Outside with the Outsiders (Hunch 17)
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 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.
Jesus taught in the open air, by the lake. People came to Him there. There He befriended people, and they shared and enjoyed life together. That's also where His school was located. Jesus did teach in the synagogue, and He also taught at His home when it was chock-a-block. But Mark tells us He taught in the open air by the lake as well. My hunch is that the other rabbis couldn't get a lake-side crowd together. Was it that He didn't want to teach people when they felt trapped? I suspect He went out to the lake so boys and girls could come and go, listen to His stories and play tag together. Children weren't old enough to enter the synagogue but Jesus wanted to tell everyone about God's Kingdom. If grown-ups and parents didn't bother to tell their children what they had heard at the synagogue then they would have to wait years before they heard of God's love. So why wait? Jesus knew the difficulties people had. He knew how much they needed to be taught the basics of God's love, His covenant with Israel, His law and the prophets.
My hunch is that Jesus went out to teach by the lake because He knew that husbands and fathers were having a difficult time telling their wives and families about God's love. He showed He understood the difficulties people had in their own homes doing what God's law required. He wasn't going to have children wait until they were adults before they learned that God cared for them. He wanted married and unmarried women to hear what He had to say as well. His school was no closed-shop for grown-up men. Maybe some adult women thought it was better to hear God’s word from their husbands once they got home from the synagogue. But then what about women who weren't married? What then?
Jesus went out to teach by the lake because He knew that many people felt that they had been drifting away from God's Kingdom. Jesus wanted such drifters; He sought out the outsiders, like Levi the fellow who worked as a tax collector for the Romans. He wanted Him to discover that the good news of God's kingdom was also for him. Jesus wanted Levi to hear it for himself. He was reaching out for those who didn't or couldn't or wouldn't go to the synagogue. What better place to learn about God's love than out by the lake in the open air? If you are in the open air you can come and go. In an atmosphere like that children can learn.
Levi, the tax collector, was one of Alphaeus' sons. Two sons of Alphaeus became disciples. The other was James, the younger. We'll read about that later on (3:18). Matthew was Levi's other name. Levi is probably a family name and Matthew the name he used for work. Mark seems to be suggesting that in going to Levi's house Jesus was aware of the impact this would have upon his family network. Levi brought people to Jesus. This is what often happens. “Outsiders” use their "outside" networks to help them in their work and for their protection. But when God’s word gets out to them, "outsiders" realise how much God loves them too, and the Good News spreads like wild-fire. It's a wonderful thing. But it also stirs up trouble. We will read later that Jesus faced some really dirty tricks.