Unexpected People; Unexpected Work

Posted: August 26, 2013 in Mark

Mark 2:13-22, “Unexpected People; Unexpected Work”

It’s a cliché to say, “No one expects the unexpected.”  By definition, unexpected things take us by surprise.  And “unexpected” is certainly a good word to describe what happens between Jesus and the tax-collector Levi.

If Jesus was going to be adding to His group of disciples, then the expected people to join would be the most religious in town.  Jesus had already called at least one person who had been a disciple of John the Baptist, so it would make sense if He called other people who were considered truly pious & God-fearing.  Even if He didn’t call a Pharisee, perhaps He would call a scribe, or someone else known for his faith in God.  All those expectations get blown out of the water when Jesus calls a tax-collector.  That would have been unthinkable in the eyes of the elite (though welcome news in the eyes of sinners!).

If that wasn’t bad enough, Jesus didn’t even seem to care for the religious traditions that were held so highly by others.  Why didn’t Jesus & His disciples fast like the Pharisees?  Even the disciples of John the Baptist fasted – and they couldn’t be accused of hypocrisy.  Why not Jesus?  He was certainly wasn’t abiding by what their expectations were…because they had the wrong expectations.

Jesus was using unexpected people for an unexpected work – and all of it served to magnify His saving grace in wonderful ways.

Mark 2:13–22
13 Then He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them.

  1. The familiar pattern in Mark continues.  Jesus shows up, people are attracted to Him, and He teaches them.  In Capernaum, Jesus had been teaching in the synagogue on a Sabbath when He healed a man of demon-possession, and the news of the event attracted all kinds of people to His door by the evening.  Later, Jesus went on a preaching tour, teaching the word and healing the people who were there.  Jesus returned to Capernaum, and people flocked to the home in which He was staying (again), and Jesus preached the word to them yet again.  No matter where Jesus goes, people show up & Jesus teaches.
  2. Do we receive what Jesus teaches?  Many people heard the teaching of Jesus, but few followed Him totally.  Many of these people followed Jesus for a time, and then went back to business-as-usual.  They heard the word of God from the lips of God, and somehow remained unchanged.  They didn’t truly receive what was taught.  We like to imagine that we would do better than those listening in the crowds.  After all, if we actually heard the words of Jesus as He taught them, surely we would recognize them for what they are & treasure them…right?  Yet we have what many in the crowds would have longed for: the full written revelation of the word of God, and (for every believer in Jesus Christ) the physical indwelling of the Holy Spirit Who teaches us.  And with all this privilege, we still so often take the teaching of Jesus for granted.  Or we pick & choose which parts we want to receive – or we ignore what He has to say completely as we let our multiple Bibles at home gather dust, etc.  Beloved: we have the incredible gift of the teaching of Almighty God at our fingertips!  May we recognize it & receive it for what it is!

14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.

  1. From the other gospel accounts, we know that Levi = Matthew.  Why the different name?  We don’t really know.  Levi was undoubtedly his name at birth, whereas after Jesus’ resurrection, he became more widely known as Matthew (as evidenced by the gospel book named after him).  Perhaps like Simon Peter, Jesus had given him this new name, but we simply cannot say.  His birth name certainly sets off a contrast with his profession.  Levi was the tribe of the priestly class – a family specifically dedicated unto the Lord.  We’re never told if Matthew was indeed a Levite, but it would seem likely based on his name.
  2. Notice that Levi/Matthew was not among the multitude.  Jesus had gone out to the coast of the Sea of Galilee to teach, and the people followed Him as He went – but Levi wasn’t among them.  Jesus actually passed Levi by while He was walking.  From the text, it seems that Levi was just going about his business at the “tax office.”  What caught Jesus’ attention, we don’t know.  Was Matthew listening intently to Jesus?  Was he virtually ignoring Jesus until Jesus walked up to him?  The Scripture simply doesn’t tell us.  All we know is that Matthew was at the tax office when Jesus showed up.  And that was when his whole world got turned upside-down for the better!
  3. It’s the tax office that is most striking.  Levi/Matthew was apparently a Jewish tax collector, and thus he would have been despised by his countrymen.  Tax-men (or “publicans” in the KJV) were in the employment of the Roman occupation forces (as led locally by Herod at the time), collecting taxes from the populace.  As distasteful as that would have been in itself, the way that the taxmen actually made their money was that the Romans allowed them to keep whatever amount they received over what the Romans required from them.  If the tax was $100, and the taxman charged $150, they just made themselves a nice little profit.  Thus many publicans became wealthy, but it was always at the literal expense of their own people.  They were hated by the community, viewed as national traitors, ex-communicated from the synagogues, and treated as the worst of the Gentiles.  “Respectable” Jews would have kept themselves far away from tax-collectors, simply to avoid the association.
    1. And it was a tax-collector to whom Jesus just issued a command to follow Him as a disciple.  This isn’t exactly the expected resume for a Bible-college student, much less someone who would become one of the foundations upon which Jesus would build His church (as He did with all of the apostles).  Matthew is a most unexpected choice!
    2. So are we…  1 Corinthians 1:26–29, "(26) For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. (27) But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; (28) and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, (29) that no flesh should glory in His presence." []  None of us should have been chosen by Jesus to follow Him, and yet every single born-again believer in Jesus Christ has the confirmation that he/is is!
  4. What happened when Jesus showed up at this tax office?  Jesus said two words (at least that are recorded for us), and Levi’s life was instantly and forever changed!  Jesus simply said “Follow Me,” and something instantly clicked in Matthew’s heart.  He heard Jesus’ call, and he obeyed – leaving everything to follow the Master’s invitation (Lk 9:28).
    1. The call is simple: “Follow Me.”  Obedience is implied in following, but interestingly Jesus never commands this tax collector to “obey” Him at this very moment.  He doesn’t lambast Levi for all of his sin, nor heap condemnation upon him.  Jesus simply commands Levi to “follow Him.”  Levi would have been acutely aware of his sin (no one in town would have let him forget it!), and the righteous law of God pointed out the truth of his sinful, pitiful condition.  Jesus did not come to condemn Levi, but to call him & save him.  Jesus gave Levi an invitation (which was more than a mere invitation, but a command) to leave everything behind and to come walk with Him.  The same invitation Jesus extended to Peter, Andrew, James, and John (fisherman, engaged in an “acceptable” career) was extended to this tax-collector.
    2. It can be easy to forget this at times.  When we go out and tell people about Jesus, we’re not commanding obedience to a list of rules and practices.  “Stop this, and do that” never solved anything.  That’s a legalistic response to symptoms of sin, but it doesn’t address the real problem.  Instead, what we’re doing is calling people to follow the Person of Jesus Christ.  We’re introducing them to Someone.  It’s not that we don’t call for repentance (we do!), but it always comes within a context of a Person.  The call for salvation can never be a list of rules, but instead is a call to follow Jesus as Lord.  (And when they respond to Jesus’ invitation & truly follow Him, they will naturally leave the other stuff behind!)
  5. What was Levi’s only appropriate response?  To get up & do it!  He did it – “he arose and followed Him.”  Something happened in that moment, and Levi knew exactly what to do.  He got up from where he was at the tax booth & left everything behind to go follow Jesus.  Some have noted that Levi left more behind than Simon Peter & the other disciples when they followed Jesus’ call.  After all, if things didn’t work out as planned, Peter & the others could go back to fishing (and they did for a time – Jn 21), but Levi/Matthew could never go back.  His was a sinful profession, and there was no return to it.  If Jesus somehow didn’t work out, then Levi would have left all his income behind, and he still would have been left with the lifelong stigma of having been a tax-collector.  There was no turning back…but Jesus was worth it all.
    1. Jesus IS worth it all!  Some people need to make some tough choices when they decide to follow Christ.  They have to leave sinful lifestyles & careers behind.  They can’t go back to business the way they always had before.  Sometimes relationships are broken, and more.  But Jesus is worth the cost – every bit of it!
  6. Apparently Levi wasn’t the only one whose life changed after an encounter with Jesus.  Look at vs. 15…

15 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.

  1. What was Jesus doing in Levi’s house?  Having a celebration!  The Lord Jesus was with them, had called Levi, and a traitor who made his living off of fleecing his own people to the Herod and the Romans now had a completely changed life.  THAT was something worth celebrating!  So now, Levi invited Jesus over to his home & gave a feast in His honor (Lk 5:29).
  2. So what did Levi do in regards to his new relationship with Jesus?  He apparently told everyone else that he knew that was in the same boat that he had been in.  Like Andrew who went and told Peter about Jesus, so did Levi tell his friends and co-workers about Jesus.  His own life had been changed by his encounter with the Lord, and there was no way he could keep silent about it.  Think of it: he had been given a brand-new beginning – he was a brand-new person.  He once was a known sinner, condemned by all and surely by his own conscience.  He certainly was condemned by the righteous law of God and totally excluded from worship and sacrifice.  He had no atonement for his sin, and was without hope.  But now?  Now the Messiah had come, and personally extended the grace of God to him in calling him.  Now Levi had a new identity & a new future.  Now he had a vibrant relationship with God Almighty.  How could he possibly hoard those blessings to himself when it could be so freely shared with others?  There were other people in the same situation as he was.  They also were without hope – they also were lost – they also were excluded from God.  But if Levi/Matthew could be saved, so could they.  And Matthew had to be the one to tell them.  Who else would?  After all, no one else would even associate with them.  It was Matthew’s responsibility, and Matthew did it joyfully with this feast.
  3. And they responded! “There were many”  We’re not told the exact number, but there were “many” other tax collectors & other various sinners who were changed by Jesus as well.  They may not have all been called to be apostles, but they ALL “followed” Jesus.
  4. Question: what was it that caused them to follow Christ?  Had they witnessed the scandalous call of Levi?  Had they seen an immediate change in Matthew’s life?  Had they been on the outside of the multitude before, only now to be fully convinced once Matthew was called?  Had Jesus been working personally with many of them as well?  Of course, Scripture doesn’t tell us.  It could have been any/all/none of these things.  But whatever it was, it had left a big impact.
    1. We might never know the impact our personal walk with Jesus has upon those around us.  But we’ll certainly never know if we never share Him.  Who else will tell our friends, family, and neighbors if we won’t?  How else will they hear about Jesus unless they are told?  Evangelism isn’t always knocking door-to-door (though it can be!)…it can be as simple as inviting someone to dinner.  Or to church – or to an evangelistic event, etc.

16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”

  1. Not everyone rejoiced over the change.  The religious leaders (the scribes and Pharisees) were appalled to see Jesus “eating with the tax collectors and sinners.”  They didn’t seem to have a problem with these people listening to Jesus’ teaching out in the open square, but socializing with them & eating with them was completely unacceptable.
  2. This is somewhat an expected response from the scribes and Pharisees.  After all, they went to great lengths to keep themselves pure, according to the traditions that they had built up out of the Torah (or in addition to the Torah – OT).  They went to great lengths to keep themselves separate from sinners.  And here was Jesus, flagrantly associating with these people who were known sinners.  Even if these sinners had made a decision to follow Jesus in true repentance, surely their former lives couldn’t have been too far in the past.  How did anyone know these guys were actually repentant?  There wasn’t any time for a track record.  For all we know from the text, some of these people could have made a decision to follow Christ & still have had sinful habits and actions that hadn’t yet changed.  From the perspective of the scribes & Pharisees, this did not speak well of this teacher & prophet from Nazareth.  How were they supposed to endorse His teaching if this Man did not recognize the sin in the people around Him?  Didn’t Jesus value His own personal purity?  Didn’t He realize that He would be implicitly endorsing these people with whom He ate?
    1. There’s always a reason that can be found as to why we can’t reach out to someone.  If you want to find an excuse why NOT to love or extend grace, you’ll come up with something easily enough.  What’s always harder is actually pushing those things aside and loving others as Jesus loves us.
  3. Did you notice the different categories?  There were the scribes & Pharisees (who were apparently comfortable enough talking to the disciples), and there were the tax collectors & sinners.  IOW, there were the religious – and the sinners.  The scribes & Pharisees did not remotely imagine to include themselves in the latter group.  That was reserved for “those” people. … Sinners are often “those” people, or “other” people, but certainly never “me” or “my” people.  Wrong – sinners are all of us.  The Bible makes it clear that none are righteous, and all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:10,23).  The Bible shows us (even the Pharisees among us) that even our best attempts at accomplishing righteousness apart from God’s grace & power are like filthy rags in the sight of the Lord (Isa 64:6).  The moment we start excluding ourselves from those “other sinners” is the moment we start creating categories of people that the Bible does not.  WE are those sinners.  The person who is self-righteous is just as sinful as the Jewish tax-collector – and perhaps in an even more dangerous situation in that he doesn’t recognize his own sinfulness.

17 When Jesus heard it, He said to 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.”

  1. The Pharisees had spoken to the disciples of Jesus, but Jesus answered the Pharisees directly.  (Whether the disciples had reported the comments, or if He simply knew what they were whispering is left unsaid.)  No doubt Jesus realized the consternation all of this would cause the scribes & Pharisees…He wasn’t exactly worried about their heartburn or disapproval of it all.  The scribes and Pharisees had already disapproved of much of Jesus’ ministry, and they would disapprove of more along the way.  Jesus’ was never seeking their endorsement; He’s God…He doesn’t need anyone’s endorsement.  He DID, however, use their complaint as a teaching opportunity to show them something about themselves.
  2. The idea is basic enough: sick people need doctors; sinners need a Savior.  Those who understand that they are ill do what needs to be done to go to a physician that will care for them.  They realize they have a disease, so they go to someone with the skill to heal the disease.  Likewise with sinners.  Those who understand the severity of their sin & the consequences that will follow from it will go to Someone who is able to help.  (And there is only one Person able to help: Jesus!  He stands apart from every other religion & so-called “holy” man in history.  He alone is God, proven through His death & resurrection!  There is no other name given among men in history by which we must be saved.)  The person who understands his/her own sin for what it is will run to Jesus in repentance and faith.
  3. Take a moment on that.  What IS sin?  Simply put, it’s rebellion against God.  Sin can be defined as “missing the mark” as in archery when the arrow misses the target.  Sometimes that’s unintentional, sometimes not.  But in all cases, it’s departing from the perfect standard of the righteousness of God, and it is rebellion against His rule in our lives.  As GOD, He has the right to rule, and in our sin we attempt to rule ourselves.  Whether that comes in the form of outright crime, or simple pride is irrelevant.  It’s all still sin. … What DOES sin do? It kills.  Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." []  All sin requires the shedding of blood, and all sin brings death.  People might sin a lot or a little, but we are all under the same death sentence.  We are all doomed to the eternal consequences of our sin without the miraculous intervention of God.  Once someone understands all of that, what other response could they have OTHER than turn from their sins as best they can & throw themselves on the mercy & grace of Jesus?  And that’s what “repentance” is: a turning from & a turning to.  A person who confesses their own sin unto Jesus & desires to follow Him as Lord turns away from their sin, and actively turns to Jesus in faith.  That’s what Jesus calls all sinners (even US!) to do.
    1. FYI – many Bible translations do not include the words “to repentance,” because they are not included in some manuscripts.  They are recorded in the majority of manuscripts, as well as in the parallel passage in Luke 5:32. 
  4. Regarding Jesus’ response to the Pharisees & His presence among Levi & the other tax collectors, some people might get the wrong idea & think that Jesus didn’t really care about the sin.  They might think (like the Pharisees) that Jesus was just ignoring what these people had been doing, or that it didn’t really matter to Him at all.  Jesus’ own words show the exact opposite.  Not once does Jesus gloss over sin.  He doesn’t use any trite names for it or try to make it sound less than what it is.  The tax collectors & others WERE “sinners,” and that’s what Jesus called them.
    1. It’s most likely because they realized that they were sinners that they needed Jesus.  It’s no wonder they flocked to Him the way they did!  Someone who understands a ship is sinking is going to obey the call of the captain to get on the lifeboat, but a person who refuses to acknowledge the problem is going to stay on deck.  The tax collectors understood they were sinking, and Jesus was their Savior – and they listened & followed.
  5. That’s the problem with the scribes & the Pharisees – they didn’t understand they were in trouble. “Sinners” is a far bigger category than they realized.  Jesus wasn’t glossing over anyone’s sin – He was showing that His standard regarding sin was far higher than even the Pharisees.  In the eyes of God, even the scribes and Pharisees were sinners as well!  If anyone was guilty of glossing over sin, it was the religious leaders because they saw everyone’s sins except their own.  The scribes & Pharisees were just as “sick” as the other sinners in the room & they also needed the salvation of “Dr. Jesus” as badly as anyone else…only they never realized it.  They were blind to what they themselves had done.

18 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”

  1. The scene changes, but not by much.  The dinner at Levi’s house might have taken place some days ago, or this could have been an outgrowth from that night’s worth of feasting.  Obviously the disciples of Jesus would have been eating that night (along with everyone else), and it might have underscored a trend that the other religious people in town noticed.  Why is it that they themselves would take time for fasting, but Jesus & His disciples never seemed to do the same thing?
  2. BTW – notice that the groups in this instance weren’t always aligned with each other on the same page.  This is not the “scribes and the Pharisees,” but rather “the disciples of John and of the Pharisees.”  John’s disciples and Jesus’ disciples were closely connected in many ways.  John’s whole ministry was to prepare people for Jesus – Jesus’ first recorded preaching was the same message as that of John (“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”) – some of the disciples of John even became disciples of Jesus.  These guys knew one another well!  And yet here, the disciples of John have more in common with the disciples of the Pharisees, than they did with Jesus.  The disciples of John & of the Pharisees each took time to fast, and apparently did so on a regular basis.  In Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee & tax collector, the Pharisee claimed to fast twice per week (Lk 18:12).
    1. Keep in mind, this wasn’t sinful; it was just tradition.  What made the Pharisee’s practice of fasting sinful was the pride they took in it.  There’s no reason to assume John’s disciples did the same thing.  No doubt they fasted with sincerity, and they did it on a regular basis for discipline.  But it was tradition; not Scripture.  The Scripture commanded annual fasting for the Day of Atonement, and on other random occasions – nowhere was weekly fasting commanded (much less twice weekly).
  3. Culturally speaking, the question is a good one.  How could two other groups of religious people be fasting, and yet Jesus’ own group not be fasting?  Even if there were problems with the Pharisees, surely there weren’t from John’s disciples.  They truly were seeking the Lord God, and this was a good way of doing it.  From their perspective, they might be asking, “Why WE & not THEE?”  Was this hypocrisy?  No.  See vs. 19…

19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.

  1. Notice Jesus never condemns fasting.  He just states the reason why His disciples didn’t do it like the others did at the time.  Jesus does not tell the disciples of John nor the disciples of the Pharisees to avoid fasting, but He does acknowledge a difference between His disciples & the rest of them.  What was the difference?  His disciples were “friends of the bridegroom.”  John the Baptist had used a similar term for himself, and also spoke of rejoicing in the presence of the bridegroom (Jn 3:29) – here, Jesus applies the idea to His own disciples.
  2. If Jesus’ disciples are the bridegroom’s friends, then Jesus is the bridegroom.  Jesus was with them, and His very presence was a reason for celebration!  To use His analogy, fasting during a wedding feast would be inappropriate.  In fact, it would be insulting.  The whole point of attending a wedding feast would be to celebrate the wedding, whereas fasting is supposed to be private & sometimes even mournful.  If someone showed up at a wedding in sackcloth & ashes while flagrantly demonstrating their fast, it would insult the families & all those in attendance.  No – when you’re at a celebration, you celebrate!  JESUS was with them.  The Messiah of whom Israel had waited for thousands of years had now arrived & was walking among them.  Once people recognized Him for Who He is, repented & put their faith in Him, it was time to celebrate His presence and His person! …
    1. BTW – if Jesus is the bridegroom, who’s the bride? The Church! (Eph 5)

20 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.

  1. Things would not always be joyful for the friends of the bridegroom.  There would come a time during which “the bridegroom will be taken away from them.”  Jesus seems to be referring to His arrest and crucifixion – the first mention of it in the book of Mark, and an early reference to it in His overall ministry.  If the days Jesus was with them were cause for celebration, there was also coming a time of great darkness in which fasting and mourning would be entirely appropriate.  Truly the days of Jesus’ arrest, execution, and burial were the darkest days the apostles would have ever known.
  2. Question: if it was appropriate for the disciples to fast during Jesus’ arrest, how are we act now after His resurrection?  After all, Jesus promised that He would be with us to the end of the age (Mt 28:20) – we have the actual presence of the Holy Spirit abiding within each & every one of us as believers in Christ (as a seal – Eph 1:13, as His temple – 1 Cor 6:19).  Of course Jesus is not physically among us today in the same way as He was with the original 12 disciples, but truly Jesus IS among us.  Is it inappropriate for Christians to fast today?  Not at all.  We don’t want to stretch Jesus’ statement beyond its intent.  Jesus had a special ministry with the disciples at that time – something that had never been experienced before to this level in the history of the world.  Of course His disciples would act differently.  How could they not?  And when Jesus was raised from the dead, there was still much cause for celebration!  Yet after He ascended to the Father in heaven, there came times of trial and tribulation (just as He promised – Jn 16:33), and fasting was most definitely appropriate.  Not legalistic fasting – no attempts to try to manipulate God through prayer, or rituals done without thought – but true fasting in which believers in the Lord Jesus sought God earnestly in prayer and listened for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  When Barnabas and Paul were first sent out on their missionary journeys, it was because they received a command from the Holy Spirit after a time of fasting and prayer (Acts 13:3).  When Paul & Barnabas were first raising up elders in the Gentile churches, they did so with fasting (Acts 14:23).
    1. It’s still appropriate for the people of God to fast.  There are times that we need to have a special way of setting things apart in order for us to seek God without distraction.  There are trials we have or questions that we face in which we need to dedicate ourselves to the Lord Jesus in a different way than the everyday.  Those are times in which we can fast.  (Perhaps part of our problem as American evangelicals is not too much fasting, but too little!)

21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

  1. Jesus had alluded to having a different ministry than either John or the Pharisees, and He explains it further through this mini-parable.  Two illustrations; one main idea.  New and old don’t often mix well together.  What good is it to put a patch on an item of clothing when the patch is only going to shrink & rip the clothing item even further?  Or what good is it trying to put grape juice that isn’t yet done fermenting into an already-used wineskin?  The old wine-skin had already been stretched to its limit in the previous fermentation process, and the new wine would just cause it to burst.  Attempting to mix the new and the old would only serve to cause damage to both of them.  The old garment and the old wineskin weren’t bad, but they had already served their purposes.  Putting something brand-new on them would have wasted the new and ruined what was left of the other.
  2. The point?  God was doing something brand-new in Jesus.  There was nothing wrong with the ministry of John.  There wasn’t really anything wrong with the tradition of fasting, even as practiced by John & the Pharisees (as long as there wasn’t any self-righteousness that accompanied it).  But the new ministry of Jesus wasn’t going to be forced to fit into old traditions.  Jesus’ grace was not going to simply accompany everything that the Jewish people had always done through the law and tradition; Jesus would fulfill the law & supersede the tradition.  Jesus instituted a new covenant – a new relationship with God.  It could not be forced back into an “old wineskin.”
    1. This is the issue that Paul & the author of Hebrews faced so often in regards to the Judaizers.  People kept trying to put new wine into old wineskins.  They kept trying to make Christians into Jews rather than simply lifting up Christ.  A Jew who puts his faith in Christ finds the Messiah to whom all his traditions point – and it’s wonderful.  A Gentile who puts her faith in Christ finds the Lord she was always excluded from – and that’s wonderful.  But there’s no reason to make a Gentile into a Jew.  Jesus has done away with all those distinctions; He’s made one new body (the Church).
  3. What was new about Jesus?  Everything & nothing all at the same time.  God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8) – the God who created the heavens and the earth is the same God who brought the Hebrews into the Promised Land and the same God who took the Jews into the Babylonian Captivity, Who came incarnate as Jesus, Who sent the Holy Spirit, and Who will pour out His wrath upon the earth & come in fierce judgment, etc.  God does not change through any of this.  His character remains steadfast.  The same God whom John proclaimed is the same God that Jesus revealed.  And yet there is the difference.  Jesus revealed God because Jesus IS God.  Jesus not only taught the Law; He fulfills the Law.  Jesus doesn’t merely point to the grace of God; He personally extends it.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with the ministry of Moses & the Prophets, but Jesus can’t be forced into that mold because He goes so completely beyond it!  His work is unique among everything that had come before and after because there is no one like Jesus!

It was an unexpected work that God was doing through unexpected people.  Surely of all the people to whom the Messiah would extend a call to discipleship, it would not be to tax-collectors and other sinners.  Surely of all people, Jesus’ own disciples would engage in the most holy and religious of traditions.  Right?  Wrong.  Jesus turned all of those expectations upside-down.  Those whom Jesus called as disciples were not the elite, but the despised.  The religious traditions that were seen as so necessary were placed in a different light.  Jesus was doing something brand-new, and what He does is wonderful!

Have we received His teaching?  His word is wonderful!
Have we heard His call?  He invites the world to follow Him, and we are to follow!
Have we recognized our need?  We are sinners in need of a Savior; diseased in need of a physician.
Have we recognized His work?  His salvation and grace is unlike anything that has come before.

Once we’ve recognized this for ourselves, then we have a responsibility to share it with others.  Maybe you can have an impact like Levi.  Who would have thought a tax-collector could be used to bring so many people to faith?  (And not just at the hour of his conversion, but throughout the centuries!)  Jesus knew. J  Jesus knows you, too, and knows exactly how He wants to use you.  Let yourself be used BY Him for His marvelous work.


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