Mark 2:15-17 – And as he reclined at a 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.”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to have a really long dining table in my house. I love getting random people together, hosting and feeding them, and just communing and getting to know one another – it’s definitely a passion I acquired from watching my Peranakan grandmother do the same!
But, as it turns out, Jesus also had this same passion! He loved having banquets, and the table was, to Him, always a place of love, serving, grace, teaching, and fellowship.
However, what astounds me most about Jesus’ banquets is the guests that He would dine with. In verse 15 of our passage for today, it says that “MANY tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.”
These guests He dined with were the most reviled people in society. They were individuals who were hated and scorned. Most people would have nothing to do with them and would hate to be seen with them.
But not Jesus.
Jesus welcomed them to His table. Where others pushed them away, Jesus brought them close to Himself.
However, this was, of course, a very perplexing and distressing sight to many people during Jesus’ time. How could He dine with THEM?! How could Jesus – rabbi and miracle worker – dine with these sinners?
And that’s exactly what the scribes of the Pharisees said, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Can’t you hear the disdain, disappointment, and judgement in their question, dear friend?
The reason they hurled this complaint at Jesus was because these religious leaders had created their own set of rules referred to as the “tradition of the elders” (see Mark 7:1-23). According to them, eating with a sinner defiled them. It made them unclean. They would have to go through purifying rituals just to be clean again.
Their rules helped them to maintain this air of holiness and purity. But in reality, it was not reflecting the heart of God at all. Their rules led to enforced segregation, judgmentalism, hatred, pride, and the absence of compassion.
Dear friend, reading this passage really made me consider my own life… Although what the Pharisees believed is not what I believe, when I host these dinners at my house, I’m very conscious of the people I invite. I invite my friends, those I want to get to know, and the people I think I’ll get along with.
But what if Jesus was coming to a dinner at my house, and I put Him in charge of the guest list?
I think I would see the most diverse group of people around my table: those I have never even noticed around me, those who feel lost and alone, strangers from off the street, and people I might never say aloud but who I consider “unworthy” to dine with me.
In many ways, I’m very much like the Pharisees, with my own “traditions”, and preferences. Yikes.
But even then, I too am still accepted and welcome at Jesus’ table. Just as we ALL are.
Dear friend, for Jesus, eating with sinners wasn’t a fun add-on to His trip to earth. No, it was at the very heart of His mission. This is what He said about WHY He did this, in response to the Pharisees, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus WANTED to spend the bulk of His time with those who were sick, those who were sinners, those who were in need of a physician – a divine Physician in fact. He knew that His presence with them would bring them healing and forgiveness of sins, and that they, in return, would experience community, love, and grace from Him.
So, dear friend, I still have much to learn about welcoming all to my table, and perhaps you do too. May we seek, from this day forward, to learn to become more like Jesus, inviting and welcoming all to dine with us, just as Jesus has – no matter who they are.
What stuck out to you from today’s devotion?
- Jesus dined with the people society deemed most hated and despicable.
- The Pharisees’ rules did not reflect the heart of God at all, and only caused more segregation and hatred.
- Jesus’ presence brought healing, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love to the people who needed it the most.
Lord God, I repent. I repent for all the times when I have considered people unworthy of my time and love. I repent for my judgmentalism, pride, and hatred towards those around me. I repent for believing that I am better than anyone else. Please forgive me, Father.
In Jesus’ name, I ask for Your help, Lord. Please help me to see people the way You see them, and to love them the way You love them: inviting them to dine at Your table. Truly, all are welcome at Your table – even a sinner like me.
Please work Your love and grace through me, Lord Jesus, so that I may abound in love towards others.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
- Pray for someone you never would normally pray for. Perhaps they had done something terrible in the past to you, perhaps they have hurt you, or perhaps they are an outsider in society.
- Pray for them and ask God how you can show love to them.