Reading Scripture: Mark 2: 13-17

Back to our regularly scheduled scripture reading: Mark 2:13-17.

Verse 13: We can assume the sea here is referencing the Sea of Galilee as described earlier. One must ask how a crowd can come to someone at sea. The assumptions have been that he stood in a boat in the water near the shore. However, it is much more likely that rather than went out by way of the sea, it means went out next to/near the sea. This would match better with the next verse.

As before, we have Jesus teaching crowds of average people, not simply in Synagogues.

Verse 14: Levi at the tax booth. The idea of a booth for taxes seems to contradict a lot of what is taught about ancient tax collectors. They were go-getters. They extorted the people. They were Jews who worked for the Romans, considered outcasts by their entire society, and they made up for that by the pure profit of overcharging that same society.

Does an individual who does this for a living sound like someone who would sit in a booth and wait for individuals to come to them? I wonder what went on at this booth. My wife has suggested that perhaps this booth was for the counting of tax money and that Levi’s job wasn’t of the “go-getter” type.

I think it much more reasonable that Jesus encountered Levi, evangelized to him, and convinced him of the truth of Jesus message. In this way, he says, “follow me,” and Levi agrees.

Verse 15: As we said above, these men were traitors to their people, so it is no surprise that they would find community among others who were also outcast. It is interesting to note that none of the disciples at this point had a problem with eating with unclean individuals.

Verse 16: While the apostles don’t seem to mind, the scribes and Pharisees, or religious right wingers, definitely had a problem with it.

Verse 17: It is interesting to note here that Jesus refers to those he is choosing to associate with as sick, and the right wingers as healthy. This would suggest that what the Pharisees and scribes believed, and how they lived, were the proper way and that Jesus had no qualms with them. Christians often look at the Pharisees as people who were just plain wrong, but this suggests otherwise. Jesus even calls them righteous, a word highly revered by that culture as close to God.

Perhaps being a right wing conservative is perfectly acceptable to God. Perhaps it’s less about who you are, and more about what you think of yourselves and God, and what you do which represents those thoughts. When Jesus throws tables later in the story, his reasons are that those individuals were cheating people, but tax collectors cheated people all the time, so why the contradiction here? Perhaps there isn’t any. Perhaps they are all the “sick” in the eyes of Jesus, which is why he attempts to teach both parties, albeit with different tactics. We shall discuss the temple later when we arrive at the event.

Still, it seems like a curious contradiction. I think that those who are healthy are those who know that they are loved by God. I think that the sick are those who believe that they are rejected by God. This stands in line with my previous blog about the Good News of Jesus being the unconditional love of God, and it seems to make sense of this apparent contradiction.

This is by no means the end of this curiosity, however. There will be more encounters of this type as we go on, and perhaps they will shed more light on what Jesus means here by those who are healthy, and those who are sick.

Grace and Peace to you all.


4 thoughts on “Reading Scripture: Mark 2: 13-17

Add yours

  1. Some really interesting thoughts here.

    Your contrast of Jesus’ treatment of the tax collectors vs the money changers is worth pondering. I will point out that Jesus does not give “they were cheating the people” as the motive for his actions in the temple. Rather He says it’s His zeal for the house of the Lord, and the desecration of all this abuse right in the Temple.

    As to the Pharisees and who needs the physician, could there be sarcasm in His reference to them being well and the others being sick?

    Again in your contrast of the tax collectors and money changers, you imply that the tax collectors were accepted as well, and the money changers as sick, and yet, His physician analogy implies that the tax collectors were sick and he was there to heal.

    Just pondering with my keyboard.

    Lots of food for thought here, in your writings.

    Grace and peace right back at you.


    1. Hey Ben, thanks for your thoughts.

      As for cheating people, that comes from Matthew 21:13 “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are turning it into a den of robbers!” Thus suggesting that those tables belonged to individuals who were stealing from the people, ie. cheating.

      Yeah, I thought that it was possible he was being sarcastic, but I also feel like that is an easy out answer for why he said that. Although, as I continued reading those considered healthy in this statement really are shown to be the ill ones, so maybe that lends authority to the sarcasm theory? Not sure, really.

      In rereading the post, I don’t see a suggestion that the tax collectors were among the healthy, as indeed that is directly who he was talking about when he said that he was here to heal the sick. If you can quote where this miscommunication is I would like to change it so it makes sense.

      I hope you’re enjoying it.


      1. I am enjoying – and – you’re right about the cheating. That was clearly part of what was making Him angry.

        The part that was unclear is this bit:
        “Perhaps the Jewish tax collectors were doing what they needed to do to survive, while in their hearts they still loved God. While those at the temple no longer held God in their hearts, but rather themselves?”

        Based on what I was reading – if they loved God in their hearts – they were not the sick, but the reason He was going after them was to help them get well. I also think that’s the reason he went after the folks in the temple – to get them well – sometimes you need to attack sickness with a vengeance in order to irradicate it completely.

        But in the end – you did make your point and perhaps I’m misreading that part.




  2. Yes, Ben, I see the contradiction there. It should be the other way around, that those who Jesus was mad at in the temple were those who loved God in their hearts, but not in their actions. Although, I guess it could also be argued that all of those involved were sick since Jesus was attempting to teach them all.

    Thanks for noticing that, and for reading closely enough for it to make a difference. I really do appreciate it. I hope you stay with me!


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