Recently, I have been preaching through the gospel of Mark. This week we will look at Mark 2:13-17. It’s a familiar story to those who have grown up in church. The problem with familiar stories is that they are familiar. We have grown comfortable with them and if we aren’t careful our familiarity will breed something eerily close to apathy. In this particular passage, Jesus calls a tax collector to be one of his closest followers (you might know him as the author of the gospel of Matthew). Not only does Jesus call Matthew to follow Him, but He proceeds to attend a big festive meal with a bunch of sinful, despised-by-culture people. The religious people of the time ask Jesus’ disciples why He is eating with sinners and tax collectors. Jesus responds that physicians attend to the sick and not to the healthy. That is why He came, for sinful people. I want to share John Calvin’s commentary on this event as I think he hits head on our tendency to evaluate the value of other people:
He [Jesus] came to quicken the dead, to justify the guilty and condemned, to wash those who were polluted and full of uncleanness, to rescue the lost from hell, to clothe with his glory those who were covered with shame, to renew a blessed immortality those who were debased by disgusting vices. If we consider that this was his office and the end of his coming,–if we remember that this was the reason why he took upon him our flesh, why he shed his blood, why he offered the sacrifice of his death….we will never think it strange that he should gather to salvation those who have been the worst of men, and who have been covered with a mass of crimes.
He whom you detest appears to you to be unworthy of the grace of Christ. Why was Christ himself made a sacrifice and curse, but that he might stretch out his hand to accursed sinners? Now, if we feel disgust at being associated by baptism and the Lord’s Supper with vile men, and regard our connection with them as some sort of stain upon us, we ought immediately to descend into ourselves, and to search without flattery our own evils. Such an examination will make us willingly allow ourselves to be washed in the same fountain with the most impure, and will hinder us from rejecting the righteousness which he offers indiscriminately to all the ungodly, the life which he offers to the dead, and the salvation which he offers to the lost.
Calvin’s Commentaries, Translated by Rev. William Pringle, “Harmony of the Evangelists, Volume One” pp. 402-403
Who do you deem to be unworthy of God’s grace in Christ? The kingdom of God will be full of undeserving sinners whose only hope is a crucified and risen Savior. May many more undeserving people find their way into the banquet through the cleansing blood of Jesus!