13 Then Jesus went out to the lake shore 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 notorious & 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 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."
Back when Mark was writing this account of Jesus life, it was common practice to treat “tax collectors & other notorious sinners” with a GREAT deal of scorn.
People didn't talk to them, spend any time around them, & were pretty mean to them.
Sitting down to eat with them was unthinkable – it would have made you “unclean”, which would have prevented you from going into the Temple.
So these people put up with a lot of hate from “church folks” & lived as social outcasts.
And yet, it says that “there were many people of this kind among Jesus disciples”!
So these notorious sinners not only just turned up for the odd talk from Jesus, but actually followed Him to the point where people thought of them as followers or disciples.
Evidently, there was a quality of a connection these notorious sinners had with Jesus that made it worth putting up with the rude & cruel behavior of most of the people they encountered.
There was evidently something about Jesus that made it worth it to them.
Now we all know what that was – it was His love & care for everyone (among a gajillion other things) that drew them to Him.
So here's the question...
As followers of Jesus, as people that He is trying to remold & reshape into His way of living & thinking & being, are we people who the notorious sinners of our day & time feel drawn to?
It probably would go without saying that there's a pretty healthy chunk of the white middle class evangelical contingent of Christianity here in America who would view being around notorious sinners about as attractive as the Pharisees back then.
Being around them would not only undermine their witness but might indicate they condone & accept the behavior of notorious sinners as normal & acceptable.
Being that as it may, I think our responsibility is pretty clear here...
We are to love people as Jesus loved them.
If so, it would follow that people would want to be around us, whether they understood why or not.
So let's ask ourselves the question today – are people drawn to us because of the love of Jesus inside us?
Or are we thought of as being like the hard tailed Pharisees from back in the day?