While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”Mark 2:15-17 NIV
Sinners and tax collectors. In Jesus’ day, these were social outcasts. Tax collectors were collaborating with Rome in the collection of taxes for the occupiers. And ‘sinners’ was a general term used by the religious folk for anyone who was not following the Law closely enough. Both of these groups were generally considered outcasts from much of the society of the day.
Associating with the Unclean
That Jesus was willing to eat with sinners and tax collectors, was scandalous. Associating with unclean folks was detrimental to one’s reputation. And reputation was important to one who wanted to be a rabbi with a following. But Jesus was not concerned with reputation. Instead, he was concerned about people. Especially those people who had been marginalized by society. In both his words and his actions, he demonstrated God’s love toward the unloved.
If Jesus was to come to 21st-century America for a visit, I wonder who he would be eating with. The homeless? The broken and wounded? The immigrant? People with alternate lifestyles? And who would be criticizing him for it? Would I? Would you? How about our churches? Would we join him? Or would his actions scandalize us? What would Jesus do? Am I willing to follow his example of love?