Summary: Do you really want to be like the Jesus who spent His life touching the lepers, going to the parties held by the sinners, letting His feet be anointed by the prostitute who washed them with her tears and dried them with her hair and kissed them with her l
January 11, 2008 Mark 2:13-17
A friend of mine began his ministry quite well. He had some good early successes. He was a really strong teacher – he had a way of bringing the Bible to life, explaining it in fresh ways, which people could relate to. Maybe you’ve experienced some of those moments, when a teacher opens the Bible to a place that you’ve heard and studied and thought you’d figured out, but then this teacher shows you something there that is so simple and obvious and so different from what you thought it meant. My friend was one of those kinds of teachers, and people responded really well. There was some good fruit. He was also really gifted at caring for people – you know, would have just the right thing to say to people in need that would be encouraging and uplifting. Again, some good fruit.
But, as happens so often, there was another side to my friend. Some leaders heard a rumor about some of the ways he was spending his time. Someone had heard that he’d been seen at a pretty wild party. Someone else thought they’d seen him surrounded by a group of people that a minister shouldn’t hang around, late at night, laughing and joining in with them. Apparently, he’d even had an alcoholic beverage in his hand. Even more scandalous, one leader invited him for dinner, and a prostitute walked up to my friend and it was really obvious that they knew each other. She was even openly, demonstrably affectionate. When this leader asked him what on earth this meant, my friend was abrasive in response, even rude.
So let’s treat this as a “case study”, like you might do in school. What do you think should be done? Take a moment to think about how you might respond to this situation.
Who is this friend of mine?
What should be done with a minister like that? I’ll venture a guess that your ideas range from the quick “get rid of him”, to a more measured “sit him down and talk to him about building healthy friendships with people that can be a good influence on him”, perhaps even to a “find out why he has been hanging around with these types of people and go from there”. I wonder how many of us, though, thought that the best thing to do in this situation would be to encourage him to keep this up, spend more time with these people, and even take some others with him.
You see, my friend’s name is Jesus. And these are true stories. This week I want to look at the story of the “inappropriate”, wild party – Mark 2. Next week we’ll look at the story of the “inappropriate” relationship with the prostitute told in Luke 7.
13 Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.
15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) 16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked (“complained bitterly”, Luke 5:30) his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”
17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
The Problem with Familiarity:
Had I begun with this story instead of my little “case study” we would likely have missed most of how radical and scandalous this story really is. I wasn’t trying to be manipulative in my introduction. But the problem with our familiarity is that we jump immediately to condemning those judgmental Pharisees, and agree with Jesus that He is in the right place. After all, He is Jesus, He must be right. But here is the kicker: in all my years of going to church (more than 35), in my 7 years of theological training (which included “chapel” at least twice a week, about half of which I actually attended (I often wasn’t on campus during chapel time)), in my years of professional development as a minister – AND ALL OF THESE WITH THE EXPRESSED GOAL OF HELPING ME BE MORE LIKE JESUS – I don’t recall many references to the fact that to be like Jesus means that I should be going to wild parties like this one at Levi’s house. That just didn’t happen very much… We’ll come back to that in a moment, but let’s spend a little more time in Mark and the story.