Rise of Opposition
The confrontation we saw by the Scribes in our last post dealing with the healing of the paralytic was just the beginning. Declaring that He had the authority to forgive sins, Yeshua naturally arouse an immediate reaction from the Scribes and P’rushim. We pick up the story in Mark 2.
The Calling of Mattityahu
13 Yeshua went out again by the lake. All the crowd came to him, and he began teaching them. 14 As he passed on from there, he saw Levi Ben-Halfai sitting in his tax-collection booth and said to him, “Follow me!” And he got up and followed him. ~ Mark 2:13-14 (compare Matt. 9:9 and Luke 5:27-28)
I’ve always paused at the calling of Mattityahu (Levi). He is sitting in his tax collector’s booth. Yeshua passes by and says: “Follow me.” And Levi gets up as does just that. Why? There is no indication that he has heard Yeshua preach or seen Him heal. Did he even know what people saying about Him? I have learned from a couple of commentaries that Levi was the brother of Ya’akov (James) Ben-Halfai (Alphaeus) one of Yeshua’s Emissaries (Mark 3:18).
Jews who undertook to collect taxes for the Roman rulers were the most despised people in the Jewish community. Not only were they serving the oppressors, but they found it easy to abuse the system to line their own pockets by exploiting their fellow Jews.
Eating with Sinners
10 While Yeshua was in the house eating, many tax-collectors and sinners came and joined him and his talmidim at the meal. 11 When the P’rushim saw this, they said to his talmidim, “Why does your rabbi eat with tax-collectors and sinners?” 12 But Yeshua heard the question and answered, “The ones who need a doctor aren’t the healthy but the sick. 13 As for you, go and learn what this means: ‘I want compassion rather than animal-sacrifices.’ For I didn’t come to call the ‘righteous,’ but sinners!” ~ Mattityahu 9:10-13 (compare Mark 2:18-22 and Luke 5;29-32).
Sinners. This term came to be used by the P’rushim to refer to prostitutes, thieves, and others of low reputation whose sins were blatant and obvious, not the kind the establishment winked at. Yeshua taught that those who considered themselves not sinners but “righteous” (v. 13) were in fact worse because they made themselves unteachable (see also Yochanan 9:38–41).
Go and learn is a common formula used by rabbis to direct their followers toward a particular passage in the Scriptures. Yeshua’s use of this formula might be a subtle jab at the P’rushim, who are not His disciples and represent the learned of Jewish society. Because they have failed to properly understand the spirit of the law, Yeshua treats these experts as beginners.
Our next post will continue to examine the mounting opposition of the Jewish authorities.