INTRODUCTION / TAX COLLECTORS & SINNERS
All right. Let’s get started.
Here’s what I think is really odd about Christians and their views of Jesus.
There are a number of things that we just LOVE about Jesus…and yet we don’t seem to want to replicate ourselves.
For example, how he interacted with people and particuLARly, WHO he interacted with.
And so today, as we continue in the Gospel of Luke, we’re going to come across a story where our hearts want to say, “Yay! That’s great! Go Jesus!”
And yet, when I say, “Now, let’s all go and be like Jesus,” we say, “Meh…well, here’s why I can’t…because…um…”
And may that never be the case with us.
To be a Christian…by definition…is to BE LIKE Christ.
As we continue in Luke, we’re actually going to skip over a story in Luke 5, and that’s the story of the 4 friends carrying the paralyzed man to Jesus.
And we’re going to do so because it’s a story we’ve already taught on twice in the history of our church.
We’re going to see Jesus reaching out to a tax collector named Levi…who was also known by the name of Matthew as well.
(Luke 5:27-32) – NIV
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
So Jesus calls Levi to be one of his disciples.
Levi is a tax collector.
And at first, you may think, “Oh, the Pharisees (who are some the Jewish religious leaders) didn’t like Levi because he’s kind of like a guy who works for the IRS.”
Except, it’s much worse than that…if there is such a thing
See, at this time in history Israel was occupied and controlled by the Romans.
The Romans had come in, conquered the Israelites, and even brutally killed many of their people in war.
And in order to support their massive Roman army and empire, they collected taxes from the Jewish people.
And they did so by employing local Jewish people as their tax collectors.
They also allowed these local tax collectors to push up the price however much they liked, and the local tax collectors could keep the extra margin for themselves.
This would be like if Canada went crazy, invaded the US, murdered a bunch of your friends, and then your neighbor started collecting taxes from you to pay Canada…and in the process…he charged you extra so he could buy himself a fancy new car
Tax Collectors were hated…deplored…by almost everyone in Israel.
And it’s to that type of person that Jesus reaches out to, and asks Him to follow Him.
DESPITE what he’s done.
Hear that Word this morning.
If you are struggling right now because of something you’ve done…maybe this week…maybe this year…
Jesus knows…and yet He calls you to follow Him anyway.
RELIGION ALWAYS DRAWS A LINE
And not only that, we’re told that Levi (this new follower of Jesus) is so excited that Jesus would accept Him and forgive Him…that he throws a HUGE banquet at his house.
And Levi seems to invite all of his tax collector friends
And he invites them to a banquet, so they can what??
I love it! Absolutely love it!
But guess who doesn’t love it?
The Pharisees…the religious establishment.
They cannot believe that a Godly person (like Jesus) would associate with such immoral people…let alone EAT with them!
So why does this make the religious Pharisees so upset?
It’s because RELIGION (which is the idea that you are saved because of what you do)…RELIGION always wants to create a distinction…a dichotomy…between good and bad.
Not just right and wrong…but WHO is good and who is bad.
People who don’t understand Christianity, and prefer “RELIGION,” still do this today.
In fact, almost everyone (without the teaching of Jesus), gravitates towards the type of thinking where there are “good people” and “bad people”
People are fiercely moral.
Even if they say they are tolerant and believe people can do whatever they want.
Think of what a young, atheist college student might say:
That student might say, “It’s up to anyone how they want to live their life,” but not realize that statement is about the furthest thing from the actual truth of what they really believe.
Because that same college student would quickly condemn the sin of racism (rightfully so), or the sin of sexual harassment in the #metoo era (rightfully so), or the sin of not looking for justice for the oppressed.
Pick any hot button issue you like.
And so even a young atheist can’t help themselves from creating a line between “good people like themselves” and the “old racists, sexual harassers” who are clearly in a category beneath them.
The Pharisees too, have spent a lifetime making sure there was a clear distinction between themselves (whom they deem as “the righteous”) and others who make bad choices (whom they deem “the sinners”)
Jesus gives us an example of how the Pharisees pray later in Luke
(Luke 18:11-12) – NIV
11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
Of course, we never want to think we’re anything like the Pharisees…
We always prefer to identify with the protagonist when we read the story…surely we must be more like Jesus in this one.
But, personally, this time, I’m not so sure.
I could give you a whole list of the types of people that we tend to think we’re better than (perhaps even in a different category of righteousness) because of WHAT we do and HOW we live (that’s “religion”).
Are you better than your sibling who can’t keep a job?
Are you better than your co-worker who’s gay?
Are you better than your friend who got divorced?
Are you better than that person who can’t afford their own home?
Are you better than that couple who’s living together?
Are you better than that person who voted for (insert whomever you want)?
Listen, I’m not saying there is no right or wrong…you know I’m not saying that if you’ve been around here more than 2 weeks J
Jesus himself is absolutely clear about right and wrong…but he’s also absolutely clear that we cannot categorize ourselves as “good people” and “bad people” based on what WE do.
Look at verse 32 again
(Luke 5:32) – NIV
32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
What He’s doing here, is he’s actually mocking the Pharisees…for they’re not actually righteous because of what they do.
The New Living Translation even says, “I have not come to call those who THINK they are righteous”
There’s no such thing as a person being “righteous on their own”
Paul tells us in Romans 3 that there is NO one righteous, no not even one.
If I’ve done ANYTHING good in my life, it’s not because of me, but because of Him.
I’m just a messed up sinner whose been saved by grace and changed by Jesus.
But if I forget that, I’ll look at the people I pass by everyday “through the eyes of a judge
And not a good judge either, but an unbelievably biased one
One that puts people below himself or herself because they don’t do the things that we do.
THE EYES OF A DOCTOR
But we’re not called to look at people through the eyes of a judge…
So how does the Scripture call us to see people?
We should see them through THE EYES OF A DOCTOR
Because this is how Jesus sees people.
What did he say?
(Luke 5:31) – NIV
31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
I’m indebted to Professor Donald Sunukjian (suh-NOO-kee-an) in his thoughts on this verse.
He correctly points out that when you look at people, not through the eyes of a judge, but through the eyes of a doctor, you can see their hurts…and that God can heal them.
So it’s no longer just the guy at work who’s always yelling at everyone and makes everyone feel uncomfortable (and what a jerk!)
That’s the eyes of a JUDGE
You’re here (up)…he’s there (down)
NO, this is a guy who’s hurt, probably insecure, definitely lost, and someone who needs the healing transformation of Jesus.
That’s the eyes of a doctor
It’s not just the teenage girl or young adult who’s throwing away her life by sleeping around and partying (that’s the eyes of a judge)
But it’s a girl who’s lost, and looking for significance/affirmation/idenity, and maybe even crying herself to sleep in the pain and guilt.
Look through the eyes of a doctor, and you’ll just see people…on the same level as you.
People who need Jesus…just the same as you.
And listen to me, this is quite different from what the world says. Don’t confuse this.
The world says, “No one’s perfect, so let everyone do their own thing.”
Jesus says, “Everyone’s sick (including you), but that’s why we all need a doctor…so we can be changed…healed.”
LIVING AS MODERN DAY DOCTORS
But the hard question is the personal question: Do we do this? Do we live like this?
There are pieces of this where we do.
In fact, our strategy for event evangelism comes out of this very passage in the Bible.
When we do large events like our Easter Egg Hunt, or host a free Jimmy John’s lunch, or have free food trucks and inflatables for hundreds of guests during Family Fun Day…but then also share the Gospel with them…
That actually comes out of “the heart of Levi” in Luke 5
Levi, who doesn’t ask his friends to come and listen to Jesus lecture…
But instead, throws a huge banquet (a party) and lets them meet Jesus there.
We know many of you have invited many people to those parties and seen friends accept Christ…
And we’re going to keep doing that…
But we also know that as our cultural landscape continues to change quickly, there are just as many people (if not more) who are probably not going to accept your invitation to come to church.
But they would accept an invitation to come to your house for dinner
And before we go any further…let’s ask another hard question: Is this us? Who here is doing this??? Seriously.
We want to “be like” Christ, right?
Well, then, do we eat and drink with today’s version of tax collectors and sinners?
Because if not, we’re not like Christ
This passage has been tearing me up inside this week.
I keep coming to God with my excuses.
And I tell him, “God, here’s the reason I’m not all that good at this yet: I’m a pastor. I have a BUNCH of co-workers…who all happen to be Christians.
“God, I work a lot of hours…and I need to be with my family when I can…so I don’t have time to have lost people over for dinner…”
I can bring as many excuses as I want, but the fact is I’m not being like Christ.
There’s no way around it.
At Renovation Church, we want to be a people being changed by God to change the world, but you can’t change the world if you never go out into it.
When I was in Rwanda in June, I got to speak at church that had grown to about 1,000 people…even though it was in the Muslim neighborhood of Kigali.
And this particular church had reached many Muslims for Christ.
And while we were talking with the pastor afterwards, I asked him how they had had such success in reaching Muslims.
And he said that in Rwanda, like many parts of the world, many Muslims are polygamists…meaning they have more than one wife.
And often the 2nd, or 3rd, or 4th wives are neglected.
And so the Christians work to notice them…and invite them into their homes…and invest in their lives, and share with them about Jesus.
The Pastor also shared with us how he and his wife had been having this newly married Muslim couple over for meals.
And he said one time, I was serving the young man coffee, and the young man said, “An imam (leader of the mosque) would never do that for me. I would need to serve him. Why would you serve me even though I am lower than you?”
And their natural relationship allowed for him to start talking about who Jesus was, and how he served, even by giving his life.
See, there are so many of you in this room who have great marriages, and you do…a great job with your kids (even though you’re hard on yourself), and it would be such a TESTIMONY to the hurting world if they could only see it.
But instead, we hide in our houses, and shut the doors.
All while Jesus kept going to parties with unbelievers.
We eat all the time. Maybe too many times. J
Invite people to eat with you.
Invite your coworkers out to lunch.
Invite your neighbors over.
Get over having your house perfectly clean.
This isn’t about showing people that you’re great, but that He’s great.
Think of it this way: If Jesus lived in Blaine for one year, how would he spend his time?
Would He come to church?
Yep, we just read the other week that it was his custom to come to weekly worship
Would He come to House Groups?
I imagine. He spend a TON of time with his disciples.
But beyond that…the Gospels tell us that Jesus spent most of his time “outside of the traditional faith community”
He spent a lot of time teaching, hanging out with, and eating with what the religious people through their eyes of judgement had labeled as “sinners”
I think Jesus would look more like my friend Phil Santillan
Phil is a friend of mine and the pastor of one of our sister church plants in Plymouth called Clarity Church.
When Phil and his wife Leona were making plans for New Year’s Eve this past year, they talked about hanging out with some of their friends from Church.
Until his wife said, “Maybe we should hang out again with some of our friends who don’t know Jesus.”
And so they called up some of their non-Christian friends, and decided to go to their New Year’s Eve Party instead of another church one.
And as there would be kids there, they brought along their own kids as well.
And after an eventful night, Phil told us that they had to spend the car ride home talking to their kids about “why they don’t use THOSE type of words at home…or drink that many beers in one night…”
But then they were able to powerfully talk to their kids about WHY they were there.
And that without Jesus, their friends will perish…they won’t be saved.
And their kids got to really SEE the world through the eyes of a doctor…and hopefully soon will see, the power of healed lives.
I think too many of us as parents give lip service to evangelism and outreach as we talk to our kids, but honestly our kids have never seen us even interact with people who don’t know Jesus…so as they grow, they’ll never believe us when we say it’s important.
We can “say” whatever we want, but our lives and our schedules look more like that of the Pharisees than of Jesus
And so I encourage you, no matter where you’re starting from, starting seeing the world through the eyes of a doctor.
And start venturing out into it.
Not just to form relationships and be nice, but with the intention of loving people to Jesus.
Remember Levi doesn’t just throw a party…Jesus is the guest of honor…the goal is to introduce people to Jesus!
There are a million ways we can get better at this:
Our own house groups oughta get better at this.
When we hang out together…don’t just invite 5 people from your small group, but invite an unbeliever to come with you.
Notice the disciples were at Levi’s party too.
Work in groups.
When you host a summer Bible study, don’t just meet as Christians, but always invite a skeptic too.
American Christians have been, unfortunately, notorious about separating and isolating ourselves from the rest of society.
We start “Christian book Clubs” instead of starting a book club with 5 Christian friends and 2 friends who don’t know Christ yet
We start “Christian Knitting clubs” instead of joining the local scrapbooking or knitting club and trying to make an influence
When we look at the world through the eyes of a judge, we’ll separate and isolate…
But when we see it through the eyes of a doctor, we’ll always find ways to want to be with people who need Jesus.
There are plenty of ways to do this:
If you live in one of those neighborhoods where people actually get together…find a way in.
Maybe there are 5 guys in your neighborhood that get together on Fridays and play cards and drink beer
Rather than fret about it…show up and play with them
If that’s potentially going to be a problem for you, fine, just bring a mountain dew and only 10 bucks in your wallet.
You all think the disciples were okay being at Levi’s party because everyone was just drinking sparkling water there?
If your coworkers invite you to join the work softball team, join it.
When all the guys are hitting on women that aren’t their wives and telling lewd jokes, just talk about how awesome your wife is J
Don’t say, “Sorry, I can’t play with you guys, I play in a church league.”
I guarantee you if Jesus was here for a year, he wouldn’t spend his time, quarantining the Christians into social activities where they can have fun and not have to hear swear words. (that’s eyes of a judge)
Go to your high school reunion.
Stay sober…laugh about how awkward you used to be, and then tell them how Jesus has changed your life…even though you’re still a little bit awkward. J
Here’s one I want to excel at as the years go by: Go to your kids’ sporting events…and don’t just check Instagram on your phone…
Start talking to people.
Start a relationship.
And let God move.
I heard a guy say the other day, “Nowadays, do you know where you can meet people far from God? Basically everywhere but the church”
Just get out of your house and do something.
See people through the eyes of a doctor…through the eyes of Christ.
Beg God to give you new eyes.
If he does, it will change the way you spend your time.
Start with praying, and then I want you to:
Think of one person this week that you could reach out.
Or One thing you could join.
Or One conversation you could start.
And take a step forward in obedience to look like Jesus, to see, not like a biased judge, but to see through the eyes of a doctor.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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