But when some of the Jewish religious leaders saw him eating with these men of ill repute, they said to his disciples, “How can he stand it, to eat with such scum?” Mark 2:16 LB
I have been studying Mark 2 this week. I find the Living Bible’s translation of Mark quite interesting. Jesus, as Mark 2:16 points out, ‘hung out’ with all kinds of people on the social ladder. He was a friend to those at the top of the ladder – the religious leaders, as well as those at the bottom of the ladder – the scum.
Actually, the Living Bible is a paraphrase, not a translation. The more accurate translation for “scum” is literally, “tax collectors and sinners.”
In Jesus’ day, sharing a meal around a table indicated deep intimacy – a close relationship. To break bread with someone meant sharing one another’s life. You did not just have anyone over for dinner, only family and close friends. The religious leaders, who were committed to obeying the letter of the law and who kept to the highest standards of ritual purity, would never eat with people who were unclean. As a result, they expected Jesus to be like them. They assumed He would keep His distance from the people who had questionable backgrounds, lest they compromise His cleanliness.
Jesus ate with “scum” because he didn’t see people as clean or dirty, nor was He concerned about preserving an appearance of being religious. He ate with the unclean, the sinners, because He knew they needed His help; those are the very people He came to save. (Luke 5:32)
This story challenges me to ask what my own attitudes and behaviors are toward people. Am I more concerned about what people think of me than I am about the needs of people? Am I willing to get my hands dirty by entering into a relationship with people who aren’t as neat and tidy as I am? Am I more like Jesus? Or the religious leaders?
What about you?