And He went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him, and He was teaching them. As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:13-17
Today's thoughts from today's verses:
The religious establishment did not expect that Jesus would call Levi, a tax collector, to be his follower nor that he would hang out with such a collection of people at a party. It seems that societal and religious culture esteem "accomplishment" within the accepted order of things. God's plan is to call and use those who are "not accomplished" within the accepted order of things here on earth to accomplish his truly divine purposes. The overarching tendency of those who are accomplished within the accepted order of things here on earth (either societal or religious) is to be prideful and boastful. When Jesus says, “Follow Me,” he is saying, "give up your life for my sake." It seems the "accomplished" are less likely to do this because they have much to give up or lose. The "unaccomplished" are much more likely to respond to Christ's call because they have little to lose and therefore little to give up. God's plan for true "accomplishment" is hinged entirely on him. He wants the life we live to be his doing and this is why we need Christ. Following him makes all the difference, but it doesn't work very well when we get in the way with our pride, accomplishments, and boasting.
There is so much that is fundamentally wrong with the Pharisees and teachers of religious law. It begins with the fact that they think they are righteous. It moves to them not knowing they are sinners who need to repent. Next, we see that there are some people they absolutely hate and for whom they have absolutely no love. And finally, they think that if Jesus is really a spiritual leader, he should join them in their hatred of the so-called "scum" and that he should have absolutely no association whatsoever with them. It is interesting that Jesus says he did not come to call those who think they are righteous. I think Jesus says this because he cannot call those who think they are righteous. Jesus is talking about the self-righteous and the self-righteous don't think they need a savior and if you don't think you need a Savior, you don't need Jesus and you certainly won’t follow him..
I don't think there are any of us that entirely escape the syndrome of the Pharisees and teachers of religious law. Apply the love test: is there anyone I think should be excluded from ever knowing Christ's love and presence. If there is anyone we have put into this category, then we are guilty and we either don't understand why we need a Savior or we have forgotten why we needed Christ in the first place. We are all just as sinful in God's eyes. The difference is that some people manifest it (in our eyes) more readily than others. We may not be as blatant about things as the Pharisees and teachers of religious law in our story but we are like them.
Another way to look at this is like this: somewhere buried in my soul is the notion that I deserved (to some degree however small) to be saved while some others (scum) don't. Somehow, we escaped the syndrome of the Pharisees and teachers of religious law enough to receive the forgiveness of sins through Christ but not enough to rid us of self-righteousness and to make us lovers of people (all people) like Christ. To rid ourselves of this inconsistency we need to meditate long and hard on what it means to need a Savior at the beginning and along the way. We need to live life as ones who always need a Savior (my salvation was totally undeserved and unearned and it is Christ and Christ alone who can produce righteousness in me) because slipping into a self-righteous Christian lifestyle somewhere along the way happens readily.
Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:
Lord, I want to be your follower in the fullest sense. Help me to see more clearly what you value and esteem. Deliver me from valuing the things that societal and religious culture value and esteem. Help me to grasp how strong and deep your abhorrence is for the "self-righteous religious path of the Pharisees" to which I am so prone. I confess that far too often I find joy from having feeling alright about myself because I think I have accomplished so-called righteous living. Deliver me from self-righteousness, show me how to absolutely depend on your indwelling presence, and fill me up with your love and compassion to such an extent that it freely flows from me to others (all others). Amen!
Posted on Thu, January 25, 2018
by Ken Hart