The town of Capernaum was a customs post on the caravan route from Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea. Tax collectors would have booths along this route and collect transport tolls and customs duties. The Roman system of taxation depended on greed, and it attracted individuals who were not adverse to such means. Levi (Matthew), was one of these tax collectors, and his profit came from what he could charge from his constituents, and a portion of that stayed in his own pocket. Jews who became tax collectors were despised and compared to thieves and murderers. They were expelled from the synagogue. Tax collectors were tangible reminders of Roman domination, detested alike for its injustice and Gentile uncleanness.
Mark 2:15 states, "And as he relined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed Him." The way of dining in that custom was to recline on one's side while propping the head up with an elbow on the ground. This was an intimate way of eating, and a statement of acceptance. The scribes and Pharisees SAW that Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners, and asked the disciples about it.
"Sinners", in this context, would have been people who were untaught in the Law, and who did not abide by rigid pharisaic standards. Jesus' disrespect for this essential Jewish boundary caused great offense to the scribes.
In verse 14, Jesus SAW Levi - Jesus saw the man as an image-bearer of God.
In verse 16, the Pharisees SAW rule-breakers.
When we see the broken rule instead of the person, we see a deformity of what we should see. We look through a lens and see people every day through that lens and it colors our estimation of their value. We don't get to assign that value. In verse 17, Jesus is saying, "you think you are righteous" which implies that they are putting their value in what they do instead of who Jesus says that they are. When we see people the way Jesus sees them, we have compassion for them. Jesus loves us before repentance and after repentance!
When we SEE people for who they ARE and not what their labels say they are
we are free to love and serve them.
Questions to Consider:
- We all have "those" people that we look down on for some reason or another. Who is that for you? Confess that sin to God now. (Remember, there may likely be someone out there that views you in this same way...)
- In what ways are you willing to risk your reputation to be seen with "those people"?
- When do you fall into the trap of seeing the broken rule instead of the person? at home, at work, at church, in the neighborhood, etc...
- Thank Jesus for seeing you for who you ARE and not what you DO!
- Where will you love and serve your neighbor this week?