August 5, 2011

Hard Sayings V: Who Called Who?

Mark 2:15-17 "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. 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?” 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.”

The first thought whenever many hear that certain word is "somebody else" or "not me". The word is sinner. To get people to realize they need help you need to convince them they are in need of it. Most do not go there. I even hear it often from church leadership. "Teaching the Bible is a great idea, its just hard to get people to come and sit and listen." It is because, most often, many feel they do not need to be taught because they do not need to learn because deep down inside...they really don't think they are that much of a sinner. They do not believe they are really that wretched. The infamous Pharisaic attitude. Not me! Him!

Yes! You are that bad and so am I! Any discussion of the Bible or Christ that does not confront people with the reality of their sin is not the Gospel. Jesus' rigorous demands when He says stuff like, "You have heard it said...but I say to you..." are to call us to faith. They are meant to be impossible to meet in many cases. They are meant to be impossible because your salvation is not something you do through your actions. It is something completed through faith in His actions! Until people have been brought to see that they are sinners (in the worst sense of the word) and until they feel the onus of their sin, the Lord will not give them salvation. How do I know that? It is only through the weight and guilt of that sin that pushes you to a repentant heart that you can have that salvation in faith.Again, I'll say it (someone has to) are that bad. People that do not understand the Gospel correctly and suffer under the weight of guilt of their sin cannot possibly understand the need for Christ. They cannot understand the need, nea, the requirement to read the Bible so they can get their heads right with God. They are incapable. That is why when people are in their most sinful reprobate condition they are incapable of searching or seeking God. They have no reason to because feel they don't NEED to. That is why God needs to call or draw sinners to Himself. Otherwise they will just continue to spiral around in an endless cycle of sinful madness oblivious of their need to seek Jesus Christ. There are probably people who will read this post who will deny this need even after they have read it. "Repent? Nah, not me, I'm good. My relationship with Jesus is strong. Sin...I don't need to worry about it, my sin was never that bad to begin with." These people? Some of them are sitting right next to you in church and even your Bible Study.

It is actually quite simple: People that do not or cannot understand the seriousness of their sin cannot respond to the Gospel, the Bible or Jesus Christ. The grace filled call of salvation is not extended to those who already believe they are righteous, before or after they have accepted Him. If you are acting self-righteous and pious after you accepted Him...I'm betting you didn't. [now go back and read those last three sentences again to make sure you fully grasped it]. Jesus refuses the righteous if that is the attitude they approached Him with!!! Read it people! That is exactly what Jesus said! No you say? Reality check time. How close were people to Jesus when they called Him Messiah, King and shouted Hosanna! yet when questioned by Pilate they called for Christ's Crucifixion over Barabbas a murdering zealot?

Hard saying indeed! Paul knew his sin, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst." Yeah, Paul knew the truth.

Jesus who was a teacher/Rabbi held in high regard by many, held low regard of the opinion of other teachers when they criticized Him for associating with these "low lifes" like sinners like tax collectors. They firmly resented this breach of protocol and resented even more Jesus' disregard of them when He said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus, "friend of sinners" was initially a criticism of Him. To us today it is a welcome description and reassurance to us all, not a mockery of Him and we are lucky He is our friend. Therein lies the key to understanding this passage. Friend of sinners, our friend...ours...we are all sinners. These teachers of the law who were Pharisees thought otherwise just like most of us do now. It is our nature as humans. To think we are better than we really are, when we're really not. None of us is capable of a righteous work that is fitting in the eyes of God. We are only capable of consistently failing to achieve anything of value without the imputed righteousness of Christ or through the work of the Holy Spirit.

In this time and place to accept an invitation to eat with these people and partake of their hospitality was the equivalent in the eyes of the society as declaring unity with them and becoming one with them. We must remember this is a culture of reciprocity and care of strangers. As a teacher or "peer" of the Pharisees it is no wonder they took such offense (wrongfully I might add). Their perception of Jesus was wrong. Their opinion of themselves was way to high and they esteemed themselves and their position way too much.Conversely, they should've been helping the tax collectors and "sinners" having been so-called shepherds of God's flock. Instead the sinners are viewed as leprous or diseased sheep and avoided totally.

Instead of asking Jesus directly, they ask the disciples who, if we are honest about it, really didn't truly understand Jesus' motives either so we have a case of the blind-leading-the-blind. Jesus will have none of this because Jesus knows the hearts of men even though the Pharisees are poor judges of their own motives, Jesus is not. Jesus realizes that they are attempting to undermine the authority and purposes of God. He intercedes with our answer above.

So let us look really close at Jesus' statement to determine why He accepted their invite to dinner. We do not need to look far either because it is even recognizable at face value. Jesus ends His statement with, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Who called? To call someone meant to invite them.

"I have not come to call..."...."I"

The tax collectors and sinners didn't call Jesus to dinner. Jesus called them. He invited them. This was His invite. God's sovereign grace is in full effect here. These men and women were called here at this time for God's purposes to possibly save some, plant a seed for others and clearly to bring glory to God in the face of Pharisaic criticism. The Pharisees were religious leaders that wouldn't have known a righteous man if he came up and smacked them upside the head.

This is not human reciprocity or hospitality on display so much as it is divine mercy and grace abounding in the setting.

The next time you go to a soup kitchen, NA or AA meeting or inner-city mission and think to yourself, "Oh, I'm just here helping the downtrodden, those messed up drug-addicts or disenfranchised of society", check your motives. If you're doing it because you feel you are better off or just plain better and think they are blessed to have your may be the opposite way around. God may be calling you out in a sovereign work of mercy and grace. We are told this story of the tax collectors, sinners, disciples and Pharisees not because one half of the people in the story are good and the other half bad but because they are all bad and all sinners. Many of them just don't realize it. Why do we suppose the disciples and Pharisees are here at this dinner too? You don't think accidents this convenient in Scripture are accidents, do you? Jesus had previously also called the disciples to Him. And the Pharisees? Well, what do you think they were doing there...? You don't suppose all of them went to Hell without repenting do you? We know for a fact them some of them believed in Jesus and followed Him. Nicodemus ring anyone's bells?

Who does Jesus come to call? The sick, the unrighteous, the sinners. Who does Scripture say is righteous? Well, lets look at Scripture.

Romans 3:10-12  “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

Romans 3:21-24 "But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

A righteousness given though faith in Jesus Christ. Implication being Jesus Christ is the only acceptable source of righteousness in God's eyes. Luke's version of this story is even more specific and clues us in to the "heart" of the matter.

Luke 5:31-32 "Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for sinners foremost. Those people God had called to this dinner were there not just because God wanted them there, He wanted them there so they would either repent there or come away with something that would lead them to repentence. This had to include the likes of the Pharisees also since they too were in need of it.

If we understand repentence properly as taught by Jesus we realize that it is a change of not just heart and mind but actual character. We are going way past just thinking good thoughts to the point that our attitude has already determined our actions and those actions are already discernible in the fruits of who we are not just outward behavior. Please note I said fruits. The actions are not outward piousness like the Pharisees but actual by-products of who the new creation/person has become. If Luke is right with his two word addition (which he was) then Jesus is doing the calling and it is being done to fix the very core of the problem - the heart. This stands directly opposed to the judgmental nature of the Pharisees judging outward behavior or symptoms of the sin. Jesus' analogy of the physician is then even more apropos. In dealing with the very core nature of the issue, Jesus is attempting to cut past the symptoms that the Pharisees are addressing and attempting to fix the very thing that has cause the sin...a failure to repent or an inability to recognize one's falleness and need as a sinner to seek forgiveness and mean it. Jesus is trying to heal hearts. This couldn't be farther from the minds of the religious leaders as they feel they do not need to. Thereby this statement from Jesus is most poignently directed at the Pharisees not tax collecters and "sinners". Sadly, the Pharisees are so blind they totally miss Jesus' point. Totally blind. Often times I think we reading this are also blind. Are you? He couldn't possibly be referring to us in this could He? YES! YES!! Of course Jesus is. Who else do you think He was referring to????

I told you that many would not like these posts for the "Hard Sayings" series. Now you know why. If I am not convicting you of your sin with these posts I am either not typing them right, your not reading them right or you have way too high and opinion of yourself and your standing in God's eyes. The true mind of a Christian is humble and this is why.

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