Mark 2:16

When the teachers of the Law belonging to the party of the Pharisees saw that he was eating in the company of such people, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with the tax-gatherers and outcasts?”


powerful people never confront directly
this way lies loss of prestige
they find the language people use
and subvert its meaning

blue sky legislation means more pollution
destroying villages to save them is normalized
whoever gets the blame in first wins
peace means war so more war please

a sly question here a confusion there
pretty soon new friends are ancient enemies
set definitions through repetition
define others as sinful to win every debate


Mark’s first description of the feasting scene with Levi, in the prior verse, speaks first of tax collector traitors and then the irreligious.

When the scrupulous wing of the Pharisees finds out about this meal, for surely they were not going to the tax collectors place of work, they see a different situation. Their eyes order the religiously non-observants—sinners, first and tack on the traitorous tax collectors.

Wilderness settings find just such subtleties as a reversal of reporting as bases for setting one person at odds with another. This is an early political process of survival of the fittest in a time and place where power has been usurped by the Empire, leaving but scraps for the rest to fight one another over.

This joining of two outsider groups as a singular entity (non-observers) means: when you have said one, you have said the other. In a time of a powerful occupying force, different groups differently parse out who their friends and enemies are. It is almost as if Mark thought the greater difficulty was Levi’s political status and is having to recognize that the defining accusation against Jesus was about an accusation of blasphemy—shaming G*D through unclean eating.

Misreading the situation is another sign of being outside a regular frame of reference. We always need to find new ways of tracking meaning. A re-framing of what Jesus is doing is needed. At question is whether such a re-framing will set things in a larger or smaller arena. If larger, more conflict is ahead. If smaller, what difference can a nothing-sized sect make?

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