Wednesday, September 28, 2016

28 September 2016
Luke 5:27-39
            Good morning, welcome. Today Jesus calls Levi (aka Matthew), and tells the Pharisees something new has come. In this spirit of newness I changed the format a little, which may make things a little easier to follow.
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him. To fully appreciate this story, you really need to understand how tax collectors functioned in Jesus’ time. Rome required taxes from all its provinces; these taxes paid for the same types of services they do today-the highway system, security, law and order, government. Taxes also guaranteed the provinces a certain amount of religious freedom; the Pax Romana really liked its provinces peaceful and payed up. In Israel tax collectors were generally Jews and had considerable authority. Any amount above and beyond what Rome required was theirs to keep; they grew rich off their fellow Jews and were universally despised as extortionists and collaborators with Rome. So when Levi left everything and followed Jesus, he was leaving a lot.
            Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house…there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. In response Levi throws a party and invites all his tax collector buddies, prompting the Pharisees to ask why Jesus is hanging out with tax collectors and sinners. What they were really asking was ‘is He really inviting them all to join Him? Is this more than a one-time deal?’ To which Jesus gives His classic response-the sick don’t need healed. I came to call sinners to repentance. Once again we see Jesus making the unclean clean, not the other way around.
            Then they said to him, “John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.” The Pharisees, not ones to let things go (or understand, for that matter) press their point. Now Jesus gets to the heart of the matter. Two hearts, actually. Something new is coming. Something totally new; the old must be set aside. So new, it will take you right out of your comfort zone and you aren’t going to want to go: And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’
               The new thing, of course, is the Kingdom of God and it is starting to take shape. It involves healing for all who come, personal contact, calling sinners to repentance and fellowship. Many may benefit-as this glorifies God-but to follow Jesus requires more; something totally new which cannot be adjusted to fit in with what was before. The Kingdom is fellowship-eating and drinking and celebrating. It will make some people very uncomfortable, and this is only the beginning. Remember, Jesus, fully human, fully God, is showing us what God is like; He is also showing us what God had in mind for us, before sin got in the way. Jesus shows us what we were meant to be; what we can be like. If only we surrender, leave everything behind and follow Him.
            Obviously I am not talking about selling everything we own, deserting our families and living on the street. I am talking about leaving old ways of thinking behind; taking every thought captive to obey Christ (2Cor10:5). Isaiah puts it this way “Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not
perceive it?” (Isa.43:18-19). So the question for you is this-what new thing is being done in your life today? Or, what old thing are you being called to let go? Spend a few minutes meditating on today’s passage. Imagine standing on the sidelines, watching the banquet, listening in on Jesus’ conversations, recorded and unrecorded. What do you hear Him saying to Levi’s tax collector buddies? To the Pharisees? Think about how your answer reflects how you understand Jesus, how you see the Kingdom of God. Look for the new thing.    
May the Lord Himself lift you up this day. JRG

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