I’m journeying through Mark’s gospel with some friends, and we were talking this week about 2v13-22. Essentially, Jesus goes to this guy named Levi (no relation to my son) who is a despised and outcast member of his culture, and invites Levi to follow him.
Then, as if that’s not enough, Levi throws a part for a bunch of his friends and invites Jesus to it. His friends are, well, colorful. Scripture says they were “tax collectors and sinners.” Again, tax collectors were seen as corrupt and greedy, less than moral. The word “sinners” here is even more interesting. There were two different Hebrew words (and concepts) for our word here. The first word was ‘am ha’ aretz. This essentially meant “people of the land”. They were simple people, people who weren’t interested in the rigorous obedience of the Pharisees or the political change of the Essenes or Zealots, but they weren’t necessarily awful.
The other possibility, however, is slightly more scandalous. The second word is resaim. This word means the wicked. It means people who aren’t even the slightest bit interested in being good, much less holy.
To be clear, we’re not sure which word is being used here, but one thing is clear:
Jesus is with them, either way.
And what’s more—what is really freaking people out—is what Jesus hasn’t asked of these tax collectors and sinners…
… He hasn’t asked them to get their lives straight first.
… He hasn’t shamed them.
… He hasn’t berated them for their lack of morals or for their “bad behavior.”
… He has a party.
So when people come up to Jesus immediately after this and ask, “Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast” (2v18), something very interesting is going on. You see, fasting itself was pretty common in Jewish culture; it’s actually common in many religious systems. There’s nothing wrong with fasting at all. But fasting typically has a specific connotation to it:
…it’s associated with repentance.
We’re told that John the Baptizer came “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (1v4), and the Pharisees were desperate to see God act on behalf of Israel, so they pursued a pretty vigorous program of fasting and righteous (not so they could be buzzkills, mind you, but so God would come to Israel and set them free and bring His peace and shalom to His people).
But when Jesus shows up, he neglects the repentance part and goes straight to the party (his “repentance” in 1v15 isn’t so much about repenting of your sins as it is about rearranging your mind and your life to see the Kingdom in a new way).
He’s saying, “You don’t have to arrange your life to invite God into it; He will come into it just as you are. I don’t want to leave you unchanged; no one wants to be wicked, after all, but I’m coming to the party and you’re invited.”
So, incidentally, when Jesus talks about “unshrunk cloth” and “new wine” in verses 21-22, this is what he’s talking about: the “old way” is not a bad way, but it really doesn’t fit reality anymore.
Jesus is here, and he’s having a party.
Are we inviting people to a party?
Or are we beating them up?
Or are we selling them “get-out-of-hell” insurance?
Go read it, please.
Shouldn’t we be singing a better song?
I can’t help but read the words of the Grantland article and think about the way we do evangelism. Just reading the words in light of Jesus desire to throw a compelling party for people makes my heart ache for the way we should living with our friends.
Marvin said, “I asked God that when I sang it, would He let it move men’s souls.”
Do we ask God to let us move men’s souls when we sing the Gospel song?
Or do we just ask for a sale?
Also note: lots of folks hated it. They were outraged. Marvin was corrupting, destroying the National Anthem.
But there other folks there too.
… and they heard that song, heard it in a new way, in a way that they never even know that they needed. Something welled up inside them. Everything that was old and tired about that song now seemed new and refreshing.
They got it.
And they wanted IN.