March 24, 2020- Jesus, Friend of Hypocrites, Tax Collectors and Garden Variety Sinners- Psalm 78:36-39, Luke 7:31-35 and Mark 2:16-17

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But they flattered him with their mouths;
they lied to him with their tongues.

Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
they were not faithful to his covenant.

Yet he, being compassionate,
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often
and did not stir up all his wrath.

He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again. Psalm 78:36-39 (ESV)

(Jesus said:) “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like?  They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’  The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.” Luke 7:31-35 (ESV)

There are those who avoid participating in a church, citing that “the church is full of hypocrites.”  To that the answer should be, “there’s always room for one more.”

All of us are hypocrites, Christian or not, because all people are sinners.  We all fall short of what God demands of us.  We all “flatter God with our mouths” but don’t follow through with our lip service.  We don’t love God with our whole heart.  We don’t love our neighbors as ourselves.

This reality underscores our need for Jesus, the Suffering Servant, who the prophet Isaiah foretold, (Isaiah 53) who was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, and who purchased our healing and redemption through His wounds.

All of us wayward sheep have gone astray and need Jesus- the Son of Man who came eating and drinking and befriending tax collectors and sinners and garden variety hypocrites like us.

And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:16-17 (ESV)

Jesus is our greatest friend.  We can trust Him in all things.

 

December 5, 2019 – Advent 5, Luke 5- Fishing for Men, Eating With Tax Collectors, Healing a Paralyzed Man, and New Wine

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Read Luke 5.

Jesus came to save the lost and the outsiders. Jesus came to save the ones who knew but weren’t able to obey the Mosaic Law, as well as those who had never heard of the Mosaic Law.

To put it more succinctly, Jesus came to save sinners- and all human beings (except Jesus) who have ever lived were and are sinners.

And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”  And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”  And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5:5-11 (ESV)

Imagine the fishermen’s disdain when Jesus told them to fish on the other side of the lake, when and where their experience told them, “there won’t be any fish.”  Imagine their surprise when their nets were overflowing with fish when they cast where Jesus instructed them.

Jesus chose to reveal Himself to Simon Peter, a self-admitted sinful man.

And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus,  but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.  And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” Luke 5:18-24 (ESV)

Jesus, the One Who forgives sins- and only God can do that- says to the paralyzed man, both, “Your sins are forgiven,” which is a condition that others cannot see, and “Rise, pick up your bed and go home, ” a very visible and tangible miracle.  Of course the scribes and the Pharisees would not expect this- they knew the Law all too well, but did not understand the One who was the fulfillment of the Law.

“And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them.  And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:29-32 (ESV)

Levi, the tax collector, who in the minds and experience of the Pharisees was a sinner with a capital S, was a person that they would write off as being too far gone.  Levi was someone who doesn’t fit the parameters of the believing community.

But Jesus comes as the Great Physician, the one ministering to those who know they don’t follow the Mosaic Law, the ones who know full well they can’t save their own souls.

And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.  And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.” Luke 5:34-39 (ESV)

How could people be with Jesus and not want to celebrate? The times of trial would come for the apostles- with all but John dying violent and ignominious deaths, and even John died as a prisoner and an exile.

Jesus upended the whole system.  He came to earth because he knew that no human being could keep the Law 100%.  He came to earth knowing that He would die a horrific death on a Roman cross, because He was the only One qualified as a perfect sacrifice to take away the sins of the world.

The new wine is not familiar.  It doesn’t have the flavor of age, or the inherited hint of privilege in it.  The old wine is tastier- it’s comfortable and acceptable and safe to hide behind the old rituals and traditions and rules. But in the end, the rituals and traditions and rules of the scribes and Pharisees became whitewashed tombs that covered up all sorts of foul rottenness on the inside as Jesus points out in Matthew 23:27.  Looking good on the outside and outwardly observing traditions doesn’t get it.

Taking up one’s cross and following Jesus-drinking the new wine- isn’t going to be comfortable and it might not taste good to us in this lifetime, but Jesus is the only Way to life. It is only because of Jesus that we are called to and can embark upon the crucified life. It is a passive act for us, that Jesus does TO us.  Jesus calls, draws, acts and compels us through the Holy Spirit to follow Him.

And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34-36 (ESV)

Simeon’s prophecy to Mary definitely comes true.  Through Jesus many do rise and fall in Israel.  The anguish of Mary’s soul as her firstborn Son died in agony for her salvation and for the salvation of all who believe, is incomprehensible.  Yet Jesus comes to us- from outside of us, through none of our merit, and brings healing, restoration and life to the unlikely, to the forgotten, to the failures. He breaks open the whitewashed tombs and exposes their filth to the light, all while lifting up the hopeless and undeserving.