Fellowship with Jesus (Pt 2), Mark 15-20

He is the One who satisfies all our needs, and He is the source of our surpassing joy.  He is the One who feasts with us, and, He is the reason for our feasting.  


Fellowship in Feasting.  Read verse 15. 


The bond of Christian friendship is strengthened around a meal.  Christian affection becomes richer when we join together to share meals.  That’s why it is seen so much in the NT: Levi immediately hosts a dinner with Jesus as the special guest.  The early church “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46). The Philippian Jailer, in Acts 16, upon becoming a Christian immediately brought Paul into his home and had a meal.  Perhaps the most common scene in the Gospels is Jesus at someone’s dinner table: tax collectors like Levi-Matthew and Zacchaeus, Pharisees like Simon; the Apostle Peter, Martha, Mary & Lazarus’ home and so many more.  


Intimate friendship is seen in eating together.  Jesus even says in Revelation 3:19, speaking to Laodicea, “Behold I stand and the door and knock, if anyone lets me in I will come in and dine with him.”  Perhaps it is why Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper – a meal meant to highlight our unity, affection and devotion together as Christians.


Application:  How much of our “connecting” with other Christians has taken place around our dinner table?  We are challenged here, are we not by this familiar NT scene? How can we be more intentional about strengthening our affection for each other as Christians by sharing meals together?


Application:  How intentional are we to invite others who need Jesus to church?  Levi-Matthew invited people he knew to his home so they could meet Jesus?  Is there a challenge here for us? If you believe this is a church where a person can “meet” Jesus in the service, and, you know people who need to meet Jesus……  Let us start with a fresh commitment to invite people to where Jesus is – to church!


Now we see also how Jesus ate with the riff-raff of society.  Now that is not a graphic enough word for the kind of people at Levi’s party.  These were the people who were moral lepers, shunned by good society, the kind of people when you saw them coming you crossed to the other side of the street.


It wasn’t without good reason that the Pharisees avoided such people – they were “such” people.  Understanding the Pharisees a little also helps to get their attitudes.  


The Pharisees were a group of religious leaders who were about 6,000 in number in Israel during Jesus’ day.  That was actually not very many. The word “Pharisee” actually has as its root meaning “to separate”. They were separatists.  They were very, very diligent, careful, and conscientious in their religion. The Law from God made it clear that Jews were supposed to distinguish between the things that are clean and the things that are unclean.  That things are either clean or unclean is something that ran in the blood of the Jews since Mount Sinai. The Pharisees were devoted to avoiding the unclean things. However, they had come to place more importance on the teachings of men than the teachings of God (Mk. 7:8-13).  Their man-made teachings had led them to a smug, self-righteous attitude that made them callous to winning sinners to God. They were happy to just write them off as “sinners” and denounce them, taking satisfaction they weren’t like them (Luke 18:11). Their confidence in their own righteousness came from their ability to point at the inferiority of others in keeping all the rules they kept (Luke 18:11; Jn 7:48-49).  


The only reason they were on the same block as Lev-Matthew’s house that night was to criticize Jesus and gain more ammunition against Him.  They were looking to build their case against Jesus so they went everywhere He was at looking for anything they could to pin on Him.  


So they ask in verse 16, “…..”  You know how people can often ask questions that are meant more as criticisms?  They aren’t sincerely asking to understand a situation, they are asking as a way of accusing, or criticizing.  They are already offended that Jesus heals people on the Sabbath, that He publicly criticizes them as Pharisees, and now that He – a supposedly “holy” man – is defiling Himself by associating with sinners and tax collectors.  Something no self-respecting holy man would ever do.  


How does Jesus respond?  He says in verse 17 “…..” 


Jesus masterfully responds.  He came to the sick, not the healthy.  The healthy were the Pharisees. Not that Jesus was saying the Pharisees were actually right, and right with God.  But Jesus merely referred to them as they saw themselves: righteous, spiritually, morally and religiously healthy.  Jesus came to those who were morally sick – spiritual lepers whose lives were unhealthy and ill. He came to heal them.  He came to lead them out of their sin-sickness into the health of righteousness.  


Let us be clear, and not buy into the liberal theologians’ garbage:  Jesus did not affirm the sinfulness of sinners by eating with them.  He came to where they were to lead them out of their sinfulness and into righteousness.  He went to them because He would “heal” their sin-sickness. He was their “doctor”, healing their spiritual illness.


Another point here:  He did not defile Himself by eating with them.  You can’t defile “The Holy One of God”. He is Holy, and, He makes things holy that are profane.  The real offense here is that Jesus was negating the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. They did not eat with sinners.  They thought they were righteous because of it.  


We also must see His love for sinners, drove Him to them, rather than casting them away.  His love for them extended beyond their sin and could not be extinguished.  Paul’s words come to mind, “I was the chief of sinners, but for that very reason CHrist …” 1 Tim. 1:15-16.  Jesus walked along, mobbed by crowds, yet, He was looking for Levi. He found Levi. He ate with Levi. He ate with Levi’s crowd.    


Application:  We’re challenged by Jesus on this point.  Who do we find morally repulsive that we are willing to pursue for the sake of leading them to Christ?  Jesus, who is sinless and holy, ate with the most repulsive in Jewish society. Jesus wasn’t defiled by them.  We are not defiled by, or, defined by them….work this through more.  


The point of Feasting continues.  Fellowship is seen in Feasting. Verses 18-20, Mark brings us into another encounter with Jesus.  [READ] This time a fast has been observed, and everyone is fasting. Except Jesus and His disciples.  Everyone else fasted but Jesus never fasted while on earth, Luke 7:33-34…..[read]


It makes sense that the Pharisees were fasting, they fasted twice a week (mondays and Thursdays) and all kinds of other set fasts – even though God required only one fast per year on the Day of Atonement.  It makes sense that John the Baptist’s disciples were fasting also, since John’s life was an ascetic one, characterized by fasting. But Jesus was feasting and so were His disciples. They never turned down a dinner invitation because of a fast.  


What is the point of this scene?  Why does Mark include it? I believe it relates still to feasting with Jesus in fellowship.  While you have Jesus you feast, you don’t fast. There is a time for everything, Ecclesiastes 3 says, a season for every activity under heaven.  So long as Jesus was on the earth it was not the time for fasting. Fasting is related to mourning, and, it is related to requesting of God with intensity.  But, how can you be sad when you are with Jesus? How can you want anything when you have Jesus with you? That is the point of Jesus’ response. He is the One who satisfies all our needs, and He is the source of surpassing joy.  He is the One who feasts with us, and, He is the reason for our feasting.  


How do we feast with Jesus today?  We feast on His words. His teachings nourish our spirits.  Man does not live on bread alone, but, on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry” (John 6:35).  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever.” (Jn 6:51).  His point was not to literally eat him, like a cannibal. Nor was it to eat him like the Roman Catholics teach about the Eucharist, that somehow the bread and the wine turn into his flesh and his blood and then you eat and drink it.  That is a gross misunderstanding of what Jesus said.  


To feed on Jesus means to feed on His words, to take them in, to chew on them by thinking about them, and to digest them by internalizing them and living by them.  That’s how we fellowship with Jesus. Living by His words is how we live with Jesus. Walking by His words is how we walk with Jesus. Delighting in His teachings is how we delight in Jesus.  Feasting on His words …that’s how we feast with Him.




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