Key Text: Mark 2:13-17
Preparation: print out the sheet and cut out the cards for the activity, you will need around 20.
Jesus has no embarrassment eating with anyone. There was no one that he met that he was not willing to sit at a table with and eat a meal. There are so many circumstances in our daily lives where a power-imbalance is evident. One person has a position of status and authority while the other is lacking these things and at a disadvantage.
At the check-out of a store, the cashier has power.
At the entrance to an airport, the security guard has power.
At the hospital, the doctors hold the power.
The dinner table is a place that levels us all. We are all equal at a dinner table. We all need to eat, we all need to drink. No position at the table is more important than any other. At the kitchen table we are all equal, we are all human, and we all have a deep need to be loved.
As Scripture tells us, “God does not show favouritism” (Acts 10:34). Therefore, Jesus treated the tax collector, the women who had to sell their bodies and the sinner in exactly the same way, with grace.
Q. Do not be afraid to laugh at yourself here. Have you ever sat with someone having a meal that you did not want to be caught or seen eating with?
Q. Do you think there has ever been a time when someone didn’t want to get caught seen eating with you?
“Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to Him, and he began to teach them. 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. 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. 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?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
What jumps out at you?
What questions do you have?
Q. The Disciples who were fishermen may have paid inflated taxes to Levi for years. How do you think they felt when Jesus called Him to dinner?
Q. How can you reach out to those whom others consider ‘unacceptable?’
Q. In biblical times the tax collector was considered by the Jews to be a traitor and very probably a thief. Why? Tax collectors worked not for the Temple or the local Jewish community but for the Roman Empire. These tax collectors over charged (Luke 3:13) and brought false charges of smuggling in the hopes of extorting hush money. This whole region was occupied by the Romans, who the Jews hated and Levi was a Jew who had ‘sold out’ to work for ‘those Romans’. Entering the house of a Tax Collector was unclean and forbidden. Imagine what response Jesus received going into Levi’s home. What is it that Jesus saw that the Pharisees didn’t? What did he over look what they did?
Q. We would all agree that it’s great that Jesus ate with those not like Himself. We would agree that it’s a powerful thing for Jesus to sit at the table with sinners. Would you say you do the same, if not what stops you inviting people who will never invite you back round for food?
Q. Jesus calls Levi rather abruptly (right in the middle of his work), and Levi responds with speed. Indeed, so happy is Levi that he throws a dinner party in his home for Jesus and his disciples. He also invites some of his own friends. So far, so good. The trouble is that Levi is a collector of taxes and tolls, and his friends are fellow-tax/toll collectors and other “sinners”. What is Jesus doing in their company, what do you think was going through Jesus’ mind?
Q. Do you personally have any friends a modern day Pharisee would label as “sinners?” Would you like to have more or less friends like this? What would you need to do differently to be able to do this?
Q. How have you discovered Jesus at work in places or people around you in the world that you didn’t expect to find Him?
Q. If Jesus truly did only come for those who are sick, if Jesus truly only does eat with sinners, what does that mean for us? For our world?
Q. Jesus is at home with the very weak and wayward side of humanity and wants us to be at home with it in ourselves. If we do not accept ourselves we tend to become preoccupied with what is seen by others rather than being secure within ourselves.
Q. What worries you about having dinner with someone in your home that you don’t know? Try to think practically.
Q. This whole story leads up to the arresting statement with which today’s gospel ends. Jesus has come, “not to call the righteous but sinners”. Far from being a situation to be avoided, the company of “sinners” is precisely what Jesus needs to seek out. They are the most in need of his healing. This teaching applies today to the Church, to our parishes, workplaces and homes. How inclusive is our attitude to others? Would we have felt comfortable at Levi’s dinner party?
Hand out little cards and ask the group to come up with at least 20 people groups, type of people or ‘sinners’ and write each one on a card. Really push the group to move away from vague themes and name specific groups that are not liked, distrusted, looked at in a negative light. “Those with HIV”, “Those who visit prostitutes”, “Violent Partners (Domestic violence) etc etc.
Q. Place all the cards in the middle and ask the group to pick up one that they would struggle to invite into their home to eat with. Ask them if they could explain why.
Spend some time praying for the person on the card you picked up. Invite people to spend some time in silence praying for God to show them another side to the person on the card.
Then either pray for the group or print out the following prayer for everyone to say.
I praise you for making me a part of your broken-yet-beloved community; for calling me, healing me, saving me. I have no problem acknowledging my sickness and receiving your remedy, for there’s no greater friend of sinners than you. Thank you for eating and drinking, reclining and dining, fellowshipping and communing with the likes of me.
Turn my lunch appointments into lunch banquets, with you and a friend. Turn my family gatherings into occasions where you’re always filling the empty seat. Make this protective heart of mine much more willing, much more friendly to outsiders, much more like yours, Jesus; much more accommodating, unrushed and joyful. Amen