Summary: Discover the counter-cultural ethic that Jesus utilized as he ministered and saved the human race.


Mark 2:13-17

Sermon #3 of “Ten Cultural Myths that Drive America”

This is the third sermon in our sermon series, “Ten Cultural Myths that Drive America” from the first six chapters of Mark. Last week we looked at “Image is Everything” from Mark 1:32-39. We discovered the counter-cultural ethic that Jesus utilized as he ministered and saved the human race.

In coming weeks we will look at other slogans that have become embedded into the American psyche, other idioms that define us and motivate us as a people. We will look at:

• Rules are Made to be Broken - Mark 2:18 – 3:6

• Live and Let Live - Mark 3:1-6

• You are Only Young Once - Mark 1:14-20; 3:13-19

• If You Want Something Done Right, Do It Yourself - Mark 3:13-19; 31-35

• If it Feels Good, Do It - Mark 5:1-20

• God Helps Those Who Help Themselves - Mark 5:25-34

• Stand Up For Your Rights - Mark 5:17, 6:1-6

This week we will look at Mark 2:13-17

There is so much in Chapter two that deserves our attention. And I assure you we will come back and look for closely at this chapter. We will look at this passage in the bigger context. For example, in chapter two we see four tests – four tests, four instances where humanity violates God’s law and we see “the final word” on the situation … Jesus speaks and settles the interpretation for all time.

But today, we will look at the story of Levi.

13Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. "Follow me," Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

Note: Luke gives a little bit of additional information for us in regards to Levi’s decision to follow. In 5:28, Luke says, Levi got up, left everything and followed Jesus.

15While 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. 16When 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’?"

17On 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."

John Lennon and the Beatles have a song that says:

The best things in life are free

But you can keep them for the birds and bees

Now give me money ...

You’re lovin’ gives me a thrill

But you’re lovin’ don’t pay my bills

Now give me money ...

Money don’t get everything it’s true

What it don’t get, I can’t use

Now give me money ...

It certainly resonates with the heart of the average American. But, like Lennon’s song, it isn’t the money many want ... it’s what money can get you that we seek. And nothing illustrates this drive like this time of year. We are five days away from the biggest shopping day of the year and the most important retail season of the year.

The proverb, “Shop ‘Til You Drop” will literally be said by millions of Americans over the next 30 days.

The consumer science department at Purdue University says that: The Christmas retail season brings in up to 40 percent of annual sales and 75 percent of yearly profits for retailers (

It has many faces. It looks different from person to person and we call it many things but, at its core, it is one and the same.

Some call it greed. Some call it covetousness. Some call it materialism. Jesus calls it sin. Jesus calls it spiritual sickness.

Just like any sickness it takes its toll on us.

No one in America is immune to this. It is so much a part of the American capitalistic system and psyche that it is inbred into us. Just last night I picked up an L.L. Bean catalog from the end table and found something I “need” on practically every page. Our “stuff” helps define us as a culture.

Somewhere along the way Levi (note the distinct Jewish name) made a conscious and unalterable decision to pursue money. It was a decision that had significant and immediate consequences.

• This was probably Matthew - the Disciple who wrote the Gospel.

• Levi was probably his given name and Matthew ("gift of God") his apostolic name.

• Tax collector jobs were greatly sought after as a sure way to get rich quickly.

May I offer a few observations about Levi’s (Matthew’s) choice and pursuit?

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