Our focused verse today is Mark 2:15. It reads: "And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him." "To recline at table" is a picture of personal acceptance and hospitality. It's Jesus being very cordial to those around him. When dining at a home, guests would lie down on a couch that would stretch around three sides of a room. The host would take the central place on the couch surrounded by a U-shaped series of tables aligning the couch. The most honored guests reclined on both sides of the host. Their heads would face toward the host while their feet would face toward the wall.
"Tax collectors and sinners" were the guests of the host, Jesus. They were the ones reclining with him at the table. He welcomed them. He expressed love toward them. He desired to be their friend.
Yet they were also the most despised people in the Jewish society. The term "tax collector and sinner" itself expresses disregard their disregard for the Law of Moses from the perspective of the Pharisees, the religious law-makers of that day.
In fact, according to Pharisaic interpretation of the Law of Moses, Jesus should remain "clean" by having nothing to do with these people. They are anathema. They should be shunned. In being shunned, they would then seek God, the Pharisees thought.
But Jesus chooses a different path in dealing with these people. He chooses the path of God toward all sinners and tax collectors, all people who have rebelled against the law of God. He chooses to remain pure personally while being their friend. He chooses to be in the world but not of the world. He chooses to be a friend to sinners without adopting their lifestyles.
Isn't that the correct path for all who follow Jesus? We are to strive for personal purity, obedience to the Law of God, while also being among "sinners and tax collectors," those in our world who are not following God. Our purity then draws them to seek the Jesus whom we follow. Yes, some will not want who we are. But others will, just as many followed Jesus because of who he was and how he lived.
In the world and not of the world. Personal purity while still being a friend to sinners. That's Jesus way.
It should be the same for those of us who call him Lord, Master, Teacher, Savior.