2:14 As he went along, he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax booth. 1 “Follow me,” he said to him. And he got up and followed him. 2:15 As Jesus 2 was having a meal 3 in Levi’s 4 home, many tax collectors 5 and sinners were eating with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 2:16 When the experts in the law 6 and the Pharisees 7 saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 8 2:17 When Jesus heard this he said to them, “Those who are healthy don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do. 9 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
1 tn While “tax office” is sometimes given as a translation for τελώνιον (telwnion, so L&N 57.183), this could give the modern reader a false impression of an indoor office with all its associated furnishings.
sn The tax booth was a booth located on the edge of a city or town to collect taxes for trade. There was a tax booth in Capernaum, which was on the trade route from Damascus to Galilee and the Mediterranean. The “taxes” were collected on produce and goods brought into the area for sale, and were a sort of “sales tax” paid by the seller but obviously passed on to the purchaser in the form of increased prices (L&N 57.183). It was here that Jesus met Levi (also named Matthew [see Matt 9:9]) who was ultimately employed by the Romans, though perhaps more directly responsible to Herod Antipas. It was his job to collect taxes for Rome and he was thus despised by Jews who undoubtedly regarded him as a traitor.
2 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
3 tn Grk “As he reclined at table.”
sn As Jesus was having a meal. 1st century middle eastern meals were not eaten while sitting at a table, but while reclining on one’s side on the floor with the head closest to the low table and the feet farthest away.
4 tn Grk “his.”
5 sn The tax collectors would bid to collect taxes for the Roman government and then add a surcharge, which they kept. Since tax collectors worked for Rome, they were viewed as traitors to their own people and were not well liked.
7 sn Pharisees were members of one of the most important and influential religious and political parties of Judaism in the time of Jesus. There were more Pharisees than Sadducees (according to Josephus, Ant. 17.2.4 [17.42] there were more than 6,000 Pharisees at about this time). Pharisees differed with Sadducees on certain doctrines and patterns of behavior. The Pharisees were strict and zealous adherents to the laws of the OT and to numerous additional traditions such as angels and bodily resurrection.
8 sn The issue here is inappropriate associations. Jews were very careful about personal associations and contact as a matter of ritual cleanliness. Their question borders on an accusation that Jesus is ritually unclean.
9 sn Jesus’ point is that he associates with those who are sick because they have the need and will respond to the offer of help. A person who is healthy (or who thinks mistakenly that he is) will not seek treatment.