Mark 2:15 “Jesus was eating at Levi’s house, and many tax-collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples….”
I probably shouldn’t write about eating and dining as we start this second week of fasting for Lent. 🙂 But this short note in the middle of Mark chapter 2 catches my eye. Not so much that Jesus was eating, or what Jesus was eating, but with whom He was eating.
Tax-collectors and sinners.
In the first century, tax-collectors curried little favor with the Jews. Not much seems to have changed. But to be lumped in a category of their own seems significant. Aren’t they just a sub-set of sinners?
Perhaps Mark mentions them because Levi (in the story) was a tax-collector. Perhaps so many tax-collectors showed up for the party, it seemed noteworthy. Perhaps. But the phrase “tax-collectors and sinners” crops up in various other Gospel spots, too (for example Matthew 9:10-11; 11:19; 21:31-32; Luke 15:1). It appears to be a staple saying — “Tax-collectors and sinners.”
And Jesus ate with them.
He did not request a private (or secluded) table for Himself. He did not look askance at them. He ate with them, chatted with them, welcomed them, laughed with them, and (no doubt) shared the Kingdom of God with them. It turned out to be a lunch not about lentils but labels.
We, too, wear various labels. Sometimes other people make those labels for us. Sometimes we make them for ourselves. Either way, these labels usually isolate us. Divorced. Drug addict. Porn addict. Gambling addict. Unemployed. Single parent. Dropout. Alcoholic. Social geek. Stupid. Ugly. And the list goes on.
These labels make us feel lonely, even in a crowd. They hold us back and press us down. They diminish us and enslave us when we allow them to define us. They tether our souls to something less than God intends.
At the start of this new week, Christ sets a table for us. He invites us to leave the labels at the door, to come as we are, to come in, to eat with Him. As we gather around Him, He sees beyond our wounds, our scars, our fears, and our past. He calls us friends; children of God.
Make this a long meal.