Last week, our neighborhood Bible study began our reading of the gospel of Mark.
We looked at Mark 1. This week, we are reading Mark 2.
If you live in my neighborhood, you are welcome to join us at Regular Joe’s coffee house. If you don’t live near me or just can’t make it, you can follow along on-line.
This week, we’re looking at Mark 2. A great way to study Scripture is simply to read it, and write down the facts that are presented in the story. In other words, answer in your own words, what does the text say. I’ve given you some examples of possible things you might write down abou the first half of the chapter (through vs. 17).
Some facts from the text:
Jesus went back to Capernaum.
It was his home town.
Crowds gathered wherever he went.
The teachers of the law questioned his actions. (in vs. 7 and 16)
They did not question him directly.
A paralytic’s friends brought him to Jesus.
Jesus forgave the paralytic’s sins.
Jesus healed the paralytic.
Jesus invited Levi, a tax collector, to follow him.
Levi (he was also called Matthew) followed him.
Jesus ate dinner at Levi’s house with other tax collectors and ‘sinners.’
Jesus said he came to call not the righteous, but sinners
Add your own observations to those I’ve listed.
then, consider the following questions. If there are ideas or events in the text that raise questions for you, write them down. Feel free to leave your questions or your observations as responses to this post.
Levi is a Jewish name, yet he works as a tax collector. Who do you think employed him?
What do you suppose his fellow Jews thought of him?
What did the religious leaders think of Levi and his friends?
Why do you think they did not ask Jesus directly about his choices?
What are the implications of eating a meal with someone?
What does Jesus mean when he says he came to “call” sinners?
What do you think he means when he says “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick”?
Here’s some info on tax collectors from a website I found from a pastor named Michael Graham (read more at http://www.michaelgrahamministries.org/mark/mark04.html). Here are his insights on tax collectors:
At the time of Christ, Palestine was under Roman occupation. The Romans ruled over the Jews and exacted taxes from them to finance their empire. They did this by recruiting local Jews to collect the taxes on their behalf. They preferred to use local people because a local person knew everyone in the area. This made it more difficult for anyone to escape paying the taxes they owed because they were known personally by the tax collector.
But, in Jewish eyes, anyone who collaborated with the Romans in this way was a traitor to his people. Furthermore, these tax collectors were notoriously corrupt: they not only collected the taxes that were due to Rome, but they also collected a little for themselves (Luke 3:12–13). And, as a result, many of them had grown rich by robbing their own people. Consequently, under Jewish law, no tax collector could appear as a witness; they were not allowed to act as a judge in a dispute; and they were excluded from the synagogue. They were the most despised members of Jewish society. In fact, the Pharisees and teachers of the law wouldn’t even refer to them as sinners. In their opinion they were worse than sinners. These men were in a league of their own and were known as ‘tax collectors’, as distinct from sinners, as the above passage shows.
So, you can imagine there were a few raised eyebrows amongst the Pharisees when Jesus invited a tax collector to become one of his disciples. And, of course, that was not a mistake—Jesus was demonstrating to the Jews the full extent of his forgiveness because, in Jewish eyes, a tax collector was beyond forgiveness.