“New wine” to call “sinners”

Posted Mar 5, 2021

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Daily Scripture

Note to readers: During Lent Resurrection joins over 140 other congregations in Kansas City and others in Hong Kong and Ghana in reading the entire gospel of Mark. To support that goal, some daily GPS readings are longer than usual. Have an extra cup of coffee, or maybe use your lunch break—take the time to read the whole gospel with us.

To watch a video that covers Mark 2:13-28, click here.

Mark 2:13-22

13 Jesus went out beside the lake again. The whole crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he continued along, he saw Levi, Alphaeus’ son, sitting at a kiosk for collecting taxes. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Levi got up and followed him.

15 Jesus sat down to eat at Levi’s house. Many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Jesus and his disciples. Indeed, many of them had become his followers. 16 When some of the legal experts from among the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples, “Why is he eating with sinners and tax collectors?”

17 When Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.”

18 John’s disciples and the Pharisees had a habit of fasting. Some people asked Jesus, “Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees’ disciples fast, but yours don’t?”

19 Jesus said, “The wedding guests can’t fast while the groom is with them, can they? As long as they have the groom with them, they can’t fast. 20 But the days will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.

21 “No one sews a piece of new, unshrunk cloth on old clothes; otherwise, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and makes a worse tear. 22 No one pours new wine into old leather wineskins; otherwise, the wine would burst the wineskins and the wine would be lost and the wineskins destroyed. But new wine is for new wineskins.”

Reflection Questions

There was an ominous shadow in yesterday’s lovely story (Mark 2:1-12) of Jesus healing a paralyzed man inside and outside. Mark said "legal experts were sitting there, muttering among themselves, ‘Why does he speak this way? He’s insulting God.’” But Jesus kept doing and saying shocking things. He called a tax collector (who worked for Herod Antipas and/or the Romans) to join him. He said the Kingdom “wine” he brought couldn’t fit the old forms the Pharisees clung to.

  • Pastor John Killinger wrote, “Most of us are careful about whom we are seen with…. As the one proclaiming the long-awaited Kingdom of God, Jesus daringly identifies himself with ‘the wrong people’…. For Jesus to call Levi as a follower and to eat at his home with his associates was unthinkable to the scribes and Pharisees.”* Which do you see as more important for yourself and your church: impressing all the “right people” or doing ministry in Jesus' unthinkable daring spirit?
  • It’s tempting to dismiss those first-century legal experts as narrow and blind, without realizing how easily we become like them. Christian singer Todd Agnew’s song “My Jesus” included these challenging lines: “My Jesus would never be accepted in my church, 'Cause the blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet.”** What comfortable customs, habits or assumptions might Jesus challenge in your workplace, neighborhood or church today?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you upset self-righteous people while accepting outcasts like the tax collector Levi. Teach me to define “righteous” in a way that follows you wherever you lead. Amen.


* John Killinger, His Power in You (The Devotional Commentary: Mark). Waco, TX: Word Books, 1978, p. 19.

** Todd Agnew’s full lyrics from the song “My Jesus” can be found by clicking here.

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Whether you’re just starting to explore the Christian faith, or you’re a long-time Christian, we want to do everything we can to help you on your journey to know, love and serve God. The GPS (Grow, Pray, Study) Guide provides Scripture and insights to enhance your journey. If you have a question or comment about the GPS Guide, please send it to GPS@cor.org.

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 7th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group and a men’s group, and serves on the curriculum team.

In high school, I was on the debate team & when we returned late on Saturday night from out-of-town tournaments, we’d typically play a game of Botticelli. The host player thinks of a famous person & gives their initials. The other players ask a series of yes/no questions like male/female or dead/alive to try to guess the identity. It is called Botticelli, because the person must be as least as famous as Sandro Botticelli, the Italian Renaissance painter.

Yes, this was quite nerdy, but in our defense it would be too dark to read on the bus, cell phones were non-existent, & only one kid had a Sony Walkman cassette player. (Pro Tip: Jesus is not a good candidate for the game. The minute you hesitate when responding to the “Is He dead or alive” question, “Um, w-e-l-l…,” the gig is pretty much up.)

The game is challenging because you have to know a lot of biographical details about your person to be able to answer the questions correctly. In today’s passage, (Whew. I was going to ask, will this Insight ever get on topic? YES/NO? – Editor.) Mark briefly describes the call & response of the Disciple, Levi/Matthew.

So, join me for a flashback as I sit in the wheel-well seat of a drafty bus driving from Salina to Topeka for a game of Botticelli circa 1984. The Initial is “M.”

Tiffany, your can of hairspray was rolling around on the floor at the back of the bus. "No, mine is here in my purse. Oh, wait. It's my back-up can. If you want your hair to stay up, you need plenty of hair spray."

Did he have another name? YES. Two names were common in Biblical days. His birth name is the Jewish name, Levi, & his Greek name is Matthew.

I hope my parents don’t mess with the VCR. I have it set to record the television premier of Raiders of the Lost Ark tonight. Imagine, I’ll be able to watch the movie any time I want.

Was he a tax collector? YES. Scholars note there were 3 kinds of Publicans/Tax Collectors:

Gabbai – Collected property, income, & poll taxes. Not particularly controversial, since it was fairly cut & dried.

Great Mokhes – Collected duty on imports/exports & anything transported via roads. They usually hired others to collect the taxes & were very much behind the scenes. (Zaccheus was called a “chief tax collector,” so scholars think he was a Great Mokhes.)

Little Mokhes – They manned the tax office & collected the taxes for the Great Mokhes. Since we know Matthew was “sitting in his tax office” he was probably a Little Mokhes. These tax collectors were known to abuse their power & collect excessive rates. We have no evidence that Matthew behaved in this manner, but the stereotype meant he would have been despised by his fellow Jews.

Did he become a Disciple through an elaborate sermon or testimony? NO. Jesus’ pitch to Matthew was not lengthy or strong on theology. It was a simple invitation to “Come. Follow me.”

Did he immediately turn from his old life? YES. Matthew’s response is to walk away from his office & follow Jesus. Interestingly, Matthew doesn’t shun his old friends. He knows all too well the emptiness & pain they are feeling. So, he invites them to join him for dinner & experience the life-giving-love of Jesus for themselves.

Can I borrow a quarter? I have to use the pay phone at the high school to call my Dad to pick me up. Pay phones make life so convenient.

Was he an author? YES. Matthew is considered the author of his Gospel. By starting with Jesus’ lineage, by including multiple Hebrew Bible references, & by concluding with the Temple’s veil being torn in two, Matthew thoroughly documents how Jesus fits in with the history of God’s chosen people.

Does someone want to go to the library tomorrow afternoon with me? I need to pull some magazine articles to learn more about the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. Thank goodness our library makes research so easy.

Is he dead? YES. Legend has it, Matthew was martyred for his faith by being burned at the stake in the region of Persia.

Is he Matthew, son of Alphaeus? YES! (End of Flashback.)

So what might Matthew’s life mean for us today?

Sometimes we are intimidated about talking about our faith. Perhaps we could just mimic Jesus & invite someone who might be feeling aimless or empty to join us in a Bible study or worship. There’s nothing in Matthew’s background to suggest he was a phenomenal theologian or scholar, yet, he documents his recollections of Jesus & His ministry. If we were to share our own version of the Gospel, what would we highlight?

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark on our online streaming service, while I send a text to our sons, Matthew & Jacob, & look up Sandro Botticelli’s artwork on my tablet.

Editor: For our readers who are too young to have ever used a rotary dial telephone, we apologize if you didn’t understand the cultural references in today’s Insight. (Well, except the school bus reference - somehow, they haven’t changed in 35 years.)

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