Jesus’ Offensive Meals

In Mark 2:13-17, Jesus eats a meal with Levi the tax collector and a number of other notorious sinners.

Sieger Köder

This is offensive to the Pharisees in the narrative – and likely to modern readers – because to share a meal is to embrace others in the familiarity of kinship. Further, there is no indication that Jesus eats with these characters because they’ve satisfied a requirement of repentance.

The force of Mark 2:17 must be felt. According to Clifton Black:

Jesus does not pay house calls on the healthy. That is just what “the scribes of the Pharisees” find so disturbing: not that Jesus would encourage righteousness, but that he would apparently sanction wickedness by profligate forgiveness of sins (see 2:5-7) or association with relentless sinners without first demanding their repentance.

. . . Jesus has come to call not righteous folk, but sinners. Such a calling necessitates not distance from, but intimacy with, the flagrantly unrighteous (C. Black, Mark, p. 93).

7 thoughts on “Jesus’ Offensive Meals

  1. Tim Cole

    Thanks for the response. Actually, the pix was taken at my house; after supper with 15 juvenile delinquents-all colors and races; released from prison for four hours to enjoy all-you-can eat pizza, hot wings, and Cuban food at my home, topped off by Klondike Bars for dessert.
    State of Florida Dept. of Juv. Justice has partnered with us to do this for 11 years on a regular basis.
    The boys are usually gang-members with a gang mentality. So, we treat them to a different gang mentality. The pictures say it all. Thanks.

  2. Andrew T.

    It is is non-conformist to advocate we do the distasteful and associate with the unrighteous, but isn’t there danger here of ‘sound-bite’ theology?

    Clearly there is something in the point of the story about the ‘sick’ needing the ‘physician’ more than the healthy, but we aren’t we also called to be set-apart and called-out and we are still all sinners ourselves ..

    [2 Cor 6:14-18] – Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

    [Pro 13:20] – Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
    [Pro 14:7] – Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
    [Pro 25:26] – Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
    [Psa 26:4-5] – I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.
    [1 Cor 5:11] – But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
    [1 Cor 15:33] – Bad company ruins good morals.

    What gives? Isn’t there tension between the requirement to be salt and light in the world while still being ‘set apart’? I find it odd that many remind us of our need to minster to the unrighteous without actually equipping us to balance this tension and knowing when to walk away.

    Is it ever ok to distance ourselves from the unrighteous (such as if they are unrepentant)? Lest we get only the veneer of a doctrine, isn’t there more to this?

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