When the Torah-teachers and the P’rushim
Saw that he was eating with “sinners” and tax collectors
They said to his Talmidim
“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
But hearing the question
Yeshua answered them
“The ones who need a doctor aren’t the healthy but the sick.
I didn’t come to call the ‘righteous’ but sinners!”
-Mark 2:16-17 (Jewish New Testament)
What a sticky passage this must be for those who insist that Pharisees and scribes were ‘legalistic Jews’ and wrong for teaching ‘Torah’. However, what is clear here is that Yeshua was not ‘dissing’ (disrespecting) the Torah, the Pharisees or the scribes. If this passage is not read with the usual WASP intonation of haughtiness and snobbery in the Pharisees and scribes question or read with an intonation of disgust in Yeshua’s response, the fact remains that Yeshua’s response indicates that those who teach Torah are ‘healthy’ and ‘righteous’.
In dealing with the Pharisees and scribes overall, Yeshua’s criticism was not about what they taught but the lack of understanding and ‘living’ interpretation of what they were teaching. Yeshua makes it clear that he hadn’t just come to hang out with those of a closed community, who liked to debate the ‘jots’ and ‘tittles’ of the written law, but that he had come to call those on the periphery of the community, whose lives were lived contrary to the law, to teach them the ‘spirit’ of the law so that they might be healed and freed from the slavery and brutality of sinful lives. He taught ‘sinners’ how to plug-in to the forgiveness, mercy and love of God through the ‘spirit’ of Torah.
Nothing has changed. Yeshua still calls to sinners living on the periphery of communities. That is still his focus and that is also our focus, if we serve him. Next time you hear how irrelevant the Torah is today, remember who gave the Torah and how He interpreted it. Next time you hear Pharisee-bashing or, God-forbid, are participating in it, remember:
. . . don’t boast as if you were better than the branches!
However, if you do boast
Remember that you are not supporting the root
The root is supporting you.…
So don’t be arrogant
On the contrary, be terrified!
For if God did not spare the natural branches
He certainly won’t spare you!
-Romans 11:18, 20c (JNT)
The Lord is coming!