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.