Unexpected - “Guests”
In life there is nothing wrong with being predictable as long as it's predictably good. I like things to be the same and that's because I like to be in control. We all like things to be surprisingly good. Nobody likes things to be surprisingly bad. We kicked off this series last week with the thought of spending one day with Jesus. It might be that our expectations would put him in a little box that looked like church. As we saw last week Jesus brought unexpected grace by offering forgiveness of sin in the middle of a story that seemed to be about healing a paralyzed man. We move now to the next unexpected thing Jesus does. Jesus is still creating his starting line up of 12 apostles. This event is about unexpected guests or company. It has implications for me to show to each of us and our church.
Luke 5:27-28 says, "Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. 28So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him."
Another term for tax collector is publican which literally means, crook. Tax collectors engaged in a form of legal larceny. They had a license to extort from people. Levi later became known as Matthew who went on to become a hard core follower of Christ and penned the Gospel of Matthew. Levi sat in his booth and pulled over and took their money. Jesus calls Levi to leave his booth and follow him.
Luke 5:29 says, "Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them."
Jesus is using a first round draft pick. If you have been following the patriots and Belechick's dealings you probably have not been too happy. Similarly, observers are not too happy with the dealings that are going on in our story. No one likes this guy, Levi. He doesn't excite the fan base. Levi holds a party. Levi and his guys. It is scandalous. No one picks someone like this to be his follower. The religious leaders are looking at Jesus' selection and asking what in the world is Jesus doing? What happens next shows us why it is so unexpected.
1 - Unexpected Guests
Luke 5:30 says, "But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, 'Why do you eat and drink with such scum?'”
The religious leaders pull no punches. While other translations call the people Jesus is asscociating with, "sinners." The NLT calls them "scum," which is none too strong and captures the reality that they view them as detestable people. Jesus' association with such scum is totally unacceptable to the religious leaders. This is a good place to begin our considerations.
~ Jesus loves people - He does not love church people, at least, not because they are church people. Love determines how we view the so-called scum, sinners. This is a good thing. We get in on it too. There is something we talk a lot about at CCC - It's the guy driving by who says, "you guys are losers." We love them. Some of you here were one's who did that - you've told me so. We are good at separating people into buckets. At Walmart they have a sale bin where many different things are thrown in for quick sale. The sale bin has signs that say, "out of date," "as is," "sell for a dollar, don't complain," and my favorite, "slightly irregular." Ever think of someone who needs to wear a sign, "slightly irregular?" You're thinking of someone right now who is just over there. Have you ever had the realization that you were the person that needed a sign: "missing part," "anger problem," "insecurity," "disfunctional," "deep down addiction problem," etc. There are those that think they have no need for a sign and that everything is in right order. We have a word for such people - Self-righteous. The reality is that we are all in the sale bin with a sign. Jesus came to salvage us. Until recognize you wear a sign, you don't understand what comes next.
Luke 5:31-32 says, "Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”
~ Religiosity can repel right people and attract the wrong people - Those who are self-righteous and caught up in religiosity are ones who think they are all right. They attract the wrong people (others with the same orientation - churchy) and at the same time they repel the people Jesus loves (those of the world that God so loved). When Jesus said, "I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent," even those who knew they fell into that category likely felt a twinge of accusation. People on both sides (those who think they are healthy and those who know they are sinners) need to repent and this is our next place to rest.
~ Jesus judges - I hear an awful lot about not judging. Jesus does not turn a blind eye but call them out. I (Jesus) am here because they are sick and need to repent. It is vital to understand that God's love doesn't give us a license to sin. His love allows us to live differently. God meets us where we are and he doesn't leave us there. He calls us to some place better. This may be why Levi is excited about Jesus and calls his friends together for a party.
2 - Personalized Invitations
The fishermen who follow Jesus had something to go back to, but Levi drops everything and there is now going back.
We look at Luke 5:29 again where it says, "Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them."
Levi throws a banquet and Jesus is the guest of honor. He doesn't likely have many friends and most of those who come are other tax collectors. You gotta meet this guy. He throws a party (uses up his money while he has it). They swarm to the house - a real gathering of dispicables and people can't believe it (those who disassociate them selves from the world). This should serve as a reminder - don't isolate ourselves. Many studies show that most people who come to Christ soon lose connections with other people who need Christ. If you say you no longer like such people then you are not like Christ. We need to be in touch with all people, those who are far from God and those who are close to God. We are called to be a blessing to people.
Be like Levi - invite people to Christ so the can have the gift of grace. Be open to having conversastions about your faith where you tell others what Christ has done in your life. Grace is too good of a gift not to share.
My wife, Tami, is from New Hampshire and as a kid came to her Grandmom's on the Cape. Back in New Hampshire there's an ice cream place called, Kimball's. They serve a Banana Split that's so big it comes with two spoons because it was meant to be shared. Grace is dropped into your life and it can be overwhelming - more than you can consume. It is meant to be shared. It is not to be saved just for yourself.
I've been planning for this message for months with a view toward a challenge for us as a church as we move toward Easter in a few weeks. We all have an opportunity leading up to Easter Sunday. We can offer a spoon and say to others, Easter Sunday will be so good - come and see what God is doing.
I want to close by giving you the opportunity to pray for another, one person you would love to have come, someone you could invite and share what God is doing in your life. God, give me someone to pray for and invite. Think about your neighborhood, your workplace, your relationships - wonder who it is God will open the door for you to invite. God, give me the courage and boldness (maybe you've never done it before) to invite someone.
Lord, your grace is so great it begs to be shared. Give us the courage to invite someone who could share in your grace - co-worker, classmate, etc. Like on the day Levi invited a crowd and you were the guest of honor, we will worship and celebrate (on Easter Sunday) your grace that is freely available. Let us all (with those we invite) be a part of celebrating your resurrection with its hope and freedom. Amen
Posted on Sun, March 15, 2015
by Ken Hart