Take Them to Dinner

People at dinner
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonnygoldstein/5527073572/">Jonny Goldstein</a>

Mark 2:13-17

Jesus went back out to the seaside, where the masses reassembled around him. He started again to teach them. And as he went along he found Levi Alphaeus in the levy collection kiosk. Jesus said, “Follow me.” So Levi did. Then Jesus came to Levi’s house for dinner, where many other government agents and cheaters came to eat with Jesus and his students. (There were a lot of people following him.)

When the legalists’ brown-nosers saw that Jesus was dining with cheaters and agents, they asked his students, “Why is he dining with cheaters and agents?”

Hearing this, Jesus responded, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, just sick people. Likewise, my business isn’t with the goody-two-shoes people, but the cheaters.

Keep in mind that this was before doctors practiced preventative care. It’s pre-HMO, pre annual checkup. It’s still how most of the world goes to doctors: when they’re sick.

If you’re life is fine, you’ve got no complaints, you’re fat and happy and everything’s going your way, you’ve probably got no need for Jesus. You may have plenty of religion. But you’ve still got no need for Jesus. And, frankly, he’s got no need for you.

But if you’re like most people (in this passage, it’s mostly white-collar people at dinner) whose life is messy, Jesus is happy to have dinner with you. If you’ve got skeletons in your closet you’re ready to deal with, that’s when you need Jesus.

It’s tempting to see people who are part of the system we despise (state employees, teachers, librarians, the rank-and-file people behind the counter at the Motor Vehicles Office) as worthy of our anger. “Fill out this form.” “Pay this fee.” “That’s not in my job description.” “I don’t care that you’ve been on hold for 45 minutes. It’s 4:30 pm in my time zone and I’m leaving. Call back tomorrow.” Jesus sees them (if that’s you, Jesus sees you) as people caught in the same dehumanizing system as the rest of us.

When Jesus gets to the tax booth and Levi says, “Sorry, closing time. Come back tomorrow,” instead of getting bent, Jesus invites him to dinner. “Bring a few of your friends along,” he says. “We can talk better when you’re off the clock, out of the system.”

The upshot: People are pretty much people. It’s the context – whether they’re caught in the system or enjoying the company – that makes all the difference.