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The Gospel of Mark #7 - A Friend to Sinners

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The Gospel of Mark #7:

Jesus, a Friend to Sinners

Text: Mark 2:13-17

Thesis: To note that Jesus loves us despite our shortcomings.


(1)    “Mark has shown Jesus’ fame and popularity spreading like wildfire. In this next unit (2:13-3:6), he shows opposition to Jesus from religious competitors rising just as rapidly” (Garland 102).

(2)    Illustration –

There was a woman in the dock district in London who came to a woman’s meeting. She had been living with a Chinese man and had a half-caste baby whom she brought with her. She liked the meeting and cam back and back again. Then the vicar came to her. “I must ask you,” he said, “not to come again.” The woman looked at him with a puzzled look upon her face. “The other women,” said the vicar, “say that they will stop coming if you continue to come.” She looks at him with a poignant wistfulness. “Sir,” she said, “I know I’m a sinner, but isn’t there anywhere a sinner can go?” (Barclay 54)

(3)    With Jesus, sinners have a place where they can go.


I.                   The Story:

A.    As Jesus was walking beside the lake teaching the crowd that was following Him, He came into contact with Levi son of Alphaeus, who was a tax collector.

1.      It seems as though Levi was Matthew (cf. Matt. 9:9).

2.      “The Jewish tax collectors were easily the most hated men in Hebrew society. They were considered to be despicable vermin. They were not only hated for their extortion, but also because they were the lackeys of the Romans” (Hughes 1:68).

3.      “When a Jew entered the customs service he was regarded as an outcast from society: he was disqualified as a judge or a witness in a court session, was ex-communicated from the synagogue, and in the eyes of the community his disgrace extended to his family” (Lane 102).

B.     Jesus called Levi to follow Him.

1.      “Jesus sought out the man no one else wanted, the one everyone else wished would fall under the immediate wrath of God … Jesus saw a man in Levi, not a category, and he knew what that man could become (Hughes 1:69).

2.      “ ‘Following’ is an act that involves risk and cost; it is something one does, not simply what one thinks or believes” (Edwards 82).

3.      “One’s position or caste, even one’s shady reputation, is not a liability when it comes to receiving and responding to Jesus’ call” (Garland 104).

C.     Levi chose to follow Jesus; thus, leaving behind the known for the unknown.

D.    Levi invites Jesus over to his house where he throws a party to celebrate the events that have transpired.

E.     Some of the Pharisees saw Jesus and His disciples eating with tax collectors and ‘sinners’ and questioned Jesus about this.

1.      “Pharisee” meant “separatist,” which was “descriptive of their attitude and role in Jewish life, especially regarding ritual purity and the Law” (Guelich 102).

a.       “Being a Pharisee was primarily a matter of commitment to Pharisaic norms of religious practice. They maintained a strong commitment to the traditional beliefs and practices handed down from earlier generations. These traditions involved a strict interpretation of and supplement to the Old Testament Law” (Black 72).

b.      Their attitude is best summed up in these words from Jonathan Swift:

We are God’s chosen few

All others will be damned

There’s room enough in hell for you

We can’t have heaven crammed

2.      The NIV has ‘sinners’ in quotation marks in order to indicate an unusual meaning of the word. The word has a double significance. “It did mean a man who broke the moral law; but it also meant a man who did not observe the scribal law” (Barclay 57).

3.      Jesus “said, in effect, ‘You are right. These people are sick. These people do hurt. They are troubled men. Their style of life has damaged them deeply. There are many things about life they do not see right. They are covering up many evils; they are compromising with many sins. You are right. They are sick men, but where else would a doctor be found? I have come to heal hurting men. So I have to be where hurting people are. I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Schubert 34).

a.       “Therefore for Jesus to refuse to associate with sinners would have been as foolish as for a doctor not to associate with the sick” (Brooks 63).

b.      Concerning those who are “the righteous,” Jesus “did not mean that any were in truth righteous or well and thus without need of spiritual healing. The point is that, without the primary pre-requisite of a sense of need, there could be no healing for them, for they were unwilling to come to Him, the sole source of healing, to seek it (cf. Jn. 5:40)” (Cole 125).

II.                The Application:

A.    Jesus is calling us today, despite our shortcomings

B.     Jesus sees in us the people who we can become. We are His workmanship (Eph. 2:10)

Illustration –

In Florence, Italy, a marble block arrived for Donatello but it had some imperfections on it and was set aside. Later, another sculptor saw the block and decided to work on it for 2 years. On January 25, 1504, the veil was dropped to reveal that the stone of imperfection had become a work of art.  It became known as Michelangelo’s David.

C.     Jesus “comes to us in our need; He makes a perfect diagnosis; He provides a final and complete cure; and He pays the bill!” (Wiersbe 1:116).


(1)    However, unlike the Pharisees, we must see our need to go to Jesus to be healed.

(2)    Will you come to Doctor Jesus and be healed?

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