Our text, Mark 2:13-22, reveals the type of people the Son of God came to save. Religious people think that they are right with God through duty and good works, but here Mark clearly shows that only those who acknowledge their sin can be saved.
Levi and his levy
“And He went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto Him, and he taught them. And as He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed Him” (Mark 2:13-14).
Levi is Matthew, the writer of the first gospel. This once hated tax collector became a beloved apostle, teacher, and evangelist. His life was completely changed the moment he came into Jesus’ presence. Jesus called him and he responded. Unless a man follows Jesus he cannot be saved.
The Lord chose the most unlikely person to follow Him from amongst the multitude that day. What good thing was there in Matthew that he should be chosen by Jesus? Nothing! Nevertheless He saw what good he would accomplish if he truly followed Him. Matthew immediately laid aside his old life with its carnality, love of money and sinful ways. How few commit themselves to Christ like this. “Follow me” are simple words yet they can change the lives and hearts of all who arise, take up the cross and follow the Good Shepherd. Jesus once said to another man who loved money, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me” (Mark 10:21).
Publicans and Pharisees
“And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and His disciples: for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto His disciples, How is it that He eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, He saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:15-17).
Notice who found fault with Jesus. False religion continues to ridicule and persecute those who follow the Lord. Jesus condemned the religious leaders for their self-righteousness and faulty reasoning. Pseudo-Christianity wants a Christ that conforms to its warped notions and ungodliness, but the fact remains that Jesus will not save those who refuse to acknowledge their sin. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15), yet some only accept Him as a teacher, a prophet or an example. Many think that religious observances, pilgrimages, fasting and long prayers put them in good stead with God. As the Great Physician Jesus came to save the sin-sick soul. All human beings are infected with the sin virus at birth, and it is only those who follow Jesus who receive the cure. The religious leaders could not see how a holy man would even want to be in the presence of sinners because they saw themselves sinless and pure. It is they who left Matthew’s house that day with sin festering in their hearts.
The Bridegroom and the Baptist
“And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto Him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days” (Mark 2:18-20).
Jesus had spoken of the need of forgiveness but the religious leaders thought only of fasting. They were blind to their own need of repentance. As far as they were concerned fasting was proof that they were righteous in the eyes of God. Notice that these hypocrites who had rejected John the Baptist were willing to use him as an example for their false notions. John’s disciples probably fasted while he was in prison rather than out of duty. John the Baptist spoke of Jesus as the Bridegroom, “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled” (John 3:29), so if the Pharisees truly honoured John would they not follow the One he pointed his followers to?
The Lord spoke of His own arrest and death at the instigation of the religious leaders. Until then His disciples were enjoying His company, but when He was taken away from them there is no doubt that they fasted either through sorrow or to spend time in prayer. Jesus did not dismiss the need for fasting, but is simply stating that religious observance must not get in the way of truly following God.
Torn togs and broken bottles
“No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles” (Mark 2:21-22).
Both of these mini parables speak of man’s attempt to mix things that cannot go together. True discipleship and religious duty cannot exist together. When Biblical Christianity became religious and adopted ceremonies, rituals and observances instead of faith and love towards God, it became a worthless mess of self-righteous rags and broken glass. The Galatian church is a good example of this, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1-3). Mixture produces disunity and hatred instead of harmony. Those trying to impose multi-faithism on us are not working on the Lord’s side. The form of Christianity that has faithfully followed Christ and His word has transformed individuals, societies and nations. This great work was carried forward by born again believers who were filled with God’s Holy Spirit, and never by those who loved their vestments and religious practices.
We face the same problems as the early church. There are those who reject the truth and follow their own ways. They reinterpret God’s word so that they can continue in sin and use religion to cover the same. The religious of today abhor any teaching about sin. Only those who repent and turn to Christ can be saved and filled with the Holy Spirit.