Bella Vista Church of Christ



Jeff Grisham


Is There Something

Better Available?


  He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.


  And as he reclined at the table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:13-17 ESV)


  What do you do for a living? When we meet someone and begin to engage him or her in conversation, this question is among the first that we ask. Part of the reason is that it shows genuine interest in getting to know that person and may even serve as a place where we find common ground. Another part of the reason for this question is that in our current western culture, what a person does for a living is closely tied to his or her identity. What if the person to whom we pose that question is employed in an occupation of which they are not necessarily proud? It seems that this particular question might serve to create distance rather than present the common ground we might want. This is not an article on social etiquette, but thinking about this situation might shed some light on this narrative we read in Mark chapter two.


  Imagine being a tax collector of Jewish descent in Roman occupied Palestine during the first century. Imagine you meet someone and they ask you the dreaded question, “So, what do you do for a living?” Answering that question is going to have some real repercussions. Most of your “respectable” countrymen will either avoid you or launch into a lecture about you betraying and oppressing your own people. Your fellow citizens see you as a collaborator with an oppressive government, and really want nothing to do with you. In fact, you are ostracized and can only freely associate with others who share your profession and others who are considered outcasts by polite society.


  With this being the case it isn’t hard to imagine that Levi was looking for something better. He may have been longing for something to which to devote his life that would have a larger impact than just collecting taxes and serving as the object of expressed frustration by his own people. But, maybe Levi had grown accustomed to this way of living. Maybe he thought that this is just the way life was always going to be. What we do know from the text is that when Jesus called, Levi left the life he knew and began to follow. He embarked on a new life that was shaped and molded by Jesus, a life that would lead him to share the possibility of new life with others.


  I believe that most of us want a life that is meaningful. I believe we want to make a real difference in the world around us. Such a life is available if we will leave the old behind and follow Jesus. At the end of this event that Mark records for us, we see how it can be accomplished. It begins with understanding our deep need for healing. It is not for those who believe that they are already righteous, but for those of us who understand that righteousness comes by humbling ourselves, admitting our needs, and staying close to the One who can bring healing. Are we willing to continually admit our dependence on Jesus and follow the prescription given by the Great Physician?


—Jeff Grisham