MONDAY MINUTES With Pastor Chris McCool (April 12, 2021)

As Jesus continued His earthly ministry, He began to do things that “upset the apple carts” of all those around Him, including many of His own disciples! Remember, He was preaching that “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 2:15). While this was good news to His disciples, they really did not “get” what He was talking bout. This Kingdom would be a Kingdom that was totally different from their expectations: they expected a military kingdom that would overthrow the Roman oppressors, whereas Jesus was bringing a spiritual Kingdom that would overturn traditions and overthrow the proud and self-righteous. Today, let’s look at the rest of Mark Chapter Two, and see how Jesus broke down their pride and traditions.

First of all, Jesus called an unqualified man – at least, in the eyes of the orthodox religious leaders! As He walked past the tax collector’s booth, He turned to Levi the son of Alphaeus – the local publican (tax collector) – and said to him, “Follow me.” (Mark 2:14). Then He went to Levi’s house and dined with more publicans and sinners! This REALLY upset the Pharisees, and I expect it didn’t sit to well with His own disciples.

You see, publicans – especially Jewish publicans – were considered traitors and compromisers by the orthodox establishment. Not only had they collaborated with Roman authorities to collect their hated taxes, they also would “skim off the top” in order to enrich themselves. I can just see the looks on the disciples faces as they saw Jesus turning to face Levi, and then calling him to follow them!

The amazing thing about Jesus, however, is that He doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called! No man who has ever been truly called into the ministry has felt himself to be worthy of the calling; but nonetheless, God has called him and gives him the tools he needs to minister in the way he has been called. In this case, I’m sure Levi didn’t feel qualified, and yet “he left all, rose up, and followed Him” (Luke 5:28). Jesus goes on to explain His true purpose: “They that are whole have no need of the physician, bu they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17).

Secondly, He directly assaulted the traditions of the Pharisees. He did this in two ways: initially by attacking their fasting traditions, and ultimately by teaching them a lesson in the cornfield.

The Pharisees had come up with all kinds of ways and reasons to require fasting, even thought the Law itself was mostly silent as to this practice. They had developed a long line of traditions that they had compiled into commandments, and imposed them on the people of God. But Jesus did away with these traditions in one fell swoop: My children can’t fast and be sad while I’M here – you see, I AM the WHOLE POINT of the Law! In other words, I am not here to adhere to your traditions and continue down the same old path of stale tradition; rather, I’m here to show you a whole new way! We aren’t just sewing new cloth onto an old garment, I am bringing you the complete reformation.

This is what the writer of Hebrews was saying when he spoke of the carnal offerings and ordinances that were only in place until the time of “reformation” (Heb. 9:10). The word “reformation” literally means “a making straight,” carrying with it the idea of restoring something to its natural and normal condition when it has gotten out of line (Strong’s Concordance). So what Jesus is doing is NOT overturning the Law, but restoring it to its proper place: a focus on God and not traditions of men.

This is what He tells them when He and His disciples pluck and eat corn on the Sabbath day. The Pharisees got all upset about this, but Jesus told them, “You have your focus all wrong; the Sabbath is not about rules and traditions, it’s about men and a relationship with God!” That’s why He could then say, “Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-28).

Oh, and by the way – you remember Levi, whom we looked at initially in this article? Turns out he is a pretty central figure in the history of the church. Levi, whom we know as Matthew, wrote the first gospel! So this “unqualified” man that Jesus called ultimately is used of God to give us one of the sweetest accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus. Isn’t it amazing that the people often esteemed lightly by the world turn out to be extremely important in the service of God?

The next time you’re feeling unimportant and unworthy, remember this little publican named Levi. If I could be half as profitable for God’s people as Matthew/Levi was, I ‘d feel like my ministry was a complete success!

May the Lord bless you today and every day.

Elder Chris McCool, Pastor