, but as we are learning in the Gospel of Mark, God’s forgiveness is not extended to people based in their worthiness. If that was the case, no one would receive it. God’s forgiveness is extended to all who call upon the Lord for forgiveness with a sincere heart.
That is the beauty of this Scandal of Grace. Which brings us to the next remarkable thing we see in this passage; Next Slide
The Immediate & Costly Obedience of the Outcast. Mark 2:14; Matt. 9:9; Luke 5:28
In looking at Mark, and even Matthew, which was written by this very tax collector, we don’t get much of the picture of the high a price Matthew paid. To get a better picture we need to look at this account in Luke 9:28. Where we read; “And leaving everything, he rose and followed Him.” Luke points out that he left “everything…and followed Him.” Again, based on our current experiences we don’t fully realize what a great sacrifice this truly was for Matthew. I mentioned a few moments ago that tax collectors purchased these tax collecting franchises. This included a process of bidding to purchase the best locations. Well rest assured that a tax booth at the crossroads of Capernaum, which we discovered a couple of weeks ago was at the intersection of 2 huge trade routes, was a prime location. In other words Matthew paid a bundle to have this spot. It also meant he made a bundle off of this spot. Yet Luke makes it clear that he left “everything…and followed Him.” The fact that he immediately left everything and followed Jesus makes it pretty clear that this was not a decision made in the emotions of the moment, those types of decisions don’t last long. More than likely the moment Matthew left the tax booth that day, another tax collector swooped in and took over his prime spot. This was a decisive and final choice he made, the fact that we have a Gospel called Matthew, written by this former tax collector, is proof that this was a permanent decision.
Chances are Matthew was very familiar with Jesus. Perhaps he had heard Jesus teach, certainly he had heard about the miracles. There is little doubt that he knew that following Jesus came at a cost, but that was a price he was willing to pay. As an outcast in society, it was likely that Matthew knew himself to be wretched and miserable, distressed and burdened by his sin and hungering for forgiveness that only Jesus could give. More often than not, people would try to cross the street rather than come close to Matthew. Yet we learn in Mark 2:14 that Jesus did things differently. Mark writes that Jesus “saw” Matthew. The Greek word used for “saw” is a strong word that makes it clear this was not a passing glance. It was a close inspection, it meant that Jesus turned His eye, His mind, His complete attention to Matthew. He didn’t avoid eye contact, He initiated it. And as we learned in last weeks passage, Jesus had the ability to look into the very depths of a persons heart. While it is clear that Matthew knew of Jesus, what Matthew knew of Jesus paled in comparison to what Jesus knew of Matthew. Jesus saw the sin in Matthew’s heart and yet still He called on him to be one of His disciples.
This should be the source of great encouragement to all of us. If Jesus could see into the depths of Matthews heart and not reject Him, there is hope for all of us. No one is beyond the forgiveness of Jesus.
This brings us to the next beautiful picture we see in this morning’s passage. As we read on we see; Next Slide
Jesus Is The Great Physician. Mark 2:15-17; Matt. 9:10-13; Luke 5:29-32
The cost of following Jesus continues in these verses. We learn that Matthew was so overjoyed at the knowledge that Jesus accepted him, that he wanted others of his same ilk to realize the acceptance of Jesus. He proceeded to throw a big banquet at his home in honor of Jesus. By the way, the fact that Matthew, Mark and Luke all indicate that they “reclined at the table”, tells us this was not a quick meal. It was a long drawn out banquet, because the calling of Matthew was a special event. And based on what we read in verse 15, this wasn’t just a meal, it was a revival, for we read “And as He reclined at the table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him.” The “many” the verse is talking about is referring to the tax collectors and sinners.
There is something else I don’t want us to miss. In Mark 2:13 we see that Matthew’s booth was located by the Sea of Galilee. In other words he was the one who collected taxes from Peter, Andrew, James and John. Who knows how many times and how much Matthew had stolen from them over the years. I would imagine that dining at his home was not an easy task for these 4. In fact according to Jewish tradition, their dining with Matthew meant they fully accepted him as a friend. This could not have been easy for them.
There is a part of me that wonders if maybe Peter may have protested a little;
“Jesus, do you realize who Matthew is, what he has done to us over the years? And now, not only do You want us to dine with him as if he is an accepted friend, your’e inviting him to be one of us.”
“Peter, when I called you along this same sea shore, do you remember what I called you to do?”
“Yes, you called us to be Fishers of men?”
“And that is exactly what we are doing, we are fishing!”
Maybe at that point Jesus looked and pointed at the large gathering of sinners gathered for the feast that day and said. “This is too large a catch for any net you have ever used. Let’s do some fishing!”
While we don’t know whether or not Peter, Andrew, James or John questioned Jesus, we do know that the Scribes of the Pharisees did. Look at what we read in Mark 2:16
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Mark 2:16 ESV
16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
This is something they would have never done. Jesus eating a meal with these kinds of people was beyond outrageous in the minds of these religious leaders.
“From the perspective of the self-righteous religious leaders, these people represented the dregs of society. From Jesus’ viewpoint, they comprised the mission field. They were sinners and knew it—the very kinds of people He had come to seek and to save.” MacArthur, J. (2015). Mark 1–8 (p. 117). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
It didn’t take long for their critical questions to reach the ears of Jesus, we see His response in verse 17 Next Slide
Mark 2:17 ESV
17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Here we see Jesus as the Great Physician, only in this instance His healing moves beyond the physical and into the spiritual. As was pointed out last week, this type of healing was not a temporal healing, but an eternal one.
What we see in this mornings passage is utterly amazing. What you have to realize is that when Jesus called Matthew, He was calling the most unacceptable to be one of His disciples. Jesus sought out the one man no body else wanted, the one everyone else wished would fall under the immediate wrath of God. This, of course, was to become one of the trademarks of Jesus’ ministry, as Mary Magdalene, the leper, and the paralyzed man would all attest. When Jesus looked at people, He didn’t see categories, He didn’t see a leper, He didn’t see a prostitute, He didn’t see a man paralyzed by sin, He looked at each one of these people and saw what they could become if they would just yield control of their lives to Him.
“Centuries ago a number of workmen were seen dragging a great marble block into the city of Florence, Italy. It had come from the famous marble quarries of Carrera, and was intended to be made into a statue of a great Old Testament prophet. But it contained imperfections, and when the great sculpture Donatello saw it, he refused it at once. So there it a lay in the cathedral yard, a useless block. One day another sculpture caught sight of the flawed block. But as he examined it, there rose in his mind something of immense beauty, and he resolved to sculpt it. For two years the artist worked feverishly on the work of art. Finally, on January 25, 1504, the greatest artists of the day assembled to see what he had made of the despised and rejected block. Among them were Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci. As the veil dropped to the floor, the statue was met with a chorus of praise. It was a masterpiece! The succeeding centuries have confirmed that judgment. Michelangelo’s David is one of the greatest works of art the world has ever known.
Christ saw in the flawed life of Levi, the tax collector, a Matthew, writer and evangelist. He still sees men and women with His consummate artists eye today. The Scripture says, “For we are God‘s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10). He sees in us what no one else sees.” R. Kent Hughes-Mark-Jesus, Servant and Savior.
We now move to the last, and perhaps most important lesson in this mornings passage, and that is: Next Slide
The Tale of Two Types of Diseased. Mark 2:17; Matt. 9:13; Luke 5:32
One of the most frightening things about COVID-19 is that it is largely an invisible killer. You can be a carrier of the disease and not even know it. Also frightening is those who are symptomatic but ignore the symptoms because they do not want to change what they are doing, as a result they spread the disease to others and put their lives at risk.
As we look at verse 17 this morning, we need to understand something about those that were present there that day, Matthew and his friends were not the only ones who were spiritually diseased. The big difference between Matthew and his crew and the Scribes and Pharisees, is the acknowledgement of needing the Great Physician. The title of this mornings message is “Jesus, Friend of Sinners”. Truth be told, the only sinners that considered Jesus their friend, were those who freely admitted that they were sick and in need of the Savior. All other sinners are known carriers of a deadly disease, but refuse to turn to this Friend of Sinners, this Great Physician, because doing so may mean a life change for them.
When Jesus made the statement; “I came not to call the righteous, but the sinners.” He was basically saying “To people who think they are righteous, I have nothing to say. But to those who know they have a need, I have come.” The question for each of us today is this, in which of these categories do we fall?
You know, Matthew didn’t have to leave his tax booth that day, and Jesus doesn’t force us to surrender to Him either. But Matthew understood that he needed a touch from the Hand of The Great Physician, so he readily became friends with Jesus, The Friend of Sinners.
What choice are you going to make today?
Let’s close our time in prayer.
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