Jesus Rediscovered: Part 1 - Two kinds of Sickness - Hope 103.2

Jesus Rediscovered: Part 1 – Two kinds of Sickness

By Simon ManchesterSunday 13 Sep 2015Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


Our heavenly Father, we know that our hearts by nature are hard and easily closed. We pray that by grace you would cause our hearts this morning to be open and receptive. What we know not – we pray you would teach us, what we have not – we pray you would give to us and what we are not – we pray you would make us……for Jesus’s sake – Amen.

Well friends we are going back to Mark’s Gospel for 5 or 6 Sundays and I hope you will pray for this little section and if you would like to turn in your Bibles – we are in Mark chapter 2 verses 13-17. Just 5 verses and I think they are full of comfort and they are full of challenge as we will see.

Most of you won’t remember when we were in Mark’s Gospel last time or at least you won’t remember exactly what was being preached but we looked at Jesus begin his ministry, we looked at Baptism, the call of John the Baptist, we looked at his priorities to preach the Kingdom, to see people enter the Kingdom and the last sermon which we had was the man being let down through the roof – the Paralytic. And Jesus looking at him (you may remember) and saying ‘you are forgiven’. You expect him to say ‘you are healed’ but he says ‘you are forgiven’ because it’s forgiveness which brings a relationship with God which is more precious than anything in this world.

If you look now at chapter 2 verse 13 of Mark’s Gospel, you will see that we read “Jesus was once again out beside the lake. A large crown came to him, and he began to teach them”. His interest with the crowd is not to entertain them; it’s not to do miracles just for the sake of miracles but to tell them who he is, why he has come and all about the Kingdom of God. He is beside the Lake of Galilee.

Now one of our congregation members is just back from Israel and has brought me this very fine rock from the Lake of Galilee. And this may not be right but I sense it is one of the rocks that Jesus was standing on as he stood by the Lake of Galilee! And if anybody would like to come up afterwards and touch this rock and be deeply blessed – you need your head read! There we are – a little piece of Lake of Galilee.

I want you to notice as you get to verse 14 of chapter 2 that we really hit the key of Christianity because Jesus calls a man who shouldn’t be in the team of disciples at all. This man, the New Testament tells us had two names – Levi or Matthew. He is the disciple who wrote the first Gospel in the New Testament and there is plenty of treasure in these verses which I am going to divide into two points this morning. I am sure you will be able to remember these two points.

The first one is this – The People Jesus Choses and the second The People Jesus Changes.

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The people he chooses and the people he changes.

Firstly The People Jesus Choses – look at verse 14. He saw Levi, the tax collector and he called him to follow and Levi did. We get very sleepy as we read these verses, don’t we as they just sort of just wash over us like nothing. But just think about what’s happening here. I think the more you think about it the more interesting and the more amazing it is because by choosing Levi to join the 12 (and I am trying to think carefully how to express this to us in the present age in which we live) it’s like asking Eddie Obeid to be a key leader in the church of the Diocese of Sydney. And I say that because the public perception is cautious. I’m not making a character judgment – I am just saying the public perception is weary. We need to realise that Levi is the sort of person who most people would look at and be weary of.

Levi is a Jewish Tax Official. He worked for Herod, the Roman Governor. He wasn’t collecting income tax or land tax or something like that but Levi was collecting tax on what people carried. So he would set up his desk and he would stop people as they moved from one place to another like a Customs Official. And he would look at what they were carrying and then he would charge them accordingly and often he would charge exactly what he wanted. And nobody could answer him because he had the power of Rome behind him.

When you joined the Tax Collectors, as a Jew, you were then excluded from the Synagogue and you were often excluded from your family. You were looked on as a traitor and you were looked on as an extortionist.

If a leper who was cut off from the community by sickness was a kind of an unwilling exile, Levi is a willing exile. He says ‘I will pay the price, I’ll leave the circle and I am happy to be outside the people of God.

So what is Jesus doing in picking this guy? Surely there are more lovely fishermen to choose. You know good hearted, honourable fishermen. But this is the Gospel, isn’t it? Jesus doesn’t pick good people. He doesn’t go collecting fine people. I know there are many, perhaps even in your street or your block of units outside the church, who think that Christianity is a bunch of people trying to be good enough for God one day but actually I hope you know that we meet on a regular basis to thank Him for choosing people like us who we know are not worthy.

And if you think the Preacher’s job on Sunday is to get you to lift your game so that God will pick you one day for the ultimate team in the sky, I must remind you that Jesus chooses people like Levi – people who are really outside the circle.

And therefore if we could get in a time machine and go back and help Jesus choose his team, his team of 12 Apostles or Disciples, we would probably be no help at all because we would be looking for all the people who we think have got potential or have got a good track record or a good CV or something like that and Jesus is not really interested in that at all.

This is the clearest reminder I think (chapter 2 verse 14) that Jesus calls people who don’t qualify. And every single person in the world is a non-qualifier for God’s Kingdom. Every single person in the world is a non-qualifier for God’s Kingdom. The Bible says that we have all disqualified ourselves – we have chosen a course or a path like Levi which excludes us from the people of God and therefore we need somebody who will bring us in to the Kingdom of God since we are not able to come in ourselves and the reason we are able to come into the Kingdom of God is because of his mercy – not our merit.

A friend of mine sent me a sermon during the week and it was a good sermon but in the course of the sermon it was a draft. He wanted me to look over it which I thought was a very humble thing because he is a very able man. He doesn’t go to this church and he was going to preach at another church. But in the course of the sermon – I was reading it through and he wanted to explain what “hypocrisy” was. And to explain what “hypocrisy” was he actually identified a number of people who we would know who have sort of fallen or failed and pointed out that this was hypocrisy.

So I thought about this and I wrote to him and I said “Brother, if I was you I wouldn’t encourage your congregation to look out and point the finger or point their guns at somebody else as a hypocrite. I’d have a good look in your own heart and see the gulf between what you know and what you do, help your congregation to understand that there is a big gulf between what we know and what we do and therefore we are very grateful for a Saviour called Jesus. That would cause us to be deeply thankful – not proud and superior”.

So why are we glad when we read of Jesus choosing Levi? What if he was choosing perfect people? We would be disqualified. What hope would we have if we excluded ourselves from the people of God unless someone comes along who can include those who don’t deserve to be there?

Well if you think Levi is an exceptional person, look at verse 15. You see in verse 15 that Jesus then goes to a dinner at Levi’s house and he joins an absolute house-full of tax collectors and sinners. And although this seems to be at Levi’s house, (it certainly seems to be at Levi’s house) the original language if you were studying the original language gives the impression that Jesus somehow is at the head of the table. And so this is the kind of a meal where Jesus has been given some prominent place at the table and he is kind of fulfilling what the Old Testament said would take place which is that there would one day be a banquet where the Messiah would pull people together from all different stages and ages and places and backgrounds – Jews and Gentiles – North, South, East and West and bring them together at the banquet. And this is a little preview of what Jesus will do in glory.

Now as I read this again I think to myself first of all it’s a shock that Jesus chooses Levi because he’s just not obvious potential. But then it’s a shock that Jesus likes a whole house full of these guys. He actually likes the people in this house. And my reaction, because there is enough Pharisee in me – you may be the same, my reaction is to say – how does he mix with these people? Does he like their language, does he like their conversation and does he like their priorities? And how do these tax collectors and sinners like Jesus – “Mr Holy” – I mean the holiest man the world has ever seen – how do they like his company? And this I think this is where we have much to learn and at the same time recognise we may never really never get to the bottom of how Jesus was a genius at mixing with the world. But he does teach us that holiness at its best – real holiness – not sort of pious or fraud holiness – but real holiness is not unattractive and it’s not annoying – it’s actually very attractive and it’s very compelling.

Somehow as I look at chapter 2 verse 15 – and I don’t know if I will ever get to the bottom of this and I don’t know if I will ever be able to implement anything that I am reading here – Jesus mixes constructively with sinful people. Now I think it’s our typical pattern to polarize with outsiders. We both completely blend in so that no feathers get ruffled or we are confrontational and awkward so things are just difficult and set back.

But here is Jesus mixing constructively with sinners. He obviously loves them and they feel the love he has for them but he never compromises the standards of God. This is the Son of God – he is a genius – he is amazing. Verse 16 says there were Pharisees there in the house as well and I don’t know exactly how this works but there were Pharisees there. The word “Pharisee” comes from the Hebrew word “to separate”. Pharisees were separatists. There is a kind of excellent separation – “separate yourself from sin”. But then there is an unhelpful separation where you separate yourself from the world and you become so superior and so different that you are of no earthly good.

And these Pharisees had a kind of a negative separation where they looked down on the world and they built between themselves and the world a gulf or a chasm. You see what they say in verse 16 very critically looking across to Jesus and the people who are around him. “Why is he mixing with such terrible, terrible company?”

Now the reason is that Jesus is not a separatist –

He is a joiner.

He spontaneously loves people.

He wants willing fellowship.

He builds bridges.

He builds links to people.

You notice in verse 15 already “many of the tax collectors and sinners were following him”. Now I wish we had hours, perhaps all day today, to think about this issue of how the Light of the World mixes with the darkness and how we who have been called to be light in the world mix with unbelief and darkness – I wish we had a long time to think about this.

I simply would say this to you that most of you have “normal” lives. You need to pray for us clergy who have weird lives. We mix much too much with believers – believers – believers! But you have normal lives and you go to work with normal people and you need God’s help on a daily basis – and I hope you are asking for this – to somehow mix with normal people who don’t know Christ and to wonderfully accept them without approving everything they think, say and do.

If you can get that right, and Jesus got it right and he will help us to get it better, that is a wonderful contribution. You remember this came up in the book – the Auto-Biography by Rosaria Butterfield – a lady who was Professor of English at New York University and an absolute leader in the lesbian movement in New York. And she started to correspond with a pastor, a Presbyterian Pastor, a conservative Presbyterian Pastor. And in the course of the correspondence he said to her “I accept you 100% – I will always accept you 100% but I don’t approve of what you think, say and do in certain areas”.

And she felt the acceptance and acknowledged the non-approval. And it is a great and perfect necessary tension. If people feel at first “O God, help me to love these people – I don’t want to be a Pharisee – I don’t want to blend in and have no effect whatsoever. Help me to accept people even if I cannot and won’t approve everything they think, say and do”. And you must know how much you need his help to do that because if you are going to mix with people at work who have got very different views of life and religion and morality, you need to know that it’s possible by the grace of God to grow in acceptance and to grow in approval, sort of non-approval of the position that Jesus models here in chapter 2 verse 15 and we need his help in following.

We also need to do some homework on this so that we know how to speak sensibly about our position and I want to underline again what John Lennox said to us a couple of years ago when he came and said “it’s just no help at all if you are growing into a giant in your work area but you are staying in kindergarten or pre-school in your spiritual life”. There needs to be some good reading and thinking through – what’s the Christian position in this? How am I going to articulate in a way that’s very clear and of course very loving.

So don’t fall into the Pharisee position where you reject people because their words and deeds are not palatable to you. And don’t fall into the opposite position of saying ‘well nothing matters and I am just going to blend in’. Neither of those positions is loving but Jesus sets us a very wonderful pattern here in the people he chooses.

Now secondly – let’s think about The People Jesus Changes.

Let’s go back to chapter 2 verse 14 and you will see something really astonishing and again I think we read this so carelessly and we miss what’s happening. But do you notice in chapter 2 verse 14 that Jesus says to Levi, the businessman “leave your business and follow me” and what does your Bible say? “Levi says, I’m sorry this is an incredibly profitable business”. No Levi gets up and follows. I think that’s astonishing.

As we have heard at our business lunch this particular Wednesday, we are going to hear from Richard Borgonon who goes around asking CEO’s in various companies in London if they would like to read the Bible with him – Non Christian CEO’s. And he has meetings all over the week to read the Bible with people in positions of very influential leadership and many of them he has been reading the Bible with for months and even years and are not yet Christians. But he is meeting with them.

Now who is going to get a secular business man like Levi to surrender his business to Christ? Who could do that? It’s humanly impossible – I can’t do that. I’d love to see it happen. I have seen it happen over the years. Somebody becomes a Christian and everything suddenly goes under the leadership of Christ. It’s absolutely wonderful that the world as we know is full of businessmen where business is in the driver’s seat of their life and some kind of domestic Christianity is in the passenger seat of their life. Who can get this person to change the seats like that? And the answer is Jesus Christ. Just like that. And everything of course improves when this takes place.

So I want you to notice that in chapter 2 verse 14 when Jesus speaks to Levi it isn’t just talk – it isn’t just hot air – Jesus speaks to Levi and makes him into a brand new person. Just as God spoke into the void (Genesis 1) and made a brand new universe, Jesus speaks into the void of Levi’s head and heart and makes a brand new person. That’s what gets him up. It isn’t that Jesus says to him ‘are you up for a challenge?’ He says “follow me” and he transforms him because Levi you see doesn’t need a new challenge. Well he may need a new challenge but he is certainly not able to meet the challenge of following Jesus – it’s impossible. He doesn’t need some kind of programme of religion – what he needs is a new heart, a new soul and a new life and Jesus speaks to him and says “follow me” and he changes him – he converts him.

When the conversion takes place in a person’s life, they immediately see Christ as Lord. It’s as if you have lifted the soil away from the giant nugget – gold nugget – in their garden. You’ve just brushed the soil away and they see this huge gold nugget in the garden – everything changes. Not even the house is worth that! And that’s how it is when people see Christ in his greatness and his goodness. They say ‘that’s it – everything else comes second place’.

I was reading recently of a man called Sir Jack Hayward who has just died who was the Chairman of the Wolverhampton Wanderers – Football Team. And he once at the game and there was a reporter from The Guardian Newspaper quite near him. And the Guardian reporter heard St Jack Hayward say “our team must be the worst in the world”. And they reported this in the newspaper and Sir Jack Hayward had a terrible time trying to live down this terrible sentence as the Chairman of the team.

Actually he had just been given a hot drink and he’d said in a sort of a small rage “our tea must be the worst in the world”. It’s good to get it right isn’t it? When Levi gets up and follows Jesus, is it because he is a brilliant listener? It’s because Jesus is a brilliant caller. You may fall into the trap, you see of thinking we nobody is listening to Jesus today – he must be so depressed – he must be so helpless – he must be so friendless. No friends, when Jesus speaks to somebody with all the power of God, they respond. He knows exactly how to do his work and those people who respond begin to follow.

And the reason is because his call, the call of Jesus, is not a natural call like a parent calling a child in from the garden (that may work or it may not work). Jesus’ call is supernatural and divine. The call of Jesus is not external. You know my voice is going out into your ears for good or ill. It’s an external call. I can make it loud or make it soft but it’s just external.

The call of Jesus is internal – it converts. The call of Jesus is not religious – you know ‘come and I’ve got some rules for you’. The call of Jesus is power – ‘I have a life for you’. You think of how the Lord Jesus called Paul, for example. Paul who is utterly AGAINST Jesus and then utterly FOR Jesus turns his heart from stone to flesh. That’s the power of God, that’s the work of Jesus, and that’s what he doing here.

So he sees Levi, gives him new life, a new supernatural eternal life begins which of course is going to cost Jesus everything. That life doesn’t come freely. It comes at the cost of Jesus’ death but that’s what changes Levi and without the transformation worked by Jesus in a person, we just stay in our idolatry.

I want to ask you this morning and I don’t think I should avoid asking you this morning – has this call come and changed you? I am not asking you whether you’ve heard the call to turn up at church occasionally or regularly. I am asking whether you have heard the call of Christ to follow him, to believe in him, to belong to him and to behave for him – a transforming call because if you have heard the call, you will be following him and you won’t just be following him by coming here on a Sunday from 10.00 to 11.00. You will be following him from Sunday to Sunday. You will be following him all through the week. And you won’t need to be prodded by somebody all the time – COME ON, COME ON. You won’t need to be called again all the time because you have been transformed. You have a life inside you which nobody can stop and will never stop.

If you don’t think that this transformation has taken place and my guess is as a pastor of the congregations here who I greatly love – there is probably 20 or 30 people who are still in the dark- that’s my guess and if you think you are in a fog spiritually and still in the dark, come to the Christianity Explained course- Christianity Explored course on Tuesday. Be welcomed, be loved, be listened to and have things explained about the best possible decision in eternity.

Now our last verse 17 as we finish this morning is a very tremendous verse and climatic verse.   You see Jesus has heard the criticism of the Pharisees in chapter 2 verse 16 – ‘why is he eating with this riff-raff? I mean if you are really holy, if you are really the Messiah, you wouldn’t be with such sinners’. And Jesus says “It’s not the healthy that need a doctor – I’ve not come to call the righteous but sinners”. This is a beautiful and wonderful verse and I want to spend our last minute getting it and I want to ask you to concentrate because we are really coming to the end.

If you think about what Jesus is saying – he’s obviously telling us there are two kinds of sickness. There is physical and there is spiritual and he is talking about spiritual sickness. Nobody in the world is spiritually well. Everybody in the world by nature is spiritually sick (Romans 3:23 – We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God).

There are two kinds of people, however.

There are those people who are not well and know they are not well who are prepared to say ‘I am a sinner’.

There are those people who are not well and insist they are well and want to call themselves ‘righteous’.

With the first group, those who are not well and know they are not well and are prepared to call themselves sinners, Jesus has tremendous news.

For the person who is not well and pretends they are well and says that they are righteous, Jesus has nothing to say. Of course he can transform and that’s why we are so thankful. And this I think is one of the remarkable things about chapter 2 verse 17 is that Jesus doesn’t say “I am a spiritual doctor you know, and I wait for people to wake up to themselves and then call me and then I come and save them”. – NO – he says “I call sick people, I do house calls, I do street visits, and I go out for the people who are not well”.

So he doesn’t sit at home waiting for people to call him. Of course if anybody does call in, the Bible says ‘in repentance and trust you will be saved’. But here is Jesus telling us a very great secret which is that he goes after sick people just as he went after Levi. Isn’t this wonderful? I was thinking about somebody this week and I was looking at their name on a particular list and I thought – I don’t think they’ve understood anything, they don’t go to this congregation – I thought to myself – I don’t think they’ve understood anything. You must know these people. People in your family, friends and you are saying to yourself ‘they haven’t got it, they don’t understand it’.

And then I thought to myself – how am I going to make sure this person knows that they are unwell, spiritually unwell? How will I do that? And then I thought to myself – how wonderful that Jesus can take the initiative and call the person and transform them. So I am praying that the Lord will call them and if I have an opportunity, I’m going to try and persuade them. But in the end it’s got to do with the genius of Jesus, the initiative of Jesus and the sovereignty of Jesus.

So there are no spiritually well people. We are not going to meet any spiritually well people this week who are outside of Christ. All people are spiritually sick or dead. This is deeply resented by the world. That’s why the German Philosopher, Friedrich Nietzscher hated Christianity. He said the church exists to make people sick so that it can then bring in its business of religion. Now we want to strenuously say that we are not in the business of making people sick. We want people to be aware they are sick and it’s so obvious – we are dying – we are perishing. And we also don’t have a business; it’s not a profitable business. What we are trying to do is to say to people ‘there is a great need and a great piece of news and its Christ – go to him’.

The person therefore who keeps telling themselves or keeps telling others ‘I am pretty good, I am pretty good’ they are unaware of their problem and they are cut off from Christ. The person who knows that they are not good and looks for mercy will find it and will find new life.

So behind this awareness which God has caused so many of us to realize and appreciate that we need a Saviour as we heard earlier in the Service, behind this awareness is this wonderful initiative of Jesus coming and calling us.

And I hope this morning you are very grateful for the call of Christ. I hope it’s deeply comforting that you have been changed by this call. I hope you will also be challenged by the fact that the one who is called (look at Levi) puts everything under Christ and begins to follow and follows and follows and follows and follows and when the decision comes,

“I want to go down the road of adultery” says “I must follow Christ”.

“I want to go down the road of dishonesty” says “I must follow Christ”.

“I want to do down the road of pornography” says “I must follow Christ”.

“I want to do down the road of stupidity” says “I must follow Christ”.

That’s the challenge, isn’t it? Because if you have not heard the call that shows itself in that kind of following, did you hear the call? –

Well let’s pray.

Our Father this morning for this very wonderful segment in your Word, where we see the Lord Jesus fixing his love on somebody who is completely unworthy and bringing him into the very centre of his purposes – we are so thankful this morning and there are so many of us here that you have done this for us. You have brought us from outside to inside through your mercy.

We ask that you would also stir us as we think of this challenge of living in the world as your representative to do it well – not separating ourselves, not blending in harmlessly and we would also ask that you would help us in the great privilege of following Christ to turn away from what is disobedient and to pursue what is faithful. So here our gratitude heavenly Father for the comfort and hear our prayer for the challenge.

In Jesus’ Name – Amen.