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Mark 2:13-17


Intro: We are entering into a very important portion of our Lord’s earthly ministry. Jesus is still in the city of Capernaum. He has achieved the status of a celebrity in that town. Everywhere He goes; the people flock to Him to witness His miracles and to hear His message.

        In this particular passage, Jesus is walking by the Sea of Galilee and the people of Capernaum flock around Him to hear what He will say and to see what He will do. On one level, the ministry of Jesus is doing very well. The common man is excitedly following Jesus as He ministers. But, conflict is beginning to develop between Jesus and the religious leaders.

        They are already offended by His actions in Mark 2:5-12. In those verses, Jesus made His identity as God in the flesh very clear. The Jewish leaders are now watching Jesus, trying to find some reason to attack His ministry. They are looking for fault and they will find plenty about the Lord Jesus and His work that they do not like.

        Beginning here, and continuing through Mark 3:6, there will be a series of scandals involving the Jewish religious leaders and the Lord Jesus Christ. There will be scandals over Jesus and His relationship to Sinners; scandals over the Sabbath; and scandals over certain Sacraments. These scandals will culminate with the Jewish leaders looking for a way to put Jesus to death.

        The passage we will consider today focuses on the first of these scandals. These verses deal with The Scandal Over Sinners. For the next few weeks in our study of Mark’s Gospel, we will focus in on the Scandalous Savior. Let’s take these verses and consider the facts discussed in these verses and talk about The Scandal Over Sinners.

        I think there is much help in these verses for God’s people and lost people alike. So, let the Lord speak to your heart as we study these verses together.



A.  Levi The Man – As Jesus walked along the shores of Galilee, He passed a man named Levi who was working at the booth where taxes were collected. Since Capernaum was on the caravan route between east and west, a lot of trade traffic passed through the town. Taxes were collected on everything that passed through the town. Taxes would also be levied against the fish that were caught on the Sea of Galilee. Levi had probably collected taxes from Peter, James, John and Andrew.

                Levi was a tax collector. He worked for the Roman government, collecting taxes for the empire. The Romans came up with a tax quota for each province in the empire. They allowed their nobles to bid on the contracts for collecting the taxes in each area. These nobles usually hired locals to collect the taxes. As long as they met their quota, Rome didn’t care how much more they collected. As a result, the tax collectors became very rich, (Ill. Zacchaeus, Luke 19:2), as they overcharged the people, paid Rome and kept the difference for themselves.

                Publicans like Levi were notoriously dishonest. In ancient Rome, there was actually a monument erected to honor one honest tax collector!

        Because Levi was a tax collector for Rome, he was among the most despised people in Israel. He was viewed as a traitor to his people and to his nation. As a tax collector, he would have been isolated in the community. He would not have been allowed to go to the Temple or the synagogues. He was a social outcast, who could only socialize with other tax collectors and rank sinners. He was a hated man in Capernaum.

        I would imagine that Levi was also a disappointment to his parents. He was from the tribe of Levi and would have been raised to serve in the Temple, or he would have been trained in the Scriptures to be a scribe. I am sure that Levi’s parents had great expectations for their son. They hoped he would follow in his father’s footsteps and be a religious man. Instead, Levi became a traitor, turning his back on his family, his nation and his God.

        The man we are introduced to in these verses is a wicked man. He is defiled, despised, disillusioned, and he is a disappointment. In other words, Levi doesn’t have anything to commend himself to the Lord. His is a wrecked and ruined life.

B.  Levi And The Master – As Jesus passed by, He issued a simple command to Levi, “Follow Me!” This is a present tense command. It literally means “Be following Me.” It is a call for Levi to leave his old life behind and to begin a new life of following Jesus.

        Why would Jesus have any use for a man like this? There is only one word that can answer that question: grace! In spite of his occupation; his lifestyle; his failures; and his sin; Jesus loved Levi and He called him to a new life.

        (Ill. Jesus sets a good example for the rest of us. He was walking and looking for someone to touch as He went about His day. That same desire to share Jesus should mark the lives of His children!)

        Ill. I am glad that Jesus loves the lost! I am glad that He calls lost sinners to come to Him without regard to who they are or what they have done. I am glad that He has left the door open for “whosoever will”, Rev. 22:17, John 3:16; and that He has promised to turn no one away who will come to Him, John 6:37.


(Note: Before we move deeper into these verses, there are a few lessons here that I need to comment on.

·         No one is beyond hope – I am sure that most people in Capernaum had given up on Levi. The good religious people of the city snubbed him as they passed by and wrote him off as a lost cause. Jesus, however, knew that his life could be salvaged. He loved him in spite of his past and his problems and He delivered Levi from the bondage of his sins and gave him a new life. No one is beyond the reach of our redeeming Lord.

·         Jesus knows how to reach your wayward loved ones – Levi’s parents did not know how to reach their son. They had done the best they could in raising him and now they feel helpless to save him. They may have even given up all hope. He was making money and he was powerful, they had no way to get his attention. Jesus, however, knew where he was and He knew how to reach Levi. One word from the Master and Levi’s life was changed forever! The Lord knows where your lost loved ones are and what it will take to reach them. Never give up! In His time, and in His Own way, He will touch them for His glory!

·         Jesus sees the hidden potential in the lives of the lost – Jesus saw something in Levi that no one else could see! This man would be given a new name after he was saved. He would become known as Matthew, Matt. 9:9. He would be a faithful follower of Jesus; he would write a Gospel, (Ill. All that religious training in the Old Testament would come in handy!), and he would give his life for the Lord Who saved his soul. (Ill. Consider where you are today, You are there because He loved you, saved you and released your hidden potential!)

·         It is impossible to know what is happening in an individual’s heart – I get the idea that, along with all of Levi’s other problems, he was disillusioned and disappointed with his life. When Jesus called him, he did not hesitate, but he left everything to follow Jesus.

        (Ill. Levi gave up more to follow Jesus than did the rest of the disciples. The others could go back; Levi made a clean, permanent break with his past, Luke 5:28.)

        Apparently, God has already been working on Levi’s heart before Jesus passed by that day. He probably had heard Jesus preaching. He had heard about the miracles and about the changed lives. He knew that what God had done for others, God could do for him. When Jesus came calling, Levi was more than ready to follow.

        (Ill. You might wonder if your family and friends will ever be saved. I don’t know the answer to that question. But, I do know that God works on lost hearts in amazing ways. Never give up! Keep praying, keep witnessing and keep believing! God is working in ways that you can’t even imagine! Ill. Saul of Tarsus – Acts 9:5.)



(Ill. This verse paints a strange picture. The Lord Jesus is invited to Levi’s house for a dinner. On the one hand you have Jesus and His many followers. On the other hand, you have Levi and his friends and associates. The Bible calls them “publicans and sinners.” Some of those present were other tax collectors, and some are called “sinners”. This word was used to refer to prostitutes and to those who did not observe the strict religious rules of the scribes and Pharisees. This dinner was attended by the people Levi knew and worked with. They were his friends and associates. The “publicans and sinners” were the only people who would have anything to do with him. But, that is about to change!)

A.  The Purpose For The Party – Levi hosted this party as an opportunity to say farewell to his old life and as an opportunity to introduce his friends and associates to Jesus. His life has changed and he wants everyone else to know it. He wants his friends to meet Jesus. He wants them to experience the same change of life that he himself has experienced.

        Ill.  Meeting Jesus will do that to you! When He saves your soul, you want everyone else to know what He has done for you. You want everyone else to have what you have. (Ill. The leper – Mark 1:45; The Gaderene Demoniac – Mark 5:20)

B.  The Picture In The Party – This verse finds Jesus is a setting that few so-called good people would have been. When you think about the people who were invited to that dinner, you get an idea of the atmosphere. There were tax collectors and rank sinners there, and where you have sinners, you have the potential for sin.

        Jesus did not partake of their wicked ways, but He did not isolate Himself from sinners either. He spent time with them in an effort to win them.

        Ill. What a contrast to the church! We build our buildings, erect our walls, put up our signs and sit back and wait for the lost to come in. That is not what Jesus did! He went where the lost where. He won their confidence and He changed their lives.

        You see, we really aren’t carrying out the Great Commission when we build a church and start having services. We are carrying out the Great Commission when we take the Gospel into “the highways and the hedges” and “compel” the lost to come to Jesus.

        Ill. I praise the Lord that He wasn’t ashamed to associate with me! Jesus loved me like I was and He came to me to win me to Him.

        May the Lord help us all become more like Jesus! May He give us a heart to win the lost at any cost! May He help us to go to the lost, where they are and take the Gospel to them, so that some may be reached for Jesus! (Ill. Paul – 1 Cor. 9:20-22)



A.  The Critics – Not everyone was thrilled by our Lord’s decision to have dinner with a bunch of sinners. The religious leaders used this as an opportunity to attack the Lord Jesus.

        The scribes and Pharisees would never have spent time with sinners. They were strict in their observance of the Mosaic Law. They were also very strict in their observance of the oral traditions handed down by the Jews. They followed a moral code that was nearly impossible to keep.

        One group of Pharisees, known as “the blind and bleeding Pharisees” would wear blindfolds when they went out of their homes. They were so afraid of seeing a woman and having lust in their hearts that they walked around in the dark, often falling down and getting injured.

        These men would never have been caught dead having dinner with a bunch of tax collectors and sinners! Ill. Sounds like a whole lot of churches and Christians I know! Some people and churches are so separated and so self-righteous that they often look down their noses at lost people, or even other Christians, who don’t live like they do. Some people forget that they were just as bad, or worse, than the lost are before the Lord saved their souls!

        Do you what our problem is? It is the same problem that these people had. It is called hypocrisy! We are in trouble spiritually when we think we have reached a place where we are better and more righteous than others.

B.  The Criticism – The critics tried to make matters seem worse than they were. The verbs “eateth and drinketh” are in a tense that could be translated “always eating and drinking.” They wanted to make it seem like Jesus spent all His time with sinners. They tried to make it sound like Jesus was a sinner too.

         The scribes and Pharisees attacked Jesus for spending time with sinners. Their criticism was really a compliment! I thank God that Jesus is the Friend of sinners! Thank God He came to seek and to save the lost! Thank God that Jesus didn’t allow the criticism of a bunch of religious hypocrites to deter Him from His mission!

        Ill. The first time these religious men criticized the Lord they did so in their hearts, 2:6-7. This time they are bolder. They take their criticisms to the Lord’s disciples. It won’t be long until they attack Jesus to His face.


IV.  v. 17         JESUS AND THE


(Ill. When Jesus heard their criticisms He did not allow them to go unchallenged. In fact, Jesus makes a bold pronouncement that will define His approach to reaching the world.)

A.  Jesus And His Mission – Jesus tells His critics that He is like a doctor. He is treating the sick and trying to help them get well. What kind of a doctor refuses to help sick people?

                The scribes and Pharisees are like a lot of religious people in our day. They were willing to sit back and wait for the lost to come to them for help. Jesus, on the other hand, was making house calls! He went to where the sick were; He reached out to them!

                Ill. That is just what He did when He came to me! It is also what He did when He came to you! I was sick and diseased; my life was ruined; I was terminally ill. In fact, I was already dead when He found me, Eph. 2:1-3. But, Jesus loved me in spite of my condition! He came to where I was and gave me blood transfusion! He applied His blood to my life, washed my sins away and saved my soul. He removed my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh, Eze. 36:26. He made me well because He is the Great Physician! He specializes in healing the greatest disease known to men. He specializes in healing sin-sick souls!

B.  Jesus And His Message – When Jesus answered the criticism of these men He also leveled a criticism against them, but I don’t think they recognized it. Jesus tells them that His mission, His ministry and His message was not for good people, but for those who are bad. He reminds them that He did not come for those who are well, but for those who are sick.

        The scribes and Pharisees could not see their own sins. They could see the faults of everyone around them, but they could not see that they needed help too. They believed that as long as the outside was clean, the inside didn’t matter. They were dead wrong! They believed that their religious activity was enough to guarantee their salvation. Again, they were dead wrong! They needed to be saved just like Levi and the rest of those tax collectors and sinners. But, until they could see their own need, they could never be saved.

        Ill. If you get nothing I have said today, get this: your religion, your works, your righteousness, your whatever, will never be enough to save you. Until you have trusted Jesus for your salvation, you are lost, and you will never be saved until you understand that truth!

        Salvation is a simple thing. Belief in the finished work of Jesus is all that is required, Rom. 10:9. However, before you can believe, you must first see your need of a Savior, Rom. 3:10-23. You must be willing to confess your sins, 1 John 1:9. And, you must be willing to call on Jesus, Acts 16:31. You can be saved, but you’ve got to get lost first!

        The plan of salvation is available to all who can see and admit their need of a Savior. If you are sick, you can be made well.


Conc: When William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army, felt the call of the Lord to go into the streets of London and begin ministering to street people, he stood in a Methodist Conference meeting and requested permission from the presiding bishop to be released from his church to go into the streets and preach. The bishop heard the request and denied it telling Booth that they would not waste a man of his education and talent on the people of the streets. Upon hearing this, Booth sat down, resigned to defeat. His wife was seated in the balcony, because women were not allowed on the first floor. She stood up and leaned over the rail. She called to her husband and told him to listen to God and not to man. She vowed to stand with her husband against every foe. She came down from the balcony, Booth took her by the arm and they left the building to go into the streets to win people to Jesus. He was ready to quit, but his wife, a lady who usually stayed in the background, stepped out of the shadow of her husband to hold up his arms at a critical time in his life!

        Many souls were saved and lives changed in England and around the world because William Booth and his wife were willing to cross the line to reach the lost. I praise the Lord that Jesus crossed the line for me! Praise His name that He loved me enough to die for me on the cross!

        Friend, He crossed the line for you too! If you have never been saved, but you see your need, come to Jesus and He will save your soul!

        Maybe the Lord is calling you to cross the line to reach someone for His glory. Today would be a good day for you to get busy doing what He has called you to do! He wants His Gospel taken out of the church into the places where the lost live. He wants us to reach out to them where they are.

        Maybe you have been guilty of judging others by your own standards. Isn’t it time you started reaching out to sinners and stopped looking down on them? Isn’t it time you repented of your own hypocrisy and asked the Lord to give you a heart like His?

        If there are needs, this altar is open. Jesus is still the Friend of sinners. If you need a Friend like Jesus, then you come to Him right now!

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