When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” (Mark 2:16-17)
Thought. Contrary to what it appeared to the religious people around him, Jesus upholds the law by retaining the spirit and true meaning of the law. They accused Him of breaking laws concerning the Sabbath on multiple occasions, but Jesus didn’t actually break an Old Testament command. He violated the interpretations religious leaders had developed around the biblical commands of food regulations and keeping the Sabbath day holy.
In the space of a few paragraphs written in Mark chapter 2 and 3 Jesus forgives the sins of a paralytic man, he calls Mathew to follow him who is a tax collector and eats with him and other sinners. he doesn’t follow ritual fasting and he heals a man on the sabbath. This set in the context of his big mission to heal and help those who are oppressed by demons and then calls his twelve apostles and appears to treat everyone who does the will of God like his close family.
It seems that so much is packed into these verses, Mark seems to condense so much it takes time to unpack all these things. The message seems to be that Jesus does things differently to the expectations of the religious teachers of his day. I spoke recently about Peter eating with a Roman centurion Cornelius, someone outside the covenant and sparked a massive and yet decisive debate on how the church would treat those who are of a different Ethnic background.
Jesus we could presume from this was revolutionising Judaism and teaching the heart of God behind some of the laws they strictly adhered to.
The Pharisees had developed a system that surrounded the law, the Mishnah, which took the law of Moses and surrounded it with many other regulations to protect themselves from transgressing the law. Yet somehow they had forgotten the heart of God, and the relationship God intended to have with people.
I want to continue my thought on what it meant for Jews regarding eating rituals. And the idea perhaps they had of guilt by association. Jesus often ate with people whom the religious people had a problem with and would associate with, he had purpose and a surgery but more that that he loved them, had compassion for them for them to come to faith in him and see the kingdom of God come into their loves. Jesus’ identification with humanity was vital to his mission, and the kingdom of God coming to earth and his ultimate purpose to seek and save that which was lost. The calling to repentance and faith is something that is one movement towards God. Without a change of heart and mind it’s impossible to have this saving faith and impossible to come into God’s kingdom.
1. Intimacy of eating
One of the most quoted scriptures in the bible is John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Whosoever. Whosoever will admit they’re sick spiritually. Whosoever will run to the great physician and say, “Jesus, only you can heal my soul.” Whosoever will receive the perfect righteousness available only through Jesus — the love of God who eats with sinners.
The idea of eating together is often in our culture is very important, a first date is often around a meal, and it’s often the beginning of a romantic relationship, the white table clothes the candles, the conversation. This kind of intimacy is embedded in our culture and perhaps too in Jewish customs. Jesus ate Passover with his disciples right before he went to the cross and even handed the bread to Judas even though he knew he would betray him.
Jesus motivation we know was His love for all humankind. This is the reason he came he told the Pharisees while eating with sinners in Luke 15. In fact he told three stories to illustrate his point, the lost sheep the lost coin and and lost son, finishing the dialogue with I came to seek and save the lost.
Jesus’s point of eating with them was not to validate their behaviour, like in the case of Zacchaeus. As Jesus eats with this sinner, Zacchaeus stands up and says: “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” God’s mission is salvation. By coming to his house and risking scorn from the religious people someone life was changed. He came to call those who needed God and gave them space and time to listen to them, eat with them and ultimately meet their need. In Jesus mission directives to his disciples he passed on his strategy.
Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ (Luke 10:5-9)
2. Identification with humanity
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21).
this scripture does not mean that Jesus was a sinner, it means that he identified with sinners in order to bring them to salvation.
We must consider in what way was Jesus a friend of sinners? Did he have a grand strategy for reaching tax collectors? Did he indiscriminately “hang out” with drunks and prostitutes? Was he an easy going live-and-let-live kind of Messiah?
What we see from the composite of these passages is that sinners were drawn to Jesus, that Jesus gladly spent time with sinners who were open to his teaching, that Jesus forgave repentant sinners, and that Jesus embraced sinners who believed in him.
Jesus was a friend of sinners not because he encouraged sin, ignored sin, or enjoyed light-hearted revelry with those engaged in immorality. Jesus was a friend of sinners in that he came to save sinners and was very pleased to welcome sinners who were open to the gospel, sorry for their sins, and on their way to putting their faith in Him.
Jesus identified with us so we could identify with him. Philippians says he took the form of a servant and God exalted him, Jesus gave us examples of how we are to win people, identify with our humanity and realise our need for a saviour.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
3. Calling to repentance and faith.
The accounts of the conversion of Matthew in Matthew 9, Mark 2, and Luke 5 address and settle several important issues facing God’s people in our day.
One of these is the issue of how the church of Jesus Christ is to be built. Shall we “call the righteous” or shall we, as Jesus did, call “sinners to repentance”? Jesus was not forming a club of righteous people. Rather, He was calling on sinners to repent and join Him.
The story of Matthew also helps us with the questions that have been raised about evangelism and personal holiness. When Matthew (Zacchaeus) answered the call, “Follow Me,” he immediately sought to evangelise his friends. Just as others who had also answered the same call of Jesus, he was becoming a fisher of men. And the Lord Jesus was helping him.
Jesus called them to repent. He was "separate from sinners” in that His life was blameless and His stand very clear for right and against wrong, but unlike the religious, He never stayed away from them. Rather He went among them in order to win them.
This combination of a holy life and an evangelistic attitude is always powerful to the winning of the lost, even in our time.
The sinner must repent if he is to be saved and we are told by Jesus in Luke15, there is joy in Heaven over, “One sinner that repents.” Luke concludes the book with the Great Commission, which in His account says, “That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations.”
The Greek word used in the original, and translated repent in the English version of Luke, actually means to change the mind. It is built on the Greek word for mind, and can imply remorse or compunction, but it always carries the basic idea of a turn in the way one thinks.
Repentance is not a promise to do better, proven by doing better. When it is defined in this wrong way in preaching, works is brought into the plan of salvation, and the Gospel is perverted.
One must change his mind in order to be saved by God’s grace. Salvation is not a matter of changing behaviour in order to merit salvation by good works.
We are saved when we change our minds (repent) and believe on Christ.
About what must the sinner change his mind? He must repent about sin according to Mark 1:4. Repentance of sin is required for remission of sin, as we see also in Luke 24:47.
He must change his mind about his sins. He must also repent of his unbelief according to Mark 1:15. Jesus preached the Gospel and said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent [change your mind] and believe the gospel.”
The sinner must change his mind in order to believe for salvation.
When we read about “repentance and faith,” the meaning is that sinners must repent in order to put their faith in Christ for salvation. They must change their minds about their sins: stop excusing them, decide not to oppose God any longer, and agree that they have been wrong.
They must change their minds about their unbelief: realise that the Gospel is true and that Jesus is indeed the Saviour, and stop depending on themselves or the church for salvation.
This change of mind is necessary for a sinner to place his trust completely upon Christ for his salvation. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin.
To believe on Christ, one must repent. If a sinner has truly repented, he has believed on the Lord Jesus. It is Jesus that saves. It is not our remorse or good intentions.
We are saved by faith alone (Romans 3:28, Galatians 2:16). Repentance is not the first step to be followed by faith. Saving faith involves a change of mind. It is not just praying a prayer; it is turning the heart. The sinner is saved in one step: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Act 16:31). Salvation repentance is the change of mind necessary for the sinner to put his faith in Christ to save him.
When we repent we turn to Christ
In this wonderful story of Levi’s conversion, the Lord illustrates repentance by the role a doctor plays in the experience of a sick person.
One’s salvation does not depend upon the thoroughness of his determination to change, nor upon his works after he turns to Christ. It depends on the One Who alone can save, and upon the willingness of the sinner to have faith in Christ and let Him do the saving
Jesus often ate with people whom the religious people had a problem with and would associate with, yet he had purpose and a strategy but more that that he loved them, had compassion for them for them to come to faith in him and see the kingdom of God come into their loves.
Jesus’ identification with humanity was vital to his mission, and the kingdom of God coming to earth and his ultimate purpose to seek and save that which was lost.
The calling to repentance and faith is something that is one movement towards God. Without a change of heart and mind it’s impossible to have this saving faith and impossible to come into God’s kingdom.