May 12, 2014
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He even gave up His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in, trusts in and relies on Him shall not perish, be lost, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge, to condemn, to pass sentence on the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him. He who believes in Him, who clings to Him, is not judged, for him and her there is no rejection.”
John 3: 16-18
“That God should be kindly disposed to a world that hates Him so as to bring the gospel of Good News to them all is gracious, and that He should go further and actually apply that gospel in such a way as to rescue men and women and transform them is marvelous.”
Today’s Study Text:
“Jesus went out again beside the sea, the whole crowd gathered around Him, and He taught them. As He was walking along, He saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ And he (Levi Matthew) got up and followed Him. And as (Jesus) sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and His disciples – for there were many who followed Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’”
Mark 2: 13-17
“Behold The Man” – Part 22
“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? –
If You’re Scum, You’re Invited!”
“There really is something new and different about Jesus’ religious movement. It is made up of ritually unclean and socially disregarded people who recognize their need for help and healing and so begin to follow Him. His presence with them is an occasion for joy and gladness. It is a time of healing and salvation.”
Emmanuel Y. Lartey
Professor of Pastoral Theology
Have I ever felt in my own life that I would have been called a “sinner” by the Pharisees in Jesus’ time on earth?
Have there been times in my own life when I felt I was too flawed for Jesus to love me?
How do I treat those around me who people may label “sinners” in our society today?
Would I feel comfortable if Jesus arrived at my front door and said, “I’d like to come to dinner and by the way I brought my friends with Me – they are what some have labeled sinners and scum?”
“Might it be that sinners recognize their own need while those who see themselves as righteous are too full of pride and hubris to comprehend their need for God’s graceful mercy. Declaring oneself righteous before Jesus is to make a claim that no mortal could ever sustain. We are all sinners, but the sinner who understands his or her need is different from the sinner who claims to need no assistance; the former welcomes Jesus into their life, while the latter slams shut the doors of hospitality. Christ holds close those who are most in need of God’s mercy and who recognize their need.”
Stephen Butler Murray
“Whom do we welcome to our tables? With whom do we take time to sit?...We know Jesus eats with outcasts, but do we?”
Luke A. Powery
Just before I left for college near San Francisco, my dad sat me down for one of those heart-to-heart, father-to-daughter talks. Back when I started college, drug use was very prevalent. And because I was going off to a city known for its flower-power culture at the time, my dad offered this sage advice.
“Don’t forget Dorothy to choose your friends wisely.” And then he added, “the people you decide to associate with when you first get on campus, will set the tone for it is likely that others will be drawn to you when they see who you have chosen as your friends.” This thought can be summed up by the old saying, “A woman or man is known by the friends they keep.” I asked my 95-year-old Cuban father-in-law, who lives with Jim and me, how he would translate this saying in Spanish, and here’s what he wrote out for me, “Un hombre es conocido por los amigos que el tiene.”
This well-known statement makes me love Jesus even more and here’s why. When Jesus came to earth, if He had been like most people, He would have targeted the up-and-comers, as He tried to make certain that the power-players in Jewish society were on His team. If He wanted to garner the attention and support of the religious leaders, He would have delighted them with flowery compliments. He would have made certain His miracles were reserved for the high-society folk. But this isn’t what happened – not even close.
If you take a look at our study text for today, right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, when He was in the “building phase,” putting together a team that would carry on His work of spreading the Good News about the Kingdom of God, what did Jesus do? Mark lays it out in a few simple words, “As Jesus was walking along, He saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘follow Me.’ And (Levi) got up and followed Him.” I want to share the observations of Professor Randall C. Zachman on this amazing passage…”Jesus called a tax collector to follow Him. Tax collectors were viewed as traitors to their own people, as they collaborated for their own profit with the Roman occupying power. Since Jesus ‘saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth,’ Jesus could not at all be mistaken about Levi’s chosen livelihood, which makes His call to him all the more provocative. However, Jesus not only called Levi to follow Him, He also (went) to dinner at Levi’s house. To share a meal with another is to express that one belongs to this person, and is to be identified with him. Far from using His authority to demand that sinners repent before He will have fellowship with them, Jesus goes to the tax collector’s house with His disciples, and shares a meal with Levi and many other tax collectors and sinners…Jesus does not ask Levi or the other tax collectors and sinners with whom He is eating to repent, but rather desires to share the meal with them in Levi’s home.”
All I can say is what a Savior! What a Lord! No wonder Levi, without question, left his wealthy position and told Jesus, “I’ll follow you!” And don’t forget, just like all of the other disciples. Levi Matthew’s life ended when he was stabbed as a martyr for Jesus!
Several weeks ago, my mother sent me a little book she found in my parent’s library. It’s called Thirteen Men Who Changed The World, and it is about Jesus’ disciples when He was here on earth. Written by Pastor H.S. Vigeveno in 1966, this little gem of a book certainly opened my eyes on the lives of Jesus’ followers. I want to share Pastor Vigeveno’s take on the former tax-man, Levi Matthew.
“Jesus was coming down the road toward his toll-booth. Levi had heard that Jesus had left the carpenter shop…He had cleansed lepers and healed demon-possessed people. People were coming from all over to see Him and hear Him…and then one day Levi could feel it. He did not have to glance up. He knew the Teacher, the Son of man as He called Himself, was standing directly before him. Now he had to lift his head. And those eyes looked straight at him…straight at him, and through him, and through his books, and through his accounts, and through his empty life. All of a sudden Levi felt dirty inside just plain dirty…was the Son of man going to call him names, like the rest? No, instead (Jesus) smiled, and He said: ‘Follow Me.’ Follow Him? He wants me to follow Him? Me, publican outcast, crook, a thief? He trusts me and wants me to become a disciple? Levi Matthew couldn’t believe his ears!”
What if Jesus wants you to be one of His disciples? Right down here on this dark old globe we call earth! What if Jesus is standing in front of you right now and saying, “Follow Me, I need your talents on the frontline. You are perfect for the task at hand?” Would you follow Jesus’ call? This is a question that has come to my own heart over and over the last few years in so many ways. And I’ve tried to block the call but I know that Jesus wants my all and I’m ready to put everything I once thought was so important on the line for Him.
I want to share the final thoughts Pastor Vigeveno pens about Levi Matthew because they touched my heart as I hope they will touch yours, too. “The first book of the New Testament is a product of Matthew and his ready pen. For now whenever Jesus would teach, whenever He would preach, there was Levi Matthew at Jesus’ side. The pen which once added figures now took it all down. The keen perceptive mind which kept his ledgers now preserves for posterity the word of God! And now I must tell you one more thing about this clever fellow, who once believed only in the philosophy ‘money talks.’ He wrote a gospel about Jesus, and he does not mention himself! Peter gets into the foreground, and James, and John, but not Matthew. Humility is a true mark of conversion. There is only one incident in which Matthew is specifically involved. But he was too humble to put his own name into it! We have to put the pieces together from Mark and Luke. Immediately after his conversion, Levi Matthew invited Jesus to his home. It was quite a feast. Matthew himself is too modest to play it up…It was a going away party…Jesus in the place of honor, and around the table sat all the social and religious outcasts: worldly, greedy, money-hungry, with stunted minds, sick, hollow and empty! There was nothing in (Jesus) manner to make any of Matthew’s guests feel uneasy. If they wanted the friendship of Jesus, if they looked for help, they could find it in Matthew’s new-found Savior.”
Isn’t that just like Jesus, loving the unlovable. Thy physician who specializes in the sickest…in the ones who hurt the most. No wonder “sinners” loved Him so much. For when Jesus called, He didn’t make the hurting feel like they were worthless. Instead, He lifted each broken person He met, out of the mire and then with His own hands, He wiped away the dirt and made them whole. You see, your past makes no difference to Jesus…because all He can see is the possibility of your future with Him. And who knows, someday you may find yourself with a pen in your hand, writing about Jesus!
In the words of Colin Gibson:
“He came singing love and He lived singing love;
He died, singing love. He arose in silence.
For the love to go on we must make it our song;
You and I be the singers.”
Prayer of Confession
“Gathering God, our vision for community is never as loving as Yours.
We confess that there are people who we would rather not bring near to us or to You.
Forgive us when our love is not like Your love.
If we really think others are not worthy to approach You and that we are more worthy than they are:
Forgive us, O God, and remind us that none of us is worthy, that Your love is a free gift to all of us.
When we demand that people achieve our measure of good or our perception of the right way to be with You:
Forgive us, O God, and remind us that we are not God.
If we think we can put boundaries around Your love and hold You to ourselves with our own community of faith:
Forgive us, O God, and remind us that we will never own You and that You break free of all our limitations.
We confess, before the bounty of Your life, that we often make You a small God in our own image.
Forgive us, yet again, O God of Grace.
The forgiveness of God surpasses all that we can ever know.
Even as God gathers the world into costly grace, so we are included, and we are no longer strangers, Take Your place in the love of God. AMEN!”
Dorothy Mc-Rae McMahon
“I need to be with My patients. You may consider them unclean sinners (even scum!), but to Me they are people who suffer illness. What they need most is not rejection but rather the love and care of one who accepts them as they are and is willing to help them regain the dignity and respect they need…Please come and follow Me and help Me love the entire world.”
(Feasting On The Word)
Year B, Volume 3
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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