Mondays with Mark
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. 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. 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’?” 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.” ~ Mark 2.14-17
I’m not much of a greek scholar, but I thought I’d look into this word “sinner” a bit more so I opened up my handy dandy Bible software program to see what I could see. I’ve heard the word a lot growing up, not necessarily directed at me, but it could have been fairly easily. What caught my attention this time around is that they put it in quotes… “That’s weird I thought.”
The only other time it is put in quotes is when Jesus went to have dinner with Zacchaeus, another tax collector… hmmm.
Anyway, so I get the old MacBook a whirling and pull up the definition of the word for sinner… and this is what I find…
hamartoœlos, a. . (a.) sinful, as an absolute moral failure; (n.) sinner, one who violates God’s will or law; in some contexts, one who does not keep orthodox traditions and behaviors
a. An absolute moral failure. Man that hurts… that sucks. I’d hate to label a person that. I think I know anyone I could label that. My hope is that I’d be really upset about their situation and not just look down on them.
b. One who violates God’s will or law. We’re all here aren’t we. Whether we really want to admit it, we find ourselves in this situation.
c. Doesn’t keep to the orthodox beliefs or traditions. This is the one that makes the most sense to me… why it would be in quotes anyway. Because he wasn’t keeping in line. Always pushing the limits of what’s acceptable.
It makes us uncomfortable doesn’t it when someone breaks the unwritten standard. The type of behavior we expect out people. They talk at the wrong time, they don’t wear the right clothes or enough or too baggy, etc, etc. They have too many piercings or piercings in the wrong places. The music they listen to isn’t good or it’s too loud.
We all have our “acceptable” behaviors list… or I think unacceptable “list.”
Off the top of my head, I can’t really think of them… but I’m gonna try to pay attention today or this week and see where it rears it’s ugly head.
You see, as Jesus wraps up this encounter he says… hey I’m hear for the sick not the healthy. In reality we’re all the sick, but what really bugs me is that those who are following Jesus expect the same from those who don’t even claim to follow Jesus. Why would we?
This is getting long, but I want to make one more observation. Jesus sat down to eat with them. The God of the universe sat down to eat with the outcasts the “sinners.” I think we have a lot to learn from the life of Jesus the way he interacted with the people around him, even those that others thought unworthy.
That’s it… .Peace.