The text for this lesson is Mark 2:13–17.
- We sinners rejoice, for we too have been called from our own sin to dine at the table of the friend of sinners: Jesus.
- Law: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1 John 1:8). But also, if we say we have no sin as bad as so-and-so’s, we dupe ourselves just as much. The root of hypocrisy is self-deception. We think we are much higher up on God’s “honor roll” than our peers. Such lies, which dam up the flow of repentance and forgiveness, leaves the sinner damned. Jesus is the friend of sinners. He lives with them, eats with them, dies with them. Self-made saints have no friend in Jesus, for they despise His compassion as well as His companions.
- Gospel: If we confess our sins, if we say “I am a sinner,” Jesus will say, “I am your friend. Fear not. I am faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness” (see 1 John 1:9).
Tax collectors in the Roman world make America’s IRS look like a charity organization. Men such as Levi (aka Matthew) made their income by scraping every dime they could from their fellowman’s wallet. Worse yet, since Jewish tax collectors were employed by the Roman government, they were viewed as backstabbers. So, fuse together Scrooge and Benedict Arnold, and there you have a man such as Levi.
In the ancient world, you didn’t just pull up a chair at any table. To be in “table fellowship” with someone was to say, “I am a comrade of this person. I accept and affirm him.” Thus, when the Pharisees see Jesus dining with “tax collectors and sinners” (which to them were virtually synonymous), they are aghast (Matthew 9:11).
Discussion Points and Questions
- How do we show our friendship with others? What kinds of activities do we do together? What do the Scriptures say Jesus does with His friends?
- See Mark 4:35–41 and Mark 1:16–18. Who is the ruler of the seas? What does Jesus do by the sea?
- What difference does Mark record between Jesus’ words to the crowd (compare with Mark 1:15) and his words to Levi? How does this distinguish Levi from the crowd? What is the significance of this, considering Levi was a tax collector?
- Where is the next place that we see Jesus calling after Levi? What is He doing, and with whom?
- What is so surprising and offensive to the scribes? With whom would they expect Jesus to be eating? What does this expectation tell us about Jesus?
- Who are the ones who need Jesus, according to His words in Mark 2:17? Are there any that are righteous? Whom, then, does Jesus call?
- Who are Jesus’ disciples in this passage? How do we live as His disciples?
- What do we say in the Confession and Absolution in the Divine Service? How does this relate to being called by Jesus to be His disciple? Are there other opportunities for Confession and Absolution outside of the beginning of the Divine Service? Why would we want to take advantage of those opportunities?
For next week, read Mark 10:13–16: Jesus and the little children. What are your impressions of little children? Are they more innocent than the rest of us? Why does Jesus say we must become like little children?