Calling the Sinners

Mark 2:13-17
Heb 4:12-16 / Psa 19

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
(Mark 2:17)

We sometimes give a false excuse
When the occasion doesn’t suit us;
Take heed, this call you can’t refuse,
The invitation is from Jesus.

Jesus went out along the sea. A large crowd came to Him, and He taught them. 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 2:13-17)


Levi had probably reached the limit of his tolerance, and wanted out from this hated position as a lackey of Rome, and the object of taxpayers’ derision. Sure, he was making a lot of money, but he was sick of being an outcast jn his own country, and longed to be in the company of real friends, and be a follower of a real leader, like Jesus of Nazareth. But how could he even think of being invited into such an exalted company? The chasm between him and this Man of God was like earth and the sky. And then a miracle happened. The Messiah came up to his post one day and invited him, saying simply, “Follow me.” Levi got up, left everything, and pursued a new life.

A known sinner like Levi would never have had the courage to enlist himself as one of the disciples of Jesus. Nor would any of the Lord’s company dare to sponsor him. In the eyes of the Jewish world at that time of the Roman occupation, the publicans, (or tax collectors of King Herod and the Roman conquerors) were worse than lepers, being in cahoots with Gentiles and their tainted money. Like the paralytic, they would never be able to rise up again from their unforgiveable sins, because, like the demoniac, they were possessed by an insatiable greed for money.

But Levi changed his ways, and his transformation did not come from his own initiative. It was Jesus Who chose him. When we are chosen to serve a ministry such as the Eucharistic lay ministers of our parish, or the chapter head of our community, we tend to resist at first – perhaps because of our misplaced feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy. But as our former parish priest told my friend Molly, when he invited him to become a lay minister, “Why don’t you let the Lord be the judge of that, and allow Him to change your heart?” It was the same case with his friend Ning, who for years had kept putting off the opportunity to move up in service, only to realize later on that he had been missing the opportunity to follow the Lord fully as chapter head. He will be inducted tonight, and friend Molly tomorrow evening in another chapter.

Lord, You came to earth to invite sinners, and not the righteous. Your mercy pardons the greatest sins; Your grace transforms the greatest sinners. Help us to follow You faithfully in service. Amen.

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