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  4. The feast Matthew gave in honour of Jesus

The feast Matthew gave in honour of Jesus

Whenever Jesus met people, He gave them the choice of receiving eternal life. Not many accepted this tremendously great offer. Let’s listen to the story of one of those who choose the offer of salvation.
Mark 2:14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.
The calling of Levi to be one of Christ’s disciples, excited great indignation. For a religious teacher to choose a publican as one of his immediate attendants was an offense against the religious, social, and national customs.
By appealing to the prejudices of the people the Pharisees hoped to turn the current of popular feeling against Jesus.
In popular opinion tax collectors were considered disreputable. Not only were they agents of Roman oppression, they also were often extortioners on their own account, who made use of their official power to oppress and defraud the people.
They were hated and despised by all, as social and religious outcasts.
Although the Jews were thoroughly aroused over this tax, the high priest Joazar persuaded many of them to pay it peacefully. At the same time, however, a radical leader named Judas the Galilean stirred up a large number of persons to revolt.
Quirinius, the Roman governor of Syria, suppressed this uprising with great sternness (Josephus Antiquities xviii. 1. 1).
This movement under Judas probably marks the beginning of the Zealots (see p. 54). It was to this uprising that Gamaliel referred when he advised the Sanhedrin to take no drastic action against the Christians (Acts 5:38, 39).
From this time on the Romans made no further attempt to tax the Jews directly. Rather, they farmed (subcontracted) the taxes out to contractors, the publicans (publicani) of the New Testament. These men were hated and avoided as much as possible (Matt. 11:19; 21:31).
Called upon to make the great decision of his life on a moment’s notice, Matthew was ready; such a decision would presuppose his having had previous contact with Jesus. In his heart there have been already a longing to follow Him.
Luke 5:28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.
“I often saw this tax collector and I was so delighted when I heard that he had decided to follow Jesus. I am going to miss him, but I know he will never regret the decision.” said the famous Sea of Galilee.
The following event caused the tongues of the spiritual leaders to speak incessantly, without a pause.
Mark 2:15 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.
The Greek word for “sat” is katakeimai, “to lie down.” Although in OT times it was usually the Jewish custom to sit while eating, by the time of Jesus, in the more pretentious houses at least, people commonly lay down to eat on a low platform or couch sloping away from the table.
They rested on cushions and supported themselves by their left arms. The usual table was equipped on three sides with such slanting platforms, the fourth side being left open for attendants to serve the food. That Levi’s home was equipped with such a table confirms the fact that he was a man of means and culture.
This feast took place sometime after his initial call.
It is recorded here in order to complete, in one context, the account of Levi’s experiences.
It was at his house that Jesus was the guest of honor.
Luke 5:29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.
Let’s go back to the Gospel of Mark for some more detail:
Mark 2:15 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.
Who were these other followers?
Those who accepted the teachings of Jesus. Some in addition to Levi, took their stand for Jesus at that stage; others doubtless did so later, particularly after the resurrection (see DA 275).
Mark 2:16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”
While some of the scribes were Sadducees, most were Pharisees, for it was the latter who took a particular interest in the minutiae of the law. We may think of them as “Pharisee scribes” rather than “Sadducee scribes.”
By complaining to the disciples, the scribes hoped to alienate their respect for their Master. Luke says that the scribes “murmured” against the disciples (Luke 5:30), apparently realizing that a direct attack on Jesus would avail them nothing, even as previous attempts to silence Him had proved fruitless (see Mark 2:6–11; John 2:18–20; 5:16–47).
Mark 2:16 “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”
To eat and drink with Gentiles was an infraction of the ritual law and involved ceremonial uncleanness (Acts 11:3). For practical purposes, tax collectors were classed with the Gentiles and thus were considered among the social outcasts (see on Mark 2:14; Luke 3:12, 13).
Mark 2:17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Those who are well. Gr. hoi ischuontes, “those having strength.” Luke reads, hoi hugiainontes, “those who are sound.” Luke’s expression is a more exact term, from hugiēs, a usual Greek word for “health.”
Paul repeatedly uses the same word as does Luke, and applies it to “sound” doctrine (1 Tim. 1:10), “sound” words (2 Tim. 1:13), and of being “sound” in the faith (Titus 1:13).
Mark 2:17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
I did not come.
In stating the profound truth of the purpose of His mission to earth Christ revealed the hypocrisy and fallacy of the Pharisees and their attitude toward Christ’s association with tax collectors.
If these men were such sinners as the Pharisees claimed, they must be in greater need than other men. Were they not then the very ones for whom Christ should put forth His best efforts?
He had come to “save” men (Matt. 1:21), but if He were able only to save those who were already righteous, He could not be truly a Saviour. The test of His mission as the Saviour of men turned on the point of what He could do for sinners.

The Pharisees claimed to be able to attain righteousness through strict compliance with the requirements of the ritual law. Later, Jesus made it clear that such “righteousness” was counterfeit and without value in the kingdom He had come to proclaim (Matt. 5:20; cf. ch. 23:1–33).
But on this occasion, for the sake of argument, He granted their implied claim to personal righteousness (Mark 2:16, 17), for by so doing He was able to make clear the reason why He ought to minister to the spiritual needs of the publicans.
In actual fact, the Pharisees were at times guilty of the very sins they so bitterly detested in the tax collectors.
Jesus declared that they would “devour widows’ houses” (Matt. 23:14) and release an greedy son from caring for aged parents (see on Mark 7:11), if thereby they themselves might be enriched. Thus the Pharisees, laying emphasis on legal correctness, too often were hypocrites.
On the other hand, the publicans, who made no pretence at ritualistic respectability, were sometimes in a better position to accept the teaching of Jesus, despite their sins.
Listen to the following parable of Jesus:
Luke 18:9  Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 
18:10  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 
18:11  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 
18:12  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 
18:13  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 
18:14  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 
Mark 2:18 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”
Mark 2:19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.
Mark 2:20 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.
Plucking grain on the Sabbath. I, the Sea of Galilee watched this miracle very carefully and I am anxious to tell you more.

Updated on 21st Mar 2022

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