A Doctor Among the Sick
In undergrad I studied physical therapy and worked at a hospital. In that profession you have to get use to sick people. I remember some people starting off in that major and after a few semesters of studying they finally went to work in a hospital and realized something, they liked the idea of helping people get better but they didn’t like being around sick people. Didn’t like the other patients around their patients, didn’t like sterile environment, didn’t like see the gross things that happen. That is a good thing to discover early on! How can you be a doctor if you don’t want to be with the sick?
It’s like going fishing. You talk to the kids. Do you want to go fishing… “Yeah!!!” Do you want to catch some big fish? “Yeah!!!” Ok, well let me show you how to put a worm on a hook “Ooooh, yuck!” Alright you got a fish now let me show you how to hold it and pull the hook out of its mouth. “Gross!” if you are going to catch fish you got to be willing to get a little messy.
We can be like that with our faith. We want to see others come to know Christ or go deeper in their walk with him, but we don’t really want to be in messiness of life. I think a lot of times we have a great ethereal concept of seeing people and masses come to faith, but few are willing to go out and meet others, and get to know them, and open their hearts and lives to, especially to those who are hurting, opposed to Jesus, or completely indifferent to religion. What do you do when you come to people like that?
We are going to see what Jesus does. Jesus mission was to bring healing to the hurting. That led him to live with and among sinners, our commitment to Christ and his mission should lead us to do the same.
Big Idea: The Gospel is for the hurting and we should take it to those who are hurt.
Our mission statement says,
“We want to be a family oriented church that is passionately worshipping God (Deut 6:5, Matt 22:37), personally connected to others (Acts 2:42, Eph 2:11-22), firmly rooted in the Word (Eph 4:11-16, Luke 6:47-49), deeply involved in the local community (Jer 29, 1 Pet 4:9-10), graciously sharing the faith (John 13:35, Titus 2:9-10), and equipping each member to make a difference in the lives of others. (Eph 4:11-16).
If we are going to help people, and see people come to Christ, then we need to love people enough to be with them even though we have differences. And our greatest motivation is to see the life and example of Christ. Today’s passage shows us how Jesus did this. Lets read.
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, "Follow me." 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
29 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.
30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" 31 And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:27-32 ESV)
This passage presents several important realities about Jesus mission.
- The Cost of Discipleship
Cost. Toys. Games. Cars.
This passage is about the calling of the disciple Matthew. Levi is his Jewish name. Jesus has performed miracles, taught with wisdom, and now he calls a man to follow him and he up and leaves everything he has.
Matthew leaves his career to follow Jesus. He is sitting at his tax booth and he up and leaves it. It is a job he worked hard for, but he sees that what Jesus offers is greater than his work.
Matthew not only leaves his job but he throws a party to celebrate. It shows that his leaving everything wasn’t exactly a sacrifice. This celebration is like the feasts of the OT where people were to take time off, rest, reflect on what God had done, and celebrate and share that with others. Matthew does this and has Jesus at the center of it. That is a great way to reach out to others!
If we are going to follow Jesus it will mean leaving our comforts behind and following him in his mission. We don’t just pay the cost on the front end and never again. Its daily. Jesus said "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. (Luke 9:23 NAU). You have to daily leave behind your preferences and agenda and follow Christ.
Jesus goes to Matthew’s feast. Tax collectors were not well respected in the day, and the religious leaders were perplexed Jesus would do this. It shows that Jesus mission is to the marginalized of society.
- The Mission to the Marginalized
Marginalized. Margins are the blank part on your paper right. It’s the paper that isn’t that important right. Are there any people that are not important? No! The Pharisees don’t believe that, but Jesus does, and he goes to those that are on the outskirts of the faith.
When you think of a tax collector you might think of an accountant. A guy who wears khakis, a sweater, glasses, and shows up to work at a law firm or a place called the IRS. He is a respectable person in society. That is not what a tax collector was in Jesus day.
Tax collecting in Rome was more like the mafia than the IRS, an organized crime. Think trench coat, weapons, and thugs. They would collect the money for Rome and also themselves.
Tax collectors were in charge of gathering the money citizens of Rome were obligated to pay. Rome codified what percentage to collect on various items, but they would let the tax collectors keep whatever they could gain above that percent. Tax collectors would go after Rome’s portion and also theirs. They would demand whatever they could get, and people would have to pay. Their dishonesty, use of intimidation and even force, and contact with Gentiles made them the lowest rung of people.
Tax collecting had a tiered structure, like multi-level marketing. The big dogs in the tax scheme would also have lived up high in the town, far away from the people they took from. They let the lower rung tax collectors do the dirty work and deal with and face the people. Levi would have been one of those lower rung collectors. He is in the tax booth. He is one who deals with the people. He is the lowest of the low.
Levi would have been a disliked person in the community. But another thing about him is that he is Jewish, and he is collecting tax for the Roman’s. He would have been seen as a sellout to the Jewish nation, and even to God.
The words tax collector and others (sinners) are combined (Matt. 9:10
Matt. 11:19, Mk. 2:15f, Lk. 7:34, Lk. 15:1). These terms are used together in many places, they are virtually synonymous. Sinners those live in opposition to the divine will.
These are the most disreputable types of people in society. “Sinners” would have provoked objection and demonstrate how unwelcome the tax collectors were to the Pharisees. And Jesus is hanging out with them. He is known as a friend to them! (Matt 7:34).
egoggudzon, (Luk 5:30 GNT). The pharisees didn’t understand the grace and mission of God. many Christians don’t either.
The action that cause such a stir from other people, wasn’t just that Jesus called these people to follow him. That’s not the problem. The Scribes of the pharisees, the ones trained in law and precision, raise questions. They didn’t object to the conversion of sinners. Certainly everyone would rejoice at a “sinner” who had repented of his ways. That is not the issue. Even the most uptight religious person should give thanks for that. But what caused such a stir is… “he eats with them!” He was in their house! He is having dinner. He is even reclining with them. No problem with them being converted, but why ya eat’n with them?? Jesus changes who we relate to and how we relate with others.
It’s similar to when Paul said he didn’t just share the gospel with people but he shared his very life (1 Thess ). It’s no problem to share a few words with someone, maybe drop off some food, but to be friends with them!? To invite them into your life??
It’s more than just inviting to a service! I recently realized I have a friend that I only hear from when he wants me to go to an event he is putting on. Is he a friend or does he just want something from me. People can tell if you really care about them. This is Jesus mission. To show the hurting the love he has for us.
Jesus explanation for his action is profound. He says he didn’t come for the righteous but for sinners. It is ridiculous to imagine a doctor who refuses to be with sick people; any effective ‘healer’ must expect to get his hands dirty.
If you are going to follow Christ you need to intentionally go to those who are hurting. You need to intentionally talk with them. You need to intentionally show that you care about them. Go toward the mess!
Are you going to find ways to eradicate the socially marginalized from your life. This is so much of what suburban culture is about. Get on the other side of the tracks. Send your kids to the good school. And everything in me as a parent wants to do that. But there is another part that says teaching my kids to be safe is one thing, teaching them avoid others is another.
We were on vacation this summer and we went into one of those tourist trap shops. They never get me. But Amanda is another story! But she picked up a trinket? That said, “Ships in harbor are safe but that is not what they are made for.”
We want to be safe, but being safe is not what we are made for. God made us to exercise dominion over the world. He redeemed us to share goodnews with others. Yes, we need good community to encourage us and nurture our faith. But what is the point of being nurtured if we never venture out to reach others.
We are in a time that many have turned from Christianity. There are many like Matthew that have the name but are far from following. Some call the US a post Christian nation. A few decades ago 70 of the population claimed to be Christian. Now it is about 35%. A lot of people don’t know Christ, or have turned from the faith for some reason.
We need lovingly move toward those who don’t know anything about Christ. Many times the only thing non-Christians know about Christianity is that Christians disapprove of their actions or lifestyle. We need to make sure they know how powerful the love of God is.
We need to do the same with those who no longer identify as Christian. Perhaps those like Matthew. We ought to hear them, draw them out. Ask people for their thoughts on Christianity and be willing to be uncomfortable when they share.
Many have concerns with Christianity and we may need to engage the in a different way. When I was in Dallas in June for a conference and I took on Uber to catch my flight. The lady picked me up and we started conversing. She asked what I was in town for and I told her it was a pastors conference. I asked her if she was a Christian and she said no. She said she had “done that” before. I could tell there was a hesitation to talk about it.
I was kind of frustrated because while most of the conference was good there was a part that got real political, it seemed that people were elevating political candidates rather than Christ, and I felt like the church needs to be focused more on telling others about Jesus than on particular political parties. I shared my frustration and asked her if she was ever turned off to the church because of such things too.
Well that opened things up and she started sharing about things she had seen in church. She had been in a church where there were clear abuses of leadership, financial unfaithfulness, people arrested, marital infidelity. When she raised concerns she was pushed out. She was marginalized.
I use to feel awkward when people would talk about how bad their church experience was. I still do in some ways. But if we are going to help others we need to know what they think and have experienced. I realized our experiences of church were completely different.
I said, “I don’t blame you for not going to church. If I thought the Bible allowed that I wouldn’t want anything to do with it either. Do you know that Scripture gives qualifications for pastors and leaders and based on what you are saying those guys should not have been pastoring a church.
She then said, “Well, but aren’t we supposed to forgive? Isn’t that what the church is about? I said, “yes we are but there are consequences to sin. There also has to be repentance. This is the reason that in the midst of all the mess i have seen in the church I haven’t left the church. First of all Jesus gives churches a way to work through the mess by following his words. Leaders have to be committed to that. Secondly it’s in the church that we find a way to both condemn sin and forgive it. Many people just want to condemn others and that means none of us have any hope at all. But others want to forgive and overlook sin. This is where the gospel makes so much sense of our lives. EAch of us have done things that are wrong, we are all sinners, and we need a way to be forgiven, Christ died to pay the penalty for us and so we could be forgiven. I don’t think there is anything wrong with Christianity but churches often mess it up.
We had a great conversation and I got to encourage her with the gospel. And it all came about by first hearing her complaints about Christianity. The gospel makes sense of the mess that people see in life and even in the church. Will you move toward them.
I would like for us to get on a schedule of doing missions trips to the poor. But we have a mission right here in alpharetta. Do people know we care? Do people know you care. Easiest people to disappoint are those who don’t expect anything from us. We need to move toward those who are dechurch, and toward those with no church at all.
Love the kid that no one else talks to. Love the kid that wears the funny clothes. Love the person who drives the beat up car. The Pharisees rejected the marginalized. Jesus loved them and changed the world with people like that.
A doctor goes to the sick; a follower of Christ must be drawn to those who need a savior.
- Goodnews For All
Have you received the healing balm of our great physician? Doctors can only heal people who come to them. They can only help those who tell them what is wrong. They can only serve those who are willing to humble themselves, admit their issues, their weakness, their infirmity, and their powerlessness to change their own circumstances. There is an irony in that the Pharisees proud self-righteousness prevents them from being healed by Christ, and that is why they do not embrace his mission. You are more sinful that you can ever imagine. In Christ you are also more accepted than you could ever imagine. Trust him. Follow him. Go to those who need him.
You will never live for this mission if you do not understand how good the goodnews is. God is bringing those who are outcast into his kingdom. Do you ever feel like you dont belong with people? Do you ever sit in a room and think everyone here is so close to each other but I don’t belong. They don’t know me and if they did they wouldn’t want me in. Those are lies the enemy tells us and we repeatedly rehearse. Do you ever see the really popular person that is the center of everyone’s attention and think he doesnt know who I am.
Well isn’t it amazing that Jesus comes to be with us. He knows us. He accepts tax collectors and sinners. He makes them fit to be at his table. The star of the party calls us by name.
Jesus is creating a new community. A new people. Not connected because of their social elitism or religious perfection. But connected to one another because they have had their sins forgiven, they have left all to follow him, and they are throwing a constant feasts to celebrate what he has done for them and that they have left all things to follow him. It is a community that welcomes the marginalized in, that tells them where they can find life. The sick are healed, and in fact become doctors themselves. But will they heed this call.
Knowing the love of Christ should lead us to go to others to help them. Think about your relational network and consider who you can:
- Pray for
- Spend time with. Dinner, a project,
- Share a resource with. Read a book. Talk about a topic.
- Encourage them with the gospel.
If you can’t think of someone to do that with I want you to reflect on the life of Jesus, what he calls us to, the cost of discipleship. Consider why you think you don’t need to engage others.
- How does this passage affect your view of what Christ has done for you and calls you to do?
- Who can you:
- Pray for.
- Spend time with.
- Share a Scripture or resource (book, song, lesson, etc) with.
- Encourage with the Gospel.