Jesus with the Sinners

Theme: Rumblings of Opposition
Mark 2:13-17
He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”


The Pharisees and teachers did not say anything to Jesus in Capernaum, but they found their voices in the next incident that Mark records (2:13–17). When Jesus calls Matthew to be one of His disciples, they take heart. They are sure they have something on Him now.
We must be frank to admit that Jesus’ association with Matthew must have shocked many people. As a tax gatherer, his work was to take money from the Jews to support the rule of Caesar. He was the biblical equivalent of a Nazi collaborator in occupied France or Holland or Poland. The Phillips translation describes the scene at Matthew’s (or Levi’s) house: “Later, when Jesus was sitting at dinner in Levi’s house, a large number of tax collectors and disreputable folk came in and joined Him and His disciples. For there were many such people among His followers” (2:15).
Jesus’ compassion on such people loosened the vicious tongues of His critics. Note the cowardly way they criticized Jesus to His disciples instead of face–to–face (2:16), just as they would later criticize the disciples to Jesus.
But Jesus vindicated Himself, and very neatly too, in verse 17. He called Himself a physician. “Where should a physician be? In the hospital with the sick. You say you are well, so you don’t need me. I go where I am needed.”
When we associate with the depraved and the vicious, it is for reasons either of sin or of duty. All depends on the purpose. The Jewish leaders considered any association with the vile to be sin, which shows that it had been so for them. They had no compassion for a sinner’s needs. To pride ourselves on being whole, as these leaders did, bars us from getting any good from Christ. He can never come to the self–righteous, but the Pharisee who knows himself to be a sinner is as welcome as the outcast.


  • What about fellowship with sinners and tax collectors disturbed the Pharisees?
  • How does Christ’s interaction exemplify the Christian’s responsibility to “love” their neighbor?
  • How do the Pharisees reaction exemplify how Christians ought not “love” their neighbor?
  • Are  there worse sinners than others? Are all sins equal?

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