Summary: Jesus came not to call the Righteous but Sinners to repentance.
THE FEAST AT LEVI’S HOUSE
1. The call of Levi (Mark 2:13-14)
Wherever we live, under whatever regime, tax collectors are unpopular. It was no different in first century Israel, where Levi’s trade involved collaboration with the Romans, and the constant suspicion of theft. Levi was a man alone, and Jesus called him alone.
Yet within this account of the call of one man is included the call of every one of us. Jesus says, “Follow me” (Mark 2:14), and like Levi - putting all argument and debate aside - we must quietly obey. As is later explained, Jesus came not to call the ‘righteous’ but ‘sinners’ to repentance (Mark 2:17).
2. The social stratification of mealtime (Mark 2:15-17)
Not only did Levi follow Jesus, but he took Him home. Hospitality is not only a common courtesy, but a means of sharing Jesus with others. It is inevitable that the people around our table are going to be people like ourselves, but this is as good a place as any to begin our evangelism.
The other guests at Levi’s table were such as met with the disapproval of certain religious teachers. These ‘scribes of the Pharisees’ addressed their narrow-minded comments to Jesus’ disciples, trying to undermine the believers’ new-found faith. It is Jesus’ answer, however, which embraces us all: He did not come for those who THINK they are righteous, but He came to bring those who KNOW they are sinners to repentance (Mark 2:17).
3. To fast or to feast? (Mark 2:18-20)
The second half of this passage introduces the not unrelated subject of fasting. The only time when the Law COMMANDS fasting is in the ‘affliction of soul’ associated with the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29). This is apt, as it immediately associates fasting with repentance and forgiveness.
Yet a true fast will also lead the liberated person to seek relief and liberty for others. They will give bread to the hungry, shelter to the outcast, and clothes to the naked (Isaiah 58:6-7). This is ‘pure religion and undefiled’ (James 1:27).
The Pharisees’ ritual of fasting twice a week (Luke 18:12) has nothing to commend it to those who are entering anew into a relationship with Jesus. And although the disciples of John the Baptist had cause enough to fast on account of the execution of their teacher, it was hardly appropriate to enforce fasting on those who were walking with the Lord during the time of His incarnation. He would be taken away from them soon enough, and THEN they would fast (Mark 2:20)!
4. Mixing things that differ (Mark 2:21-22)
When we begin to follow Jesus we enter into a whole new way of life. The problem in Samaria after the Assyrians had resettled the northern kingdom with non-Israelites, was that they sought to serve both their own gods AND the God of Israel (2 Kings 17:33; 2 Kings 17:41). That is to mix things that differ.
The problem in Galatia was similar, where men wanted to reconcile Judaism with Christianity by a painful compromise. To seek to superimpose our relationship with Jesus on top of even the best of ‘religious’ structures and strictures is to sew a piece of new cloth upon an old garment, or to store new wine in old wineskins: it just will not work. Why would we even want to return into slavery to a law which has not redeemed us (Galatians 3:3)?