Mark 2:13-17: Eyes to see.

“13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.  15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’  17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” NIV UK

I saw a moving piece on ‘TBN’ the other day – the story of a man from Las Vegas, who came from a terrible background. Tragically, he grew up feeling unloved and unwanted. He ended up abusing drugs and became homeless. One day, he met some Christians and one of the lady workers at the church he found himself in wanted to give him a hug. ‘You mustn’t,’ he protested, ‘I smell awful.’ She answered that she was not aware of any bad odour and she hugged him all the same. It was the beginning of a turnaround for him. Today he has a food pantry for people in Las Vegas who are on the streets. He drives a bus, and takes food to them. It’s all done in Jesus’ Name. It strikes me that those Christian women who reached out to him in the first place saw him through different eyes, and he now sees the outcasts of society with an alternative vision also.

How do we see people? We have had cause to reflect on this point recently.                      ‘’As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth’’ (14a). Most of Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries would merely have seen someone to despise. Tax collectors were hated because they worked for the Romans. They were seen as collaborators with the oppressing forces. Furthermore, they creamed off a a nice slice of money for themselves. Jesus, however, saw this man differently. He recognised in him a future disciple and gospel writer. Jesus also had eyes to see loveliness in the other characters who gathered at Levi’s house (15).                                                                           ‘’When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the ‘’sinners’’ and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘’Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?’’ (16). They didn’t see people as Jesus did. This led to the correctional statement in (17). We live in a world that often wants us to label and victimise people; to ostracise them as if unworthy of our love and attention. Jesus pointed out that He just saw people with the eyes of a Doctor. He saw them as ‘’sick’’ and in need of His services; and He couldn’t help them by holding His nose and keeping His distance. If the Doc is going to administer a cure, he has to come close. Jesus didn’t set up a telephone advisory clinic.

The irony is that the Pharisees thought they were ‘in the pink’, and did not realise that they were in a terminal condition. They couldn’t see people as Jesus did, and they were blinded to their own true state.

PRAYER: Again Lord, I need to ask you to give me the grace to see people with your eyes and to feel for them with your heart.