What "type" of people followed Jesus?
Disciples? Of Course.
"...tax collectors and sinners..."? YES!
The quotation marks come from Mark 2:15. Perhaps it is one of those verses we read too quickly because it is sandwiched between the calling of Levi and another controversy with the Pharisees. However, it contains and incredible truth about Jesus; the Jesus I am suppose to walk through the world like He walked through the world. Consider the entire verse:
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.
I highlighted the word that really jumps out at me-many. The fact that many tax collectors (some of the most despised and subsequently marginalized people in Jesus' day) and sinners (no explanation necessary) followed Jesus may not seem like an earth shattering truth. But in light of the whole "walk through the world like Jesus walked through the world" thought (Discipleship), it is huge and begs a few questions!
How many tax collectors and sinners follow me?
How many tax collectors and sinners do I know or spend time getting to know?
After 26 plus years of student ministry (yes, I am "seasoned"), I remember one of the goals of youth ministry was keeping our teenagers away from and creating Christian sub-culture(s) that competed with and prevented contact with all those tax collectors and sinners. Despite our best efforts, students still walked away from the Church (and continue to do so) when their Christian sub-culture(s) where punctured by the world and they did not have the ability to breath faith outside the bubble(s). Yes, I admit, that last sentence reduces a multifaceted faith development problem to a single statement, but it highlights the failure of Christian isolationism to disciple our children.
Related, how many times has a church's main tax collectors and sinners conversion strategy involved calling to them from within our highly decorated, competing, programmed and advertised bubble(s)? I have been involved in many of these type of events and really enjoyed the experiences. However, very few tax collectors and sinners actually attended many of these events.
Here are a couple of suggestions I believe can be made in light of these ministry experiences and 31 years of attempting to walk through the world as Jesus walked through the world:
- One, a student's spiritual formation (Discipleship) must include instruction and experience on how to live among, thrive alongside and draw tax collectors and sinners from outside the "Bubble."
- Two, while I am not against highly decorated, competing, programmed and advertised invitation to "bubble" events (concerts, plays, conferences, worship services, movies, etc.), tax collectors and sinners will come to know Jesus (and more often attend these types of events) because a Jesus follower they know from outside the bubble invited them to attend. It may be painful to hear, but excluding the Billy Graham, Andy Stanley, Max Lucado type figures, a real-outside the bubble livin'-tax collector-sinner has little knowledge of all the "famous" Jesus presenters. However, they have great knowledge of and watch those they know are Jesus followers.
How many tax collectors and sinners follow you?
How many tax collectors and sinners do you know or spend time getting to know?