JESUS CALLS THOSE WHO ARE SICK
In our last study we saw four friends of a paralytic man bring this man to Jesus. Nothing got in their way to bring him to Jesus, not even a house filled with people. They climbed to the roof, pulled their friend up, tore a hole in the roof and let this man down right in front of Jesus.
And Jesus not only healed him physically, but He forgave his sins and healed him spiritually. This made the religious leaders mad because only God could forgive sins. And because of the hardness of their hearts they failed to recognize that God was right there besides them and thus, Jesus could forgive sins because He is God.
Now beginning in verse 13 of Mark chapter 2, it is the same day that Jesus healed this man that He leaves Peters house to go and teach by the Sea of Galilee. That is where we will pick up our story.
1. Here we see the calling of Levi the tax collector. We know Him as Matthew. Now, like today, tax collectors were not well liked people. You will find out as you grow up that you hate to pay taxes, but you do like the benefits we get from paying taxes. Back in Jesus day it was no different. The Romans collected taxes by a means called tax farming. In other words they would have various districts that would be assessed a certain amount of tax. Now the Romans wouldnt collect those taxes themselves but would sell that right to the highest bidder. And he would then collect the taxes for the Roman government.
Now the tax collector would make a profit by taxing the people over the fixed rate the government set forth. They would tax other things the Roman government didnt tax. And Rome didnt care, as long as they got their money. So there was great incentive for tax collectors to be crooked. They usually ripped the people off. That is why when we read of tax collectors in the Bible they are not the most honest people, in fact they were very dishonest.
Remember the story of little Zacchaeus the tax collector in Luke chapter 19. When his life was touched by Jesus we see his behavior change also. In Luke 19:8 we read "Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." In other words he was going to not only help those in need, but he was going to repay fourfold all those whom he had overtaxed. That was a lot of money, but he saw the wickedness of his ways and he changed.
Of course the Jews hated to pay taxes and what made it even worse was they collected money for the Romans, their oppressors! So tax collectors were thought of as the scum of society. You couldnt testify in court because you couldnt be trusted. You couldnt enter a Synagogue. So they sold their life to make a profit.
And as the people stood at a distance from these people, Jesus reached out to them, and in particular, Levi. He calls to this man collecting taxes by the roadside and says "Follow Me". And Levi does! Understand this, once you left that position Rome would not let you back in, you could not get your old job back. But Levi left all, completely according to Luke 5:28, which says, "So he left all, rose up, and followed Him." Peter, Andrew, James and John could have gone back to the family fishing business, but not Levi!
What has it cost you to follow Christ? Family relations? Friendships? No longer being with the "in" crowd? A relationship with Christ will cost you but it is worth it. Levi saw that and left that old life behind to follow Christ. And the Lord is calling for us to do the same.
2. The name "Levi" means "to be joined to". Levi was joined to the world. Shackled to the things of this life that was dragging him down. But Jesus came and set him free of that bondage and his name is now "Matthew" or "a gift of God". Again, when we come to Christ that is what happens to us. We are set free from the bondage of sin and we truly have become a gift of God.
3. Now what is the first thing Matthew does after coming to Christ? He throws a party for all his friends so they could meet Jesus. And who showed up? Tax collectors and sinners. Those were his friends! And what did Jesus do? Did He leave the party because of those that were there? Not at all. Jesus was right in the middle with them, feasting with the tax collectors and sinners.
Now who had a hard time with what Jesus was doing? The religious leaders! They saw themselves above these people and didnt want to associate themselves with them. This kind of attitude hasnt changed in 2,000 years. People refuse to reach out to those who have long-hair, ear rings, all kinds of different dress, a variety of things keep us from others, distancing us from those who are in need, and that is not the example that Jesus gives us. Jesus reaches out to those in need. He had no problem with it and neither should we. And you know what, Jesus does reach out to those in need through us if we are willing, if we let Him!
When you study the life of Jesus you will find that He hung out with the so-called undesirables of society. Jesus went to those in need and so should we. If people of all backgrounds cant find refuge in the church, then something is wrong with the church! Listen to this true story and hopefully it will wake us up to what God wants us to do.
"During the reign of Oliver Cromwell the government ran out of silver with which to make the coinage of the realm. Cromwell therefore sent his men everywhere to see if they could find more of the precious metal. They returned to report that the only silver they could find was in the statues of the saints which were on display in various cathedrals of the land. Good! replied Cromwell, we will melt down the saints and put them into circulation!"
- H. G. Bosh
God does not want us sitting in some building, but ministering to the lost. God wants to put us into circulation!
Now as Jesus is enjoying His time with the friends of Levi, the religious leaders are complaining behind His back to the disciples of Jesus. They cant believe He is eating and drinking with these wicked people. And as Jesus hears what they are saying He nails them. He tells them, "...Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Mark 2:17.
Jesus is telling them that if you are healthy you dont go to the doctor, only if you are sick. Thus, He has come to cleanse those who are sick. The problem was the religious leaders saw themselves as healthy, as righteous, and in need of no one. Paul said in Romans 3:10, "As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one." Thus, the religious leaders needed the Great Physician, Jesus Christ, just as much as everyone else! Understand this. One person Jesus can do nothing for is the person who thinks he is good and does not need anything. That is where the religious leaders were at.
On the other hand the friends of Levi saw themselves as sinners and in need of forgiveness of their sins. It is those who come to Him that will receive the forgiveness of God.
1. In Luke 5:33 we are given a little more information. We are told that the disciples of Jesus were eating and drinking, they were not fasting as they should. Now according to Leviticus 16:29 they were only required to fast one day per year, and that was on the day of Atonement. But, by the time Jesus shows up the religious leaders developed the Law to the point where they had to fast twice a week if they really wanted to be holy. So every Monday and every Thursday they would fast. We see that in Luke 18:10-14, where we read "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank You that I am not like other men-- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess. And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner! I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." You see, it is a matter of the heart, not exalting self, but humbling yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up.
2. Many times in churches around the world you are told to be quiet, look somber, because you are in church. That is ridiculous. There should be joy as we come to worship the Lord. And the disciples of Jesus had a great time. They partied, were eating and drinking, and that drove the religious leaders crazy. The disciples of Jesus were full of joy while the religious leaders were into dead works, dead rituals. In fact, in Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus rebukes them for their outward, empty rituals they were doing. He said "Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." Fasting, prayer is not to show how spiritual you are to everyone, but to come before God and be directed by Him, let Him speak to your heart. A relationship by faith in Jesus brings us joy, something the religious leaders were missing.
1. The Jewish wedding practice back then went like this. After the wedding you would not go on a honeymoon but you would stay at home for a week and there would be a continual feasting and rejoicing. The friends of the bridegroom were their closest friends and they would serve the couple. But as they did they also served themselves, it was a feast. It was a time to be joyful. No fasting was done here.
2. The point Jesus is making here is that the joy of His disciples was directly related to how close, the proximity they were to Jesus. How does that relate to us? We, as Christians, have Jesus in us. That should make us happy, full of joy! We should not go around with somber faces because there is joy in the Lord.
3. Now in verse 20 Jesus gives us a hint of His death. He, being the bridegroom, will be taken away or the Greek speaks of a violent removal. And during this time when the world rejoices, His disciples would weep. But that weeping will be for a moment for death could not hold Jesus down. On the third day after He was crucified He rose from the dead and thus, we should be filled with joy overflowing. As Psalm 16:11 says, "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
1. Jesus gives two illustrations here to make the same point, and keep in mind it was for the religious leaders who had closed their ears to the things of God. First of all you could not put un-shrunk cloth on an old garment because the patch will eventually shrink and pull apart. Secondly, you would not put new wine into old wine skins because as the wine fermented the bag would burst. What in the world is Jesus talking about?
Jesus did not come to work within the religious system, but to call people into a relationship with Him. He wasnt coming to better a system He didnt establish in the first place. They tried to put God in a box and in doing so they legalized a relationship with God instead of it becoming a love relationship. In John 1:17 we read "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
We are saved by grace, unmerited favor, undeserved favor that has been given to us by God. All we must do is receive it into our lives. And in each generation and in different communities God works to reach the lost in different ways. We must be sensitive to His leading and not become fossilized - "I remember when" or "This is how it has always been done". Most of the revivals of the past have happened outside of the organized church because they try to box God up, and they are not open to what God is doing or wants to do. That was what was happening with these religious leaders.
Remember in II Chronicles 16:9, it says "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him..." God wants to use us for His glory. Listen to His still small voice and take those steps of faith.