Note to the Reader
This week, we continue our examination of the Gospel of Mark. As such, I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Gospel in conjunction with this article.
Corruption of Good Morals
Companions, friends, associates, or whatever term one wants to use when referring to others becomes a very delicate matter when referring to them. “Why?” you might ask. The answer can be stated in a very general sense, there are people who promote positive moral behavior; and there are people who promote negative moral behavior. However, personal involvement with other people is in direct correlation to the individual’s perception of their moral compass and perhaps their own moral strength. This article should prove to be an interesting study because it is going to examine the principle of “evil companions corrupt good morals” against an incident during Jesus’ life.
Did Jesus Ever Sin?
For us to really sink our teeth into this topic, as believers we have to either deny or affirm the purity of Jesus. Did Jesus ever sin? According to the passage of First John 3.1-6, Jesus did not ever commit a transgression against God.1 The writer of Hebrews also affirms that Jesus was without sin.2 Since it seems that things come in threes, there is one more passage that claims Jesus did no sin – it is First Peter 2.22.
Generally speaking, it seems that Jesus’ sinlessness is focused as necessity for him to be our sacrifice and our atonement. His sinlessness is, without a doubt, important to the fact that God found Jesus acceptable and therefore God was not willing to leave Jesus in the grave and therefore brought him up from the grave.3 But here is a challenging point for us. Jesus’ sinlessness means that when Jesus conducted himself during his ministry, placing himself in what some disciples might define as “a compromising position” Jesus did so without sin, did no sin, and had no sin in himself. This concept is vitally important.
We have to understand that Jesus put himself into situations that some disciples of Jesus would call either “questionable” or “sinful”. Here is what I mean. With good intentions, disciples rely on Paul’s teaching of “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners”4 as a guide post for their daily involvement with what they have assessed to be “sin”. That statement from Paul has immediate contextual truth because of its placement in First Corinthians fifteen and within Paul’s defense of the resurrection. The immediate truth is that Paul was telling the Corinthians not to keep company with those who taught against the resurrection. But disciples will quote Paul, using his statement as a truism; but it is only a truism, because truisms by their very nature are not true one hundred percent of the time. So what are we to do?
Did Jesus Leave Us an Example?
We have to determine if we are following in the footsteps of Jesus. It is a general statement of accepted spiritual fact that disciples claim to want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, “where ever they go”. But what happens if Jesus went into a situation that some disciples themselves deem hostile towards them because of the “sin” of the people. This is when following Jesus becomes a challenge.
In the context of First Peter 2.13-3.7, Peter is addressing submissiveness within various life situations, but within that context Peter says that Jesus is the example of submissiveness and he did so without sinning.5 While this context speaks specifically to Jesus suffering without sin, there is a general truth that comes from this passage – Jesus is our example.6 Paul reaffirms this concept by saying that he wanted the Corinthians to follow him as Paul followed Jesus.7
Jesus is our example. An example of purity. An example of submissiveness. An example of complete surrender to God’s Will. An example of taking the Good News. Good News must be taken to everyone which includes those that some disciples would find abhorrent or antagonistic.
Does Jesus Want Us to Associate with Sinners?
To answer this question, we must turn to our passage for study, Mark 2.13-17. Because our space is running out, we must use brevity. The short answer is “Yes.” We find the affirmative for association in verse seventeen. While it is sometimes preferable to remain in association with those who are “righteous” following Jesus requires that we interact with those who need him, and the people who need Jesus are bloodied and bruised from their fight with the adversary.
Jesus spoke an indictment against the Scribes and Pharisees because they would not associate with sinners. What does this mean for us? First of all, in this passage, Jesus does not appear to be in a business establishment of ill repute, but he is definitely in the house of someone that the religious people deemed of ill repute. But do notice that Jesus would not have been in the house having dinner with the sinners, if he did not make “the call” at the tax office. This situation becomes difficult because disciples should definitely exercise discernment. But the fact remains, what are we to make of this situation? Am I to be like the Scribes and Pharisees?8 Or Am I to be like a disciple of Jesus and go where ever he went?9
Here is a hard truth – Jesus did things that some Christians would consider maybe not sinful, so let us use the phrase “spiritually unwise” knowing that we should “err on the side of caution.” On a personal application, if I were to openly associate, in the manner that Jesus did, with people that some of my brotherhood has labeled as sinners, my brotherhood would question my motives, just as the Scribes and Pharisees questioned Jesus’ motives. Where do we draw the line? While the disciple needs to protect their spiritual purity and essence, the disciple is required to go into the world10 and Paul argues in his letter to the Corinthians that Christians are required to enter the sphere of the “sinner”.11
The truth is that Christians have to wear the armor of God, and then enter the battlefield. There are times to advance. There are times to retreat. There are times for Rest and Recuperation. There are times for additional training. It is unwise to remain in the battlefield for extended periods, because the disciple can and will grow battle weary. But it is just as unwise for the disciple to remain in retreat mode, in R&R, or to stay within training and not get to the battlefield. May the LORD bless us and may the Good News be taken. Remember, “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”12
1. “Jesus did not transgress against God.” First John 3.5.
2. “Jesus was without sin.” Hebrews 4.15.
3. “Jesus could not be left in the grave.” Acts 2.22-32.
4. “Evil communications corrupt good manners” First Corinthians 15.33.
5. “Jesus did so without sinning.” First Peter 2.21-25.
6. “Jesus is our example.” First Peter 2.21.
7. “Follow Paul as he followed Jesus.” First Corinthians 11.1.
8. “Like the Scribes or the Pharisees?” Mark 2.16.
9. “Like a disciple of Jesus?” Mark 2.15-16.
10. “Disciple is required to go into the world.” Matthew 28.19-20.
11. “Christians enter the sphere of the sinner.” First Corinthians 5.9-10.
12. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” First John 4.4.