Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

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Mark 2:13-17: A New Beginning
Jesus went out again by the sea. The whole crowd came to him, and he taught them. As he went along, he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax booth. “Follow me,” he said to him. And he got up and followed him. As Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s home, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the experts in the law and the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this he said to them, “Those who are healthy don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:13-17)

Wherever Jesus goes, he turns norms and expectations upside-down, bringing freshness and the chance for new beginnings. The calling of Levi is an example.

At first, teaching a large gathering of people, he seems not to be so different from other rabbis. Then he notices Levi the tax-collector sitting at his toll-booth. The tax-collectors of New Testament times were excluded from the society of decent people, because of their reputation for dishonesty and their collaboration with the occupying Roman government. Like the prostitutes, they had sacrificed something of their human integrity. But what Jesus sees in Levi is not just a member of a disreputable profession: he sees a human being, with his gifts, his potential, his errors, and his wounds. To this human being he addresses a call: simply, clearly, unbelievably. And, as simply, Levi responds. It is perhaps the only thing he can do. It is an entirely new beginning.

The atmosphere then becomes more informal and relaxed: we are shown Jesus at a dinner party with Levi and his associates. By sharing a meal with these people, Jesus is here completely neglecting his own good name. By identifying himself with them, he declares that for him there are no second-class human beings: there are simply people. He does not imply that the tax-collectors’ lifestyle is in fact a good thing, nor does he approve the social system or motivations that may have pressured them into it. They are like the sick in need of a doctor. But, unlike the upright and well-educated Pharisees, Jesus sees beyond their problems: by accepting them simply as people, he renews their humanity, and a transformation becomes possible.

The call of Jesus, cutting right through all normal expectations, and demanding a response, is strong and challenging. But it is also deeply humble: Jesus seeks no prestige from the quality of his disciples and friends. His attitude is entirely concerned for the other, not for himself: it is the attitude of God towards us.

- Do I sometimes feel unacceptable, not fit to be with good people? What has helped me to glimpse that in spite of this, Christ calls me as I am, without setting any preconditions?

- How can I, or my community, help others to sense that they are called and loved simply because they are human beings?

Other bible meditations:

Last updated: 1 August 2022