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May 21 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 18, 2014 – Luke 5:27-39

Clinging To the Old — Forfeiting the New

After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. Luke 5:27-28

Intro: If writing a commentary on Luke, we might title the second half of this chapter:

“The Beginning of Jesus’ Conflict With the Pharisees”
– did Luke intentionally design the structure with this in mind?
• I don’t know – doubt it – I think it’s possible that what he had in mind at this point was:
“The Kind of Things Jesus Did that Got Him Into Trouble”
– Luke is showing us the kind of person Jesus was during his life and ministry
• being who he was, conflict was inevitable
• Luke told this story to introduce others to Jesus–people who never met the Lord
○ for him, everything about our life in God depends on Jesus and knowing him

So Luke has us following Jesus when he leaves the house
(where he had healed a paralyzed man)

“He went out and noticed . . .” – what do we notice when we go out?
– in Jesus’ world, tax collectors lived on society’s margin
• if possible, people would ignore and avoid them
○ they were the sort of people who would blend into the background and disappear
• if tax collectors had tried to enter religion, they would come up against strong barriers
– but where others saw nothing or merely a tax collector,
• Jesus saw the qualities of a disciple

“Follow Me” – only two words, but we want to slow down when we come to them
– what did Jesus ask Matthew to join? what was he inviting Matthew into?
• a philosophy? a movement? a set of religious beliefs?
– read the word ME as if it appeared in bold print
• Matthew was being called to a person
• we do not need to complicate being a Christian with lots of requirements or things to remember
○ if it starts to feel overwhelming we can always fall back to this one thing, “Follow Me”

Have you ever met anyone with such a strong presence or who was so attractive a person, that he or she could say, “Follow me” and you would do it?
– be Matthew for a moment — you look up into the face of Jesus, you hear his voice
• and he is so compelling, that when he calls, you leave everything and go with him
– until we meet this Jesus, we don’t know person his disciples knew
• immediately, Matthew abandoned the life that had defined him

Vv. 29-32, Matthew wanted his friends to meet Jesus

He knew he could not get them into a synagogue
– like himself, they also lived on margin of society
• so he threw a “mega-party”
• his home was packed with his crowd
– “eating & drinking” signified socializing, associating with, even bonding with
• some people outside were not comfortable with Jesus doing this
• we should probably try to appreciate how great a scandal this was

How did Jesus justify being there?
“It is not those who are well who need a physician”
– he was spending time with people in need
• they were not just lowlifes, outsides, the “others”

In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown tells a story of when her daughter was in the fourth grade came home from school one day and burst into tears. When asked why she was so upset, she said, “I’m so tired of being the other!” She then explained that when playing soccer at recess, every day the popular girls would be the captains and pick the teams, choosing their friends by name, then saying, “We can split the others.” Brene’s daughter complained, “Every day I’m one of the others. I never get to be named.”

– these were exactly the people who became Christ’s mission
• those on margin, those men and women who “the righteous” ignored and avoided
• he had what they needed
○ remember last week? “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”
○ to reconcile, restore, and embrace those who had missed the mark

What was the party in Matthew’s home?
– was it an alternative to the institution, “Religion, Incorporated”?
• not necessarily — I think it was a challenge to people who felt hamstrung by the institution
• things could be done differently, bridges could be built rather than barriers
○ people inside religion could pursue a different type of member
○ they could begin fishing in different ponds
– for Jesus, being in Matthew’s home with his questionable friends was not a “method”
• he did not spend time planning and throwing parties
• it was like most everything else in Jesus’ everyday life
○ a natural and spontaneous response to opportunity
○ he could seize the opportunity, because he recognized it as fulfilling his vision (Lk. 4:18)

I have to admit, the life of a monk seems very compelling at times
– living only with people who share a passion of total devotion to God
• but then I think of my friends, RJ and Polly
• when they walked into church wearing their colors, you knew they were bikers
○ they rode with a club, but not in an attempt to evangelize
○ but because they enjoyed the lifestyle and loved the people
• they are the kind of people who can go with Jesus to Matthew’s party without flinching
○ they have also had many opportunities for a variety of ministries
– Jesus moved with equal ease outside the institution as he did inside it
• he just took more heat from the institution that from outsiders
• I have also found myself more relaxed with Matthew’s friends
○ like people in Alcoholics Anonymous, who freely admit their brokenness
○ people who don’t know to apologize for saying damn or hell
○ whose imperfections do not make them weak, but real

Vv. 33-39, Jesus provided a clearer picture of the basic problem

It is interesting that John’s disciples are linked with the Pharisees’ disciples (cf. Mk. 2:18)
– John the baptist was on the periphery of the institution
• but he shared certain beliefs, values, and rules
• Mark indicates that they were currently observing a fast
○ “but Yours”–that is, Jesus’ disciples over against theirs
○ “Yours aren’t very disciplined or devout”

Jesus reoriented fasting around himself! “Bridegroom”
– this is a wedding, not a funeral!
• Tony Campolo captures this facet of Jesus’ ministry well in his book, The Kingdom of God Is A Party 
• one day the bridegroom would be taken away and that would be sad and call for fasting!
– Jesus is suggesting that they think of using fasting strategically and not religiously

Why this tension between disciples? Jesus explained
– parable of sewing patch of new material on an old garment
• there is an essential difference between the old and the new
• many people would like to combine them, but it can’t be done (with acceptable results)
– parable of new wine in old wineskins

In case you have never heard this explained, when wine was freshly produced it was poured into goat-skin containers that had been sewn up and supplied with a strap that could be slung over the shoulder. The fermenting wine would bloat the skin, which would then harden while maintaining the shape of its contents. Once it was empty, if new wine were poured into the old skin, there would be no more flexibility to accommodate fermentation and the skin would tear or “burst” open.

• Jesus had not come to deliver more of the same religious experience
○ or to help them do better what they had already been doing for centuries
• if he tried to force his  new life into their old system, two things would happen:
○ the system would rupture and his work would be wasted
– Religion, Incorporated could not see how “old” had become “habit”
• how they had calcified around tradition and lost their flexibility
• or how, in preserving the old system, they had lost God

Conc: For some reason, lots of older sisters who to dress up a little brother in their hand-me-downs

When asked why, one sister said, “We like to play dress up. We dress up ourselves and our dolls. Little brothers are little dolls for sisters to dress up.”

We have done this with Jesus
– sometimes we do it mentally in our prayer life
• we paste a beard on his face, place a robe over him, and put sandals on his feet
• this is how we imagine him
• then we create an agenda for him — where he should go and what he should do
– can you see that we do not come to know Jesus in this way?
• we merely invent an imaginary friend

The father of one my friends was in the hospital and very ill
– he was an old Italian Catholic and very rough around the edges
• he and his wife had been listening to me on Sunday mornings for about a year
• one day while visiting him, he introduced me to the nurse on duty
○ he then made the most inspiring statement about me that I’ve ever heard
“This man is going to change religion”

It has not been true of me, but it was certainly true of Jesus
• in fact, that is exactly the point of this story
Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners, the soul doctor, the new wine, has changed religion

This is the Jesus we want to always be knowing better and following forever

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