Mark 2: 13-17
Jesus Calls Levi and Eats With Sinners
13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
This is what I think, Levi (aka Matthew) was converted by Jesus in verse 13-14. Not long after that, he invited Jesus, his disciples and his ex-colleagues (tax collectors) for dinner. Probably it is an open air buffet dinner. And while they are enjoying the time together eating, some Pharisees passed by and asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”.
Tax collectors in Jesus’ day
i. The Jewish people rightly considered them traitors because they worked for the Roman government, and had the force of Roman soldiers behind them to make people pay taxes.
ii. The Jewish people rightly considered them extortioners because they could keep whatever they over-collected. A tax collector bid among others for the tax collecting “contract.” For example, many tax collectors might want to have the “tax contract” for a city like Capernaum. The Romans awarded the contract to the highest bidder. The man collected taxes, paid the Romans what he promised, and kept the remainder. Therefore, there was a lot of incentive for tax collectors to over-charge and cheat any way they could. It was pure profit for them.
iii. Tax collector was regarded as an outcast from society: he was disqualified as a judge or a witness in a court session, was excommunicated from the synagogue, and in the eyes of the community his disgrace extended to his family.
Not sure when Levi organized this dinner after his conversion. But, I think it is not long. If this is the case, what we can learn from here is we don’t need to wait until we mature spiritually first or gain enough training before we can organize a dinner to reach out to people. We can imitate Levi by doing whatever he can. Maybe he can’t teach others effectively but he can organize an event to invite people to come and let Jesus do the teaching. We can do the same as well. We might not able to teach effectively but we can organize an event to invite others or set up a personal bible study appointment and let our leader or other leader do the teaching.
Mark 2: 18-22
Jesus Questioned About Fasting
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If they do, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And people do not pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
Wine and wineskin
A wineskin was a goatskin sewed together at the edges to form a watertight bag. New wine, expanding as it aged, stretched the wineskin. New wine, therefore, could not be put into a wineskin that had already been stretched, or the taut skin would burst.
The new wine represents the inner aspects of a Christian life, and the new cloth pictures outward conduct and conversation. A person’s behavior reflects his commitment, seen in the illustration of attaching new cloth to old clothing. The old clothing—our sinful, selfish life—cannot be mended but must be replaced. The new cloth is a righteous life. The Pharisees’ ritual fasting was an old garment for which a new piece of cloth was useless.
A wineskin would expand under the pressure of fermentation, so if you put new, unfermented wine in an old, brittle wineskin, it was sure to burst.