13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”Mark 2:13-17 (NIV)
When there has been a major accident or natural disaster, emergency responders have to check every person to evaluate and triage them. This allows the first responder to determine who needs care first due to the nature of their injuries. They also then are able to determine what type of care is going to be the most beneficial. Medics on a battlefield were the originators of triage. This tool is vital due to the limited time and resources which is available to save lives. Clearly the patients who are in the greatest need of care which can lead to survival receive priority in care decisions. If a person is not in danger of dying or will not benefit from care, they are made as comfortable as possible. These are not easy decisions to make even with the excellent training our first responders receive.
When we read the passage from Mark’s gospel, Jesus speaks of triage. Jesus first calls Levi, the tax collector and an undesirable to Jews, to follow him. When he eats with Levi, other tax collectors, and other sinners, the Pharisees question his choice of dinner companions. Jesus tells them that the sinners are the ones who need his help, not the righteous (triage). Jesus has done the necessary triage and knows where the greatest need is at this time. He has a limited amount of time so he must use it to fill the greatest need. The Pharisees are more concerned about image and entitlement. This is a bit ironic since they do not even believe Jesus is who he claims to be but they wish to be Jesus’s honored guests at table instead of the undesirables.
This passage makes a strong point to us. Gathering with and spending time with fellow believers provides us opportunities for growth and support. We may even expect our faith leaders to prioritize their time to be with us in order to meet our needs, Jesus would take some issue solely using these approaches.
First, Jesus wants us to go to those who have the greatest need like he did in his ministry. We gather with fellow believers to recharge and strengthen ourselves but then are sent to those who need to experience the grace and love of God. Second, we invite those who the world labels to be undesirable to join in our fellowship and sit at table with us. Third, we support and encourage our faith leaders to spend their time and energy looking after the needs of those outside our fellowship. This is the example which Jesus has given us to follow.