1. Friend of Sinners...and even tax collectors
And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples (Mark 2:15)
Jewish tax collectors like Levi were universally despised by because they were seen by their countrymen as being traitors and robbers. The term itself, 'tax collector' is a derisive title. Tax collectors were in a different category than everyone else. In Jesus’ world, there are sinners…and then are tax collectors:
Matt. 5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
Luke 3:12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”
Jesus, in entering a tax collector’s home and sharing a meal, is befriending those at the bottom of the social ladder. But the only difference the righteous and tax collectors that seems to matter to Jesus is how one group knows and open to their need for Jesus.
Before we get to some bible facts, first, the bottom line of the sabbath:
In short, the sabbath is a command and a practice but first and foremost it is a gift. What this gift does is that helps people remember and experience that:
- God saved them;
- their value is not found in what they can produce but is found in God;
- resting from work is a way to say that what we have and who we are in the Lord is enough
- the practice of sabbath - ceasing from work for a period of one day - is a practical way of identifying yourself as being in a trusting relationship with God.
- having us be renewed and restored - spiritually and physically - is something that matters very much to God. As a culture, we struggle with resting and our restlessness. Looking at the sabbath as a gift from God is something we need to reconsider.
- that Jesus is the Lord of the sabbath and our rest:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30
Some articles on the sabbath:
- If you only read one of these, this is a very good one.
- on the dynamics at work in us that make the sabbath so important and so difficult:
- To think a bit more about what sabbath means to us today:
- This article touches briefly on how Sabbath observance turned into Sunday worship:
From the biblical perspective, the sabbath is a gift and a command that ties together multiple aspects:
1. The Sabbath is a gift through which people are refreshed and delight in God
Is. 58:13-14 If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the LORD
2. The Sabbath is a command, which involves remembrance:
Deut. 5:15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
3. The Sabbath is holy to God and the people who keep it are made holy. It's a matter of identity.
God made a period of time holy.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:2-3)
Identity is formed and kept in this practice of observing the sabbath:
Therefore the Israelites shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” (Ex. 31:16-17)
3. What could you do on the sabbath?
There were 39 activities forbidden on the sabbath. Among them were reaping and husking implied in how the disciples where "plucking heads of grain" (2:23) and eating.
Jesus' response is to point to biblical evidence (1 Sam 21:1-6) of how the law of need takes precedence over keeping ceremonial law.
Regarding healing, minor cures were not permitted on the sabbath, although saving a life was a different matter - you were ethically bound to save life on the sabbath. (Even the strictest observers of the sabbath allowed compromising the sabbath to save life or to fight in a defensive war.)
The rule against cures applied to physicians, however, not to healings wrought by God, and Pharisees disputed among themselves whether prayer for the sick was permitted on the sabbath.
Jesus’ opponents are therefore going considerably beyond standard Jewish rules to try to convict him.