A Slight Change of Focus
A SLIGHT CHANGE OF FOCUS Mark 2: 13-17
I want you to look at this section of our auditorium over here…wouldn’t it be exciting to see 10 new faces sitting over here?
- And look at this section…wouldn’t it be exciting to see 10 new faces sitting here?
- And the same for over here?
And wouldn’t it be exciting to see 10 or 15 baptisms this year?
I believe it is possible and it may be that all we need to do is change our focus…our attitudes just a little.
- Let me explain.
- Look once again at the passage that we read.
In verse 13 Jesus is doing what He came primarily to do.. .He is teaching.
- And in verse 14, as He passes by, He sees Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax . .and He speaks to Levi and He says, “Follow Me!”
- And Levi does.
And now notice verse 15…”it came about that He was reclining at the table in his house (probably Levi’s house), and many tax-gatherers and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples (notice His disciples are there) ; for there were many of them, and they were following Him.”
Now, let me give you a little background to help you understand what is going on here.
- To the Jews…and especially these scribes and Pharisees…tax-collectors were some of the
worst of the worst.
- The Romans had a tax collecting system called “tax farming.”
- And what they would do is they would assess a certain district to pay a certain amount of taxes.
- And they would give the right to collect those taxes in that district to the highest
- No one, except for the tax collector, knew exactly how much tax the district had to pay.
- So, the tax collector would administer all these different fees and taxes in order to raise the required tax amount…
- And he would tax to use the roads, and bridges, and harbors, and owning a boat.. .and he would collect all this revenue and pay the assessed tax to the ..
- But whatever he collected over the annual amount that Rome designated, he kept for himself.
- So, tax collectors were usually wealthy people.. .but they were also
- They were considered by the general populous to be thieves and crooks and traitors because they were milking their own people to help build up the coffers of the hated Romans.
Tax collectors were so despised by their own people that they were kicked out of the synagogues.
- They couldn’t worship with other Israelites…and they couldn’t testify as witnesses in the
court of Law…after all, “How could you trust the word of a tax collector?”
- Tax collectors were some of the worst as far as the Jews were concerned.
And so, when Jesus is gathered here with all these tax-collectors…that raises a few eyebrows.
- But Jesus wasn’t just gathered with them… in verse 15, He is eating with them.
- Eating with someone in their day was a sign of friendship… of relationship.
- So when these Pharisees and scribes see Jesus eating with these dreaded tax collectors, they think, “He is their friend!”
- And that really caused them to be upset.
So, look at verse 16. The Pharisees and scribes start asking, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax-gatherers and sinners?”
- “If He is God why would He eat with people like this? “
Well, Jesus hears their criticism and I want you to look at what He says in verse 17. Jesus speaks to the scribes and Pharisees and He says: “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.”
Here is, I believe, at least in part, the answer to having 10 new faces here…and 10 new faces here…and 10 new faces over here.
- You see, these scribes and Pharisees were right…these tax collectors and sinners were not very good people.
- Jesus doesn’t dispute that.
- In fact, here in this verse He acknowledges that they are “sick.”
But here is the problem…here is what is causing the tension between Jesus and these Pharisees.
- The Pharisees, in their self righteousness, saw these tax collectors and sinners as rejects…people to be rejected and kept away from…people that God can’t possibly care
- But Jesus saw them, not as someone to be rejected, but He saw them as patients in need of
healing…in need of being saved…in need of a physician.. .and what better place for a doctor…and His disciples to be than among those who are sick.
And I believe that is the primary lesson for us in this story.
- SOMETIMES, JUST LIKE THE PHARISEES, WE GET TO THINKING THAT WE AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE AROUND THE “SICK”…THE SINNERS….THE REJECTS OF SOCIETY.
- And what we do is we segregate ourselves, seclude ourselves, and surround ourselves with only those who don’t need a physician.
And because we do that…and because we have done that…that is in part one of the reasons why we haven’t already seen 10 new faces here…and 10 here…and 10 here?
Let me ask you this: Do you know what people I spend the majority of my time with?
- Christians, my brother’s and sisters in Christ. People who have already come to ..who have already been made well.
- Here I am, I have all this knowledge of the scriptures…I know what the “sick” need…and yet I spend the biggest majority of my time with those who are, so to speak, already well!?
- That’s kind of crazy isn’t it?
- Shouldn’t I spend at least some of my time with those who are “sick” in an effort to teach them and bring them to the One who can make them well?
In this passage, Jesus eats with these tax gatherers…these sinners…these people who are “sick.”
- When I eat with someone else…do you know who it normally is?
- Well, it’s not normally those who are “sick”.. .those who are considered to be “sinners.”
- As Christians we need to have fellowship with each other.. .and we need to eat ..but shouldn’t I at least eat with some of the “sick” of this world at times too?
- If I don’t how will they ever find the One who can heal them?
And this doesn’t just apply to me…it applies to all of us.
- When you have people over for a meal, who do you invite?
- Is it a fellow brother and sister in Christ?
- That might strengthen the kingdom…but is that going to do anything as far as adding to the kingdom?
Fellowship with each other is very important…but God doesn’t want us to seclude ourselves away from those in need of the Physician.
- In fact, in John 17: 15 Jesus prays for His disciples and He says, “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”
- Jesus wanted them out there with the sinners and tax-gatherers teaching and preaching trying to save them.
And look with me at 1 Cor. 5:9-11: I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with the idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”
- The apostle Paul is saying, “Don’t stay away from the sinful people in the world. “
- If we stay away from the “sick” in the world…how will we ever win them?
- So Paul says, “Don’t stay away from the sinful people in the world “
- The only people Paul says to stay away from is a brother or sister in Christ who is acting immorally, or greedy, or inappropriate… then you withdraw from them!”
Look at this passage found in Luke 14 starting in verse 12. Speaking of Jesus, Luke says: And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. 13 “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. “
- I don’t think it is hard to understand what was happening here.
- Notice who the host of this dinner was inviting.. .his friends, his brothers, his relatives and his rich neighbors…those who would invite him in return.
- This was a “closed society” so to speak.. .this man only invited those he already knew, those he was comfortable with, or those who might benefit him.
- And this man may have been patting himself on the back and saying, “Look at what I have Aren’t I wonderful?”
But Jesus says here, “If you want to be wonderful in the eyes of God, then go beyond your friends, your relatives, your brothers…and the rich neighbors…and invite those that society considers to be the outcasts…the rejects…and reach out to them…show compassion to them.
- We cannot expect to see 10 new faces here.. .and here.. .and here if we seclude ourselves to only inviting each other…
- The only way we can add those new faces is if we reach out beyond each other…to those who are in need of a physician…and invite them in.
Now, obviously, in this story these tax gatherers and sinners were not on the same spiritual level as Jesus.
- There is no telling what Jesus put up with out of these men.
- Some of those tax-gatherers may have been pretty selfish.. .pretty greedy…obnoxious and
- But in spite of those things Jesus didn’t shove them away, and He didn’t pull away from
- He saw them as people who needed to be taught and saved…and that was more important to Him than anything else…and so He was patient…and understanding.. .and tolerant of some ..things He Himself probably didn’t care for.
And that is what we will have to do.
- I have eaten with some “sinners”…and some of them say some things I don’t care for.
- And some of them have opinions I don’t agree with.
- And some of them believe some things that I think are wrong.
- But that is to be expected because they don’t know and understand some things that I
- But, by being patient, in time they might.
But, if I refuse to eat with them one thing I know…they will never be sitting in this section…or that
one…or that one.
If we will only change our focus a little…our attitudes…and start looking for people who are outsiders…the rejects…the tax gatherers…
- And start trying to be a friend to them.
- And invite them to our fellowship luncheons.
- I believe before too long we could see some new faces here….and here…and here.
Now, let’s be careful with this.
- Notice in this story that Jesus doesn’t justify, endorse, or condone the lifestyle of the sinners,
- He said they are sick!
And notice, He is not there to be infected by their sickness. He is there to make them well.
- So many people get confused with this and what they do is they think that, in order to try and save those who are sick.. .they themselves have to get sick too.
- “Let’s be like them.”
Jesus doesn’t do that…He doesn’t endorse that at any tune.
- He maintains that He is the Physician.. .and that He is there to help these people, and they are to do what He prescribes.
- We will do them absolutely no good if we withdraw from them.. .but at the same time we will do them no good if we take their sickness on ourselves.
And what that means is this: It is a risky thing to move among the sick.
- The possibility of infection is high.
- But that should be our goal as a Christian…to reach a level of maturity in our Christianity to where we are just like Jesus. .so strong and so close to God that we can move among the ..and stay holy.
- Not all of us are there.
- Some of us are too new in Christ…and if you went out and moved among the sinful you would get sick too.
But some of you are strong in the Lord…and your relationship with God is so strong that you can move among the sinful without catching the disease…and that is where you belong.
- Physicians should be with the sick, and not with the healthy.
And let me tell you something else we can learn from Jesus in this situation: No Christian should be condemned for being with the wrong people for the right reason.
- Some times we are quick to criticize and condemn a brother for being with someone that we
consider to be a “tax collector” or a “sinner.”
- And we get upset.
- Where else should he be?
- How can we teach them about Christ if we withdraw from them?
Brethren, I believe that God, through us, can put 10 new faces here.. .and 10 new faces here.. .and 10 new faces here in a short time.. .if we will stop looking exclusively inward.. .and start looking outwardly for those who are in need of the Physician.
- I don’t believe that God ever intended for His church to be monastery.
- Instead, I believe He intends for His church to be a hospital.
- And as His disciples, I believe He constantly wants us to be involved with those who are sick
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023