Shalom and welcome to Veahavta Israel, a Hebrew phrase which means you shall love Israel. We hope you’ll stay with us for the next 30 minutes as our teacher, Dr. Baruch shares his expository teaching from the Bible. Dr. Baruch is the senior lecturer at the Zera Avraham Institute based in Israel. Although all courses are taught in Hebrew at the Institute, dr Baruch is pleased to share this weekly address in English. To find out more about our work in Israel, please visit us on the web at loveisrael.org. That’s one word, loveisrael.org. Now, here’s Baruch with today’s lesson.
Dr. Baruch: We know that in real estate people always talk about location, location, location, and that location can affect the price in a large way. Well, when we study the word of God, we also need to pay attention to location, because it’s the location that oftentimes gives us insight so that we can understand the passage of scripture that we’re reading, that we can understand it with the proper message to us. Well, we’re still in our study of the book of Mark and chapter two, and now we’re going to see some interesting characteristics of Messiah and who he was reaching out to. And one of the things that we need to constantly ask ourselves is this, “Would I be a candidate for, for a disciple of Messiah Yeshua? Would he look at me and want to minister, to speak, to have contact with me? What is it that drew certain people before Messiah? And what caused Messiah to relate with them?
Well, those are some of the things we’re going to see in the gospel of Mark chapter two, and now we’re ready for verse 13. Let’s begin. And he went forth again along the sea. Now, I mentioned at the very beginning how important location is. And the reason why I said it is because here is an important location. He is along the sea, exactly the sea of Galilee, the Kineret. And we’ve learned several times that that is the area that Messiah was going to begin to reveal himself to others and not just himself, but his purposes, why he was sent into this world. So that location along the sea of Galilee is vital. And we read continuing on that the entire crowd came to him and what did he do? He taught them. Here again, the emphasis is always upon the truth. The emphasis is upon revealing the purposes, the plans, the truth of God, so that we might respond in an appropriate way.
So one of the first things I want you to see is this. If you think that God is going to move in your life, you need to ask yourself whether you want to respond appropriately to him. All too often we think about how we want God to behave, what we want him to do for us, rather than realizing that he seeks a godly response from us. A response of obedience and such a response is impossible unless we know his truth. So this great crowd, and there’s an important adjective here, it’s the word all. All the crowd, everyone who had had some contact with Messiah in this area, they all came out because they wanted to learn the word of God, the truth of the Messiah of Israel, and he taught them.
Verse 14 and he went along, meaning he went along further and he saw an individual and that individual was named Levi. He was the son. It literally says Levi of the one who was called [inaudible 00:04:18] wasn’t a man. And this man’s son was called Levi probably because this family was a Levitical family, that is from the tribe of Levi. Now stop for a moment, we need to understand that, that family being a family of Levites, they had a special call upon their life. And what was that special call? It was to serve God. So we need to ask ourselves and say, “Was this individual following that call?” Well, as we read, we find out that he was not. This one name named Levi was doing what? He was sitting, and there’s an important preposition, he was sitting not at but on the customs office. Now, your Bible probably says taxes or something along those lines. That’s fine, but it doesn’t say he was sitting at the tax office, but upon probably a reference to his position of leadership.
Now we have a problem because the tax office that this word reveals to us was basically the Roman authority, he was working for the enemy. He was collecting taxes, not for the wellbeing of his own people, the Jewish people who he was called to be a blessing to and serve, but he had kind of become a traitor of his people and he was now serving the enemy, the oppressor. And Messiah comes up to him and notice what he says, very simply, he says to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and he followed him. Now that position of a tax collector, usually tax collectors were very wealthy and how they get wealthy was from a source of legal extortion. Because the Roman authority would say to them, “Well, this is your area and we need this much money this month from you.” And whatever they collected, as long as they collected that amount, whatever in excess, that was their salary.
And they had the Roman army to influence those who didn’t want to give. And they could give orders, they could punish, they had a great deal of authority. So if you didn’t mind being an outcast, if you didn’t mind being seen as a traitor of your people, this would have been a good job to have. but let me ask you, was it an appropriate job for someone who was a Levite? And the answer is absolutely not. So why was he doing it? Why did he rebel against his people? Why did he work against them? And if we look elsewhere in the scripture, we’ll find that oftentimes rebellion is an outcome of feeling rejected. When a child feels rejected by their parents, they will rebel against them. One of the best examples of that is [inaudible 00:07:39], Absalom in the Hebrew Bible. In the book of of Samuel, second Samuel, we see this. And because of this rebellion that that he did, what was the underlying cause of it? His father’s rejection of him.
So it’s very likely that this may Levi, he felt rejected by his people and therefore he rebelled against them. He felt as an outcast. And what happens? Well, don’t miss this. He would have known a little bit about this one called Yeshua. He was from this area. He would have heard the stories, he would have saw the great crowds following after him. And now this one who was famous in those parts who had such a reputation, he comes up to Levi, this man who felt rejected and outcasts, perhaps very wealthy, but he wasn’t satisfied with his life. And the first opportunity someone comes and relates to him and pays attention to him and says, follow me. What happens? Well, immediately the text says he rises up and follows after him.
Verse 15 and it came about and I realized that many English Bibles will translate this verse that we’re looking at in the way that Yeshua was at the home of Levi dining. Well, you can’t make that assumption. If you look at a literal translation like the Young’s Literal Translation, you will find that it’s unable to know which house they were and who was eating at that house because it simply says, and it came about, he reclined at his house. Who reclined? We don’t know. At whose house? We don’t know. But if we want to use some of the spiritual indicators for interpreting scripture, who’s the primary one in this book? It is of course Yeshua, and because of that it would be likely that it tells us that Yeshua was eating, he was reclining, that his dining in a formal way at his own house, and there at his house were who? Many of the tax collectors and sinners for they were also there with Yeshua and his disciples.
Now, what I want to point out is this, Yeshua, he spoke to one individual Levi, and when Levi responded, he probably didn’t come alone. He left that job of extortion, that job of betraying his people because someone gave him a little attention, someone was willing to receive him. He came and he didn’t come alone. It says in the text that there were many tax collectors with him, and not only tax collectors, but other individuals who were called by the text sinners. Now, I asked you earlier, are you appropriate that Messiah would want to have a relationship with you? Are you someone that he would relate to, would engage with?
Well, what does the text tell us in this passage of scripture? Let’s move on. Also in that same 15th verse, for there were many who were following after him. Many of the tax collectors, many of the sinners, the outcasts of society and also at this place was another group of people, and they are look at verse 16, they were the Scribes and the Pharisees and they beheld him eating with sinners and the tax collectors and they said to his disciples, now that’s interesting because one of the important principles of Judaism is not to speak lashon hara. Lashon hara is when we say something about someone else that if someone were to hear that they would think less of that person, that is the person who was being spoken about. It’s forbidden in Judaism, but yet we see the Scribes and the Pharisees going behind Yeshua’s back and criticizing him saying, “How is it that this one eats with tax collectors and sinners with the outcast of society?”
Now it teaches us something about the religious leaders back then, and sadly often in our times as well, and that is they use religion to escape from society, to set themselves apart, to make themselves better than others and that’s not what Messiah was about, quite the contrary. If you look at what came about because of this, once again the middle of verse 16 and he said to his disciples with tax collectors and sinners he eats, so they meant that in a negative way, trying to put him down. But verse 17 tells us that Messiah heard it and Yeshua heard and he said to them, now what I like about this is that he didn’t say something negative against them, but he said something right to them, and it wasn’t something that would push them away. Hopefully it was something that would cause them to reconsider the feelings of their heart.
Verse 17 again, and Yeshua heard them and said to them that the strong ones, now I realize that in most Bibles it’s going to say the healthy and the sick, but literally if we pay close attention to that word, it’s word is [inaudible 00:13:42], means those who are capable, those who are strong, those who are able to do something. It’s a very positive description in that word. So I says in this passage, “Those who are the capable ones, those who can, those who are strong do not walk. They have no need for a physician. But rather,” and here again, your Bible will probably say the sick or the weak, but literally it’s a word Caicos, which comes from word evil. And what he’s saying here is this, those who are capable of doing good, who are strong in righteousness and are appropriate for God, they have no need for a spiritual physician, i.e. The Messiah, but rather it’s the ones who who find themselves in the midst of sin. These are the ones who need the Messiah.
Now, here’s the point that he was trying to make. And that is this, if we really understand God’s revelation, and what I mean by that is this, if we understand the Torah, the Torah tells us what God’s expectations are for humanity. The Torah tells us what to do and what not to do, and when we apply that to our life, what do we find ourselves as? We find ourselves in great need because we fall far short of what the Torah instructs. So if you’re wise, if you look at yourself from God’s perspective, you’re going to understand that no one are the strong ones. No one are is capable of serving God as God requires to be served.
Remember Joshua in the last chapter of his book? He says, “Who’s going to serve the Lord?” And all the people said “We’re going to do so.” And what did he say? “You’re not capable of doing so.” In other words, and I like the the lecture I heard one time from a Hasidic rabbi on that passage, there’s certain places in the scripture where when we read that we would say “This would have been a good time to two request, to cry out God send the Messiah now.” And, in this rabbinical lecture that I heard, that was the passage that he was dealing with. He was saying when the children of Israel are challenged by Joshua and called to obey, that God’s a jealous God, that he won’t weak at sin, that or hold us accountable for all of our deeds. That’s the time to cry out for Messiah because if that’s God is righteous, totally righteous, we’re going to be in trouble.
And what happens? Well, the people back then said, “Oh, we can do it.” And unfortunately here as well, the tax collectors, the Pharisees, excuse me, the tax collectors and the sinners, they knew that they weren’t strong. The problem was that the Scribes and the Pharisees, they thought they were and they had no need for Messiah. So that really brings us to the question, what about you? Do you think you’re the strong one that has no need for God’s mercy, God’s grace, his compassion, or do you understand that you are weak, that you are incapable of serving God in the righteous way that he requires? Well, let’s move on to verse 18. Now he kind of quiet that criticism and it didn’t last for very a long time, because they found another thing too. To criticize him for.
And that’s something that we have to ask ourselves, do I have a critical spirit? Am I constantly looking for ways to put others down? And that’s what they were beginning to do, to put Messiah down. What did they say? Well, verse 18, and the disciples of John and of the Pharisees, they were fasting. That is, they used to fast, and it was a tradition back 2000 years ago and some even follow today, to fast on every Monday and Thursday. But nevertheless, these people were fasting on a regular basis. And they came, these individuals came and they said to him, “Why is it that that John’s disciples fast and the Pharisees fast, but you, your disciples do not fast.” Now fasting was seen as a pious thing to do. One that that showed humility, but if you did it in a public way, it was really rooted in pride. So they were saying, you know, “We don’t see them fast like we fast in a public way. Well, why is it that they’re not fasting?”
And here again, instead of Messiah getting angry, instead of Messiah saying something to put them down, what did he do? He revealed greater truth to them. He used a description that they should have been able to understand. Now, one of the points that we need to realize is that not only did Messiah behave in a way that is, not only did he do deeds that were expected by the Messiah to do based upon scripture revelation. Not only did he say things that were expected from the Messiah based upon scriptural verses, but Messiah also did many things and said many things that were based in the people, the religious expectations of the people. Some of these expectations were not rooted in scripture, but rooted, as I said, in ancient traditions. And one is this idea of Messiah being a bridegroom.
Now, there are some references to that in the profits, but by and large, it was what we would call the ancient tradition that emphasize this description, this title of Messiah. And therefore he chose that in order to convey to them who he was. So let’s look again verse 18, they begin to criticize him and his disciples for not publicly fasting. And what did he say? Look at verse 19. And Yeshua spoke to them and said, “The sons of the bridal chamber,” Now the term son most have to do here with the idea of a wedding party, and there were certain attendants that would help the groom do all that he was supposed to do in getting ready for the wedding. So there was the groom and there was also what we would call his attendants.
And instead of using the word attendants or helpers, they use the word sons. Why is that? Well, the rabbinical sages will tell us one of the first ways that we should understand that word son is an heir. One who was going to receive something from those that he served. So look again, verse 19. Messiah responds and says, “The the sons of the wedding chamber are not able to to do so all the while that they are with the the groom.” They’re not able to what? They’re not able to fast. But he says, “But when the groom is is with them, they don’t fast, but when he’s taken away,” What will happen? They say, “then they will fast.”
Now what he was trying to communicate to them is his identity. Why does he use the term groom? Well, we know. There is an inherent relationship between the establishment of the kingdom of God and this concept of a wedding celebration and the one who gives rise, that is the one who puts everything into motion for that wedding ceremony and that wedding celebration was the groom, the one who said the time is at hand. And he would instruct his attendance to go about the work, and up until the time that it’s finished, those attendance could do nothing else. They had to concentrate.
And all of this was seen as a labor of joy, a labor of love for their friend, the bride groom. Now Messiah was trying to say this to them, meaning there is a special time at hand and what was this time? It was time to prepare for the establishment of the Kingdom of God. That is, this great wedding that was going to take place. Now, one more thing before we conclude. He mentioned over and over this concept of fasting. And fasting has a purpose. The purpose of fasting is to weaken the flesh, show that we might be strong in the spirit. The purpose of fasting was that we might grow closer to God and the problem here, they were saying how often that they were fasting.
We fast. John disciples fast, but the problem was they were not able to understand the identity of Messiah because all of their religious pursuits was based upon some personal objective that they wanted to fulfill. And that brings me to my final point and that is this, why is it that one should be interested in Messiah? All too often the gospel is pedaled as a way of saying, “Come to him and he’ll do this. Come to him and he’ll give you that. Come to him and we’ll solve these problems.” But what we see in this passage of scripture is someone like Levi who came because he understood. He probably was a very wealthy man. He had a job, he had a position. He might have everything that he wanted from a physical standpoint. And he had friends, there were other tax collectors. He probably associated with the the Roman officials and the Roman soldiers.
But you know what? He did not have fellowship with? The fellowship of God’s people. And when given the opportunity to respond to Messiah’s call, what did he do? In a minute, immediately he responded. Not because he was looking for anything other than intimacy with Messiah, intimacy, the one who was proclaiming the truth into the kingdom of God. He wanted to be part of that wedding celebration. And that’s what we need to ask ourselves on a daily basis. Several times, both in this section and a few weeks ago when Messiah was also walking in that same location and he spoke to individuals and said, “Follow after me.” They followed. Not because of what they thought they were going to receive, but who they were following after. And that’s when it gets interesting. Not when we’re looking for what we can get, but who we can draw close to, who we can be like, who we can serve and that we had the privilege just like these wedding attendants that we have the privilege of preparing thing being called into his service so that we might prepare things for the kingdom of God.
Well, next week we’re going to be looking at a passage that talks about the necessity to change, but the change in the right terms. See, oftentimes when someone’s desperate like Levi, when he was given an opportunity to follow, he went after it, but we have to be very careful because not all change is good change. We need to have the biblical perspective, the mindset in order that we might change in a way that’s going to produce exactly what we’re going to learn about next week, and that is a wine. Wine is synonymous in the scripture with a couple different things, one of which is joy and it’s only when we respond to the truth of Messiah. It’s only when we follow after him on obedience. It’s only then that we’ll be set aside in order that we might produce fruit and that fruit is going to be a great source of joy.
What was it that the apostle Paul said? He talked about how he knew the secret of being content in every situation. He said he knew how to be content in plenty, he knew how to be content when he was lacking everything, because he was assured of his intimate relationship with Messiah and he did not focus upon the things of this age, but he was looking into the the future. He understood that the sufferings and the hardships of this world are not worthy to be compared with the glory that we will have, and we will become in the kingdom of God through the sufficiency of the person and the work of Messiah, Yeshua. Messiah here was giving those people, those sinners, those tax collectors a great opportunity to change and they responded. The question is this, when you are given the same opportunity, are you going to respond, or are you going to look with contempt, with criticism and with a lack of understanding the blessings that God is offering you in a right relationship with his only begotten son, the Messiah, Yeshua?
Speaker 1: Well, we hope you will benefit from today’s message and share it with someone else. Please plan to join us each week at this time and on this station for the radio edition of loveisrael.org. Again, to find out more about us, please visit us at our website, loveisrael.org. There you will find articles and several other lectures from our teacher, Dr. Baruch, these teachings are in video form. You may download them or watch them in streaming video. Until next week, may the Lord bless you in our Messiah Yeshua, That is Jesus. As you walk with him, Shalom from Israel.