Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 40. Loving Acceptance
Mk 2:15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him
There is a similarity here between this story and that of Zacchaeus in Luke 19 but the names are quite specific and different and so we will assume they are different. This is a follow-on from the verses we considered previously about the calling of this tax collector.
I was once preaching in a church in the West of England when I was interrupted by a man in the congregation. It seemed natural to answer his question and then carry on. A little while latter I was interrupted again by the same man and again answered his query. At the end of the service a lady came up to me and commented on how I had accepted this man’s interruptions as almost normal. I replied that it was more a matter of accepting the man for who he was, which of course was exactly what Jesus was doing with this tax collector and his friends.
We are so often fearful of people who are different from us or who behave in ways contrary to our behavior, but Jesus accepts each person exactly as they are. Jesus wants them to change, to have something better than that which they have at the moment, but he knows that that will come as the result of the process of following him. It starts at the point of crisis when we surrender all and go and follow him, and it goes on until the day we die and go to be with him in heaven. There seem to be a number of them who have followed Jesus among this band but the change has hardly had time to take effect in them. When the Pharisees look on they find it difficult to differentiate between them
So often we Christians expect non-Christians to behave like us immediately at the point having come to surrender, and yes there will be major changes taking place immediately but as has often been said, each one is a ‘work in progress’ – and Jesus loves them just as they are. He knows some of the changes are going to take the rest of their lives and he loves them while they are still far from perfect. In fact he is also mingling, it seems, with those who haven’t yet surrendered and he’s loving and accepting them as they are, waiting patiently for ‘the penny to drop’ for them. They are an open-hearted bunch and that is the most important thing for the moment. The big stuff will happen in God’s time, so let’s just love them while we’re waiting for it to happen.