The meal with the tax collectors (Mk 2:15-2:15)

“And as he sat

At dinner

In Levi’s house,

Many tax collectors

And sinners

Were also sitting

With Jesus

And his disciples.

There were many

Who followed him.”

 

Καὶ γίνεται κατακεῖσθαι αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ, καὶ πολλοὶ τελῶναι καὶ ἁμαρτωλοὶ συνανέκειντο τῷ Ἰησοῦ καὶ τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, ἦσαν γὰρ πολλοὶ καὶ ἠκολούθουν αὐτῷ.

 

Luke, chapter 5:29, and Matthew, chapter 9:10, are similar to Mark, so that Mark might be the source of this event.  Here and in Luke, it was explicitly mentioned that Jesus was having a meal in the house of Levi (Καὶ γίνεται κατακεῖσθαι αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ).  As Levi was a tax collector, other tax collectors (καὶ πολλοὶ τελῶναι) were there also.  Was this a farewell meal for Levi as he was about to set out as a disciple of Jesus?  Jesus sat or reclined at the dining table in this house.  However, besides the tax collectors, a lot of sinners came to sit down or recline (καὶ ἁμαρτωλοὶ συνανέκειντο) with Jesus and his disciples (τῷ Ἰησοῦ καὶ τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ).  The tax collectors were collecting money or tolls for the Roman Empire, so that they could hardly be called model Jewish citizens.  The sinners (ἁμαρτωλοὶ), on the other hand, could either be non-Jewish gentiles or other public immoral Jewish men, who were unclean.  In general, tax collectors and sinners were lumped together, since neither cared much for following the Jewish law, unlike the Pharisees.  However, many people were already followers of Jesus (ἦσαν γὰρ πολλοὶ καὶ ἠκολούθουν αὐτῷ).  How were these followers different from his disciples?

Third narrative

This third narrative centered around a variety of miracles and various comments to his disciples.  Jesus cured the leper before great crowds, but then told him to keep it a secret.  Then he cured the centurion’s paralyzed servant at Capernaum.  This Roman soldier understood the role of authority since he had faith.  Jesus chastised the failure of the sons of Abraham but healed the Roman centurion’s servant.

Jesus also cured other sick and possessed people, including Peter’s mother-in-law.  He thus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah.  He had some scribe followers, even though Jesus was homeless.  Was the death of a father enough to disrupt a disciple?  During a stormy boat ride, they woke up Jesus.  Thus, he responded by showing them his power by calming the storm.

Jesus cured the two possessed demoniacs who were calling out to him as the Son of God.  These demons wanted to be pigs, so that they died in the sea, jumping off a cliff.  However, the herdsmen in the city were upset so that the people asked Jesus to leave.

Jesus then went home and cured a paralytic.  Did Jesus blaspheme?  What was the difference between sin and sickness?  The people were amazed at his powers.  Jesus then called Matthew, the tax collector.  Jesus hung out with these tax collectors and sinners, so that the Pharisees complained.  Jesus responded by asking if well people needed doctors?  Then there was a citation from Hosea about mercy.

The Pharisees wanted to know why his disciples were not fasting, but the disciples of John the Baptist were.  Jesus explained that there would be no fasting while he, the bridegroom, was present.  You did not use old cloth to mend clothes or put new wine in old wineskins.

Then Jesus cured the woman with hemorrhages, because she was a woman of faith.  Then he cured the dead girl who was only sleeping.  He cured the two blind men because they were believers also.  He cured the mute person so that he could speak again.  The Pharisees questioned the power of Jesus.  However, Jesus had compassion for the sheep because there would be a need for many laborers at the harvest time.

Then Jesus began his apostolic talk to his disciples, in particular about the authority of the twelve disciples, with four major apostles.  Matthew then listed the twelve apostles that would be sent to the Jews and what their work was.  Jesus told them what to bring with them and where to stay.  He told them how to enter a house.  Those unhospitable towns who did not accept them would be punished.  These apostles should be like wise simple sheep.  When they would be persecuted, the Holy Spirit would speak through them.  They would be involved in family disputes and hated.  Both the teacher and his disciples would suffer, but they should not be afraid.  They should proclaim the message.  They were to worry about their souls, since they had more value than sparrows.  They should acknowledge Jesus whether in peace or with the sword.  Who was worthy of Jesus?  You had to pick up your cross and lose your life to find it.  Receive Jesus and be a prophet as the righteous disciple of Jesus.

The question about taxes (Mt 22:17-22:17)

“Tell us!

Then,

What do you think?

Is it lawful

To pay taxes

To Caesar

Or not?”

 

εἰπὸν οὖν ἡμῖν, τί σοι δοκεῖ; ἔξεστιν δοῦναι κῆνσον Καίσαρι ἢ οὔ;

 

This is similar to Mark, chapter 12:14, and Luke, chapter 20:22, but slightly different.  Then these Pharisee disciples and the Herodians tried to trick Jesus.  They wanted to know what Jesus thought about the Roman tax.  They asked him (εἰπὸν οὖν ἡμῖν) what did he think (τί σοι δοκεῖ).  Was it lawful to pay the poll tax to Caesar or not (ἔξεστιν δοῦναι κῆνσον Καίσαρι ἢ οὔ)?  Rome had an annual personal census tax of one denarius worth about $1.50 USA, not that much.  However, many of the Roman tax collectors were considered sinners.  Jesus, on the other hand, had a milder view of these tax collectors.  He appeared to accept the Roman rule and its taxing policies.  As the political party of the Romans, the Herodians, and the Israelites, the Pharisees, were there.  Thus, his answer might offend someone.

Eating and drinking (Mt 11:18-11:19)

“John came

Neither eating

Nor drinking.

They said.

‘He has a demon.’

The Son of man came

Eating

And drinking.

They said.

‘Look!

A glutton!

A drunkard!

A friend of tax collectors!

A friend of sinners!’

Yet wisdom is vindicated

By her deeds.”

 

ἦλθεν γὰρ Ἰωάνης μήτε ἐσθίων μήτε πίνων, καὶ λέγουσιν Δαιμόνιον ἔχει.

ἦλθεν ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων, καὶ λέγουσιν Ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης, τελωνῶν φίλος καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν. καὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων αὐτῆς.

 

Then Matthew has Jesus take on their complaints about him and John the Baptist.  Luke, chapter 7:33-35, has a similar statement, word for word, indicating a possible common Q source.  When John came (ἦλθεν γὰρ Ἰωάνης), they said he had a demon (καὶ λέγουσιν Δαιμόνιον ἔχει) because he would not eat or drink (μήτε ἐσθίων μήτε πίνων).  However, they called the Son of Man, Jesus, (ἦλθεν ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου) a glutton and drunkard (φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης) because he was eating and drinking (ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων).  The Son of Man was a friend to tax collectors and sinners (τελωνῶν φίλος καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν).  The end result of wisdom would show up in their deeds (καὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων αὐτῆς).

 

The citation from Hosea about mercy (Mt 9:13-9:13)

“Go!

Learn what this means!

‘I desire mercy,

Not sacrifice!

I have come

Not to call the righteous,

But sinners.’”

 

πορευθέντες δὲ μάθετε τί ἐστιν Ἔλεος θέλω καὶ οὐ θυσίαν· οὐ γὰρ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλούς.

 

This response of Jesus is almost the same as in Mark, chapter 2:17, and Luke, chapter 5;31.  Jesus explained that they ought to learn what he means (πορευθέντες δὲ μάθετε), because he desired mercy (τί ἐστιν Ἔλεος θέλω), and not sacrifices (καὶ οὐ θυσίαν).  This was based on Hosea, chapter 6:6, where the essential message was that Yahweh wanted real faithful love, not mere sacrifices.  Hosea wanted the Israelites to have real knowledge of God, rather than worry about burnt offerings.  Jesus had come not to call the people who were righteous already (γὰρ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους), but to call the sinners (ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλούς).

The Pharisees complain (Mt 9:11-9:11)

“When the Pharisees

Saw this,

They said

To his disciples.

‘Why does your teacher

Eat

With tax collectors

And sinners?’”

 

καὶ ἰδόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι ἔλεγον τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ Διὰ τί μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν ἐσθίει ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν;

 

This story about the Pharisees complaining about this dinner party is similar to Mark, chapter 2:16, and Luke, chapter 5:30, but here it is only the Pharisees speaking out, since there is no mention of scribes here, as in the other two stories.  These Pharisees saw this dinner party (καὶ ἰδόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι) from the outside.  Then they asked the disciples of Jesus (ἔλεγον τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ), and not Jesus himself, why was Jesus, their teacher (ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν), eating with tax collectors and sinners (Διὰ τί μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν ἐσθίει).  The Pharisees were a political party, a social movement, and a religious school of thought that became the basis for later Rabbinic Judaism.  They had they own expert explanations of Jewish law that sometimes appeared to be hypocritical or arrogant, with the letter of the law above its spirit.  They had a form of Judaism that extended beyond the Temple.  The Pharisees in the New Testament, engaged in conflicts with Jesus and his disciples, as here.  However, Paul the Apostle may have been a Pharisee before his conversion.  Maybe Jesus and some of his followers were Pharisees, so that these arguments with the Pharisees may have been internal arguments.  Or is this portrait of the Pharisees in the New Testament a caricature, since the late first century Christians were fighting with the emerging Rabbinic Pharisees?

The wider meaning of prophet

The term prophet had a wide meaning among the Israelites, since it also included people like Abraham, Moses, and Miriam.  That is why some so-called historical books are often called the early prophets.  Jewish traditions hold that there were 48 male prophets, and seven female prophets, Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther.  Others have recognized Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah as female prophets also.  Thus, there is a wide range of written prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament.  The Hebrew prophetic dominant message was a return to Yahweh and his laws.  They were to protect the poor, the orphans, and the widows.  Justice and righteousness dominate in their messages.  Yahweh would judge them.  Although some Israelites were sinners, they would have a bright future if they turned from their evil ways to Yahweh.

The judgment due to our sins (Dan 3:5-3:7)

“You have executed

True judgments

In all

That you have brought

Upon us,

Upon Jerusalem,

The holy city

Of our ancestors.

By a true judgment,

You have brought

All this upon us

Because of our sins.

We have sinned.

We have broken

Your law,

In turning away

From you.

In all matters,

We have sinned grievously.

We have not obeyed

Your commandments.

We have not kept them.

We have not done

What you have commanded us

For our own good.”

Azariah continued with his prayer to God. God has executed his true judgments upon the Judeans and their ancestral holy city of Jerusalem, because of their sins. They were sinners. They broke his laws. They turned away from God. They have sinned grievously, by not obeying his commandments. They did not do what God had commanded them to do for their own good.

 

The conversion of the wicked ones (Ezek 33:14-33:16)

“Again,

Although I say

To the wicked!

‘You shall surely die!’

Yet if they turn

From their sin,

If they do

What is lawful,

What is right,

They shall surely live.

If the wicked ones restore

The pledge,

If they give back

What they have taken

By robbery,

They shall surely live.

If they walk

In the statutes of life,

If they commit no iniquity,

They shall surely live.

They shall not die.

None of the sins

That they have committed

Shall be remembered

Against them.

They have done

What is lawful.

They have done

What is right.

They shall surely live.”

This time, Yahweh turned to the wicked ones. They were going to die if they did not turn away from their sin. However, if they did what was lawful and right, they would surely live. If these wicked ones restored their debt pledges and gave back what they have stolen in their robberies, they would live. If they walked in the statutes of life, and did not commit any iniquity, they would live, not die. None of the sins that they had committed would be remembered against them. As long as they did what was lawful and right, they would surely live. There was hope for these wicked sinners.

The transgressions of the house of Israel (Ezek 33:10-33:10)

“Now You!

Son of man!

Say!

To the house of Israel!

Thus,

You have said!

‘Our transgressions,

Our sins,

Weigh upon us!

We waste away

Because of them.

How then can we live?’”

Yahweh has a convoluted message for Ezekiel, the son of man, for the house of Israel. The Israelites had said that they had committed sins and transgressions against Yahweh. These sins weighed on them, as they are wasting away. They even wondered how they could live. Yet, this is Ezekiel projecting what Yahweh said to him that the Israelites had said. This was a long way to get a simple message that they were sinners.