Mark 2: 13-17
He relates with Everyone.
A relationship involves a close connection between two people who share something in common among themselves. This sometimes involves close interactions, support and sharing of intimacy. Jesus comes for everyone. He does not segregate. He wants to relate with you and me. Most especially, He opens himself to people that need Him.
There are times we think that God has already ruled us out. There are some who when they remember their past, they feel a sense of guilt and believe there is no salvation for them anymore. In the gospel of today, Jesus calls a tax collector to be His apostle instead of the righteous Pharisees. He sits with sinners and eats with tax collectors.
This in any way does not mean that Jesus is condoning evil, but like the way He calls a tax collector, He is also calling us to follow Him, be close to Him, dine with Him and interact with Him. He still wants to forgive us and make us new creatures.
The Past is Not an Option.
There are times when we remember our pasts, it will look as if we have committed the worst atrocities and thus what is in store for us is only punishment. Sometimes our sense of guilt makes it look as if God will never forgive us again. At these moments, we continue to beat ourselves up.
What we need is an encounter with the Lord. In His presence, the past is not an option.
When Jesus encounters Levi today, He did not begin to enquire about His past and how he has been extorting money through taxes. That time the easiest way to make money is to be a tax collector. It was like a get rich quick scheme. But the interest of Jesus was to change and not to destroy. We are the ones who destroy ourselves by refusing His invitation to be close to Him. He loves us, but we are very occupied and busy.
Levi was said to be employed by Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, as a tax collector. A traveller from either Herod Philip’s territory or the Decapolis would naturally pass through Capernaum on entering Galilee. Along this route stands Levi’s tax collector’s booth.
These tax collectors were despised by the Jews because they were considered traitors and extortioners. To make this practical, it is like seeing Jesus in the midst of leaders hated by the people. Of course many would not be happy with that. But Jesus knows that an encounter or meeting with Him is enough to change the other person.
The more we pray that God hates and demolish our enemies, the more God prays they change and return to Him.
Eating With Jesus.
“Eating with Jesus” (synanekeinto to Iesou) seems to suggest that the tax collectors and sinners were having dinner with Jesus. This hence suggests that Jesus is also calling sinners to the Kingdom. It is a call to experience His merciful heart. He is willing to forgive us again and make us new.
The meal was an anticipation of the messianic banquet that is awaiting them at last.
The dinner held in Levi’s house was probably his farewell party since he was leaving to become one of Jesus’ disciples, or perhaps he simply wanted to gather his friends together so that they too could have an opportunity to meet Jesus.
In the same way, we do have daily opportunities to repent and come back to God. If we are still living, it means we still have the chance now before it becomes late. Our souls are not damned already. What Jesus wants from me and you, is to respond to Him today.
Jesus the Physician.
Jesus sees Himself as a physician as against the scribes who were scandalised to see him in the midst of tax collectors and sinners. The scribes depend only on their self-righteousness while Jesus needs those who depend on His mercy and forgiveness.
A physician ministers to the sick and not to those who think they are healthy and have no need of Jesus. Not only that, a physician examines a patient, diagnoses any problem and proposes a treatment plan for him.
For the sick person to be free, he has to accept the diagnosis and follow the treatment plan. Jesus heals us both spiritually and physically. He proposes to us come to Him always to be healed.
So, that thing that is making you lose hope in life is in need of this Great Physician. That past that makes us feel like killing ourselves and committing suicide needs His Divine Touch. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrew 4:16).
May God have mercy on us and give us the grace to continually approach Him in faith and love. Amen.