NOT THE RIGHTEOUS BUT SINNERS TO REPENTANCE
Key Verse 5:31,32
Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
First, "Follow me" (27-28). Look at verse 27. "After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him." His occupation, tax collector, showed what kind of person Levi was very well. In those days, tax collectors were national traitors, working for the enemy nation, the Roman Empire. Levi was willing to betray his own country, his own people, all for money. He was willing to give up his identity as God's chosen people, all for money. In this way, he valued money above all things, and pursued it really wholeheartedly. Then he became rich.
Jesus saw this man sitting at his tax booth. He paid attention to him closely, and thereby, understood him - a broken man. At Jesus' calling, he left everything and followed him, showing that nothing, even his high paying job, even all his wealth did not have any meaning or value to him; he could not find any meaning or purpose in all these things, yet still, he was working, most likely, so reluctantly, so heartlessly, really dragging his body to do his duties barely. His demeanor, his face, his attitude all testified that he was a broken man, so miserable. Jesus saw him and understood him; he had pity on him and wanted to help him so that he might be saved from his misery and be restored. So, he called him, saying, "Follow me." His purpose in calling him was not to utilize him for his purpose, but to mend his brokenness and restore him.
"Jesus saw Levi." How were we doing when God saw us? How were you doing before God's grace came to you? In darkness, in sins, in misery, doing terrible things, being suicidal, without knowing what to do and where to go, dying moment by moment, screaming out of the sense of frustration,... We were like that, and God saw us - He paid attention to us and thereby, understood our sorrows, our pains, our agonies,... Simply, we were broken people, lost and miserable and dying. He had pity on us, and wanted to help us. So, he called us by sending his servants who taught us the Bible. Thus, today, we have a new life in Jesus Christ, following him as his disciples. When we think about this, we can really see that God's grace is overflowing in our life. Because He saw you and had pity on you, today, you are here.
Jesus called him, "Follow me!" When Jesus called Simon, he gave him his promise, saying, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." With this, Jesus planted a vision in the heart of Simon that he would do great things and become great; because of this vision for his own life, Simon followed Jesus. But in calling Levi, Jesus didn't give him any promise, but this one single direction, "Follow me," because that's what Levi needed - a clear and right direction of life. Jesus gave him a new life direction, that was, to follow him. Thus far, Levi followed money; as a result, he was almost killed. So, it was a wrong direction that led him to spiritual bankruptcy. Now Jesus showed him a new life direction, that was to follow him, the Son of God, not money. This new life direction would transform him, even a spiritually bankrupt person into a great man of God, and his life as he followed Jesus would be truly meaningful and fulfilling; his life would be really wonderful. Thus, this new life direction of following Jesus was proved to be the right life direction.
What do you follow? What should we follow? This is a good question. And this is the very question all peoples on earth have and want to know the answer, shouting, "Show me the way!" In our old life, each of us followed something - 70 different ways of life we tried, and the result? All of them, 70 ways of life, were wrong, having led us to spiritual bankruptcy, misery, sorrows, pains, demon-possession, making us suicidal. So, never go back to your old way of life. If a million people gather together, we will see the same result - a million wrong ways of life. What is the right way of life? Show us the way! Jesus, the Son of God, shows us the way of life that will lead us to a truly wonderful, meaningful and fulfilling life, saying, "Follow me!" This new direction of following Jesus will mend their brokenness and transform all lost sinners, spiritually bankrupt people into beautiful children of God, great servants of God, and their life will be so meaningful. Following Jesus is the right life direction, and it is the only way of life for all peoples on earth. Follow Jesus, and you will be satisfied. Don't follow money; it's a wrong direction. Don't follow anything else, but Jesus, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. (Isa 55:1-3)
At this, Levi got up, left everything and followed him. His response showed that he was sick and tired of his high paying job, his money and all other things in his life. Before, he valued money, wealth and his high paying job. But now, those things carried no value to him; they were really like rubbish that, at Jesus' calling, he threw them away; they had no meaning, no value at all in his eyes. He left everything and from that time on he followed Jesus. He was a man of decision. In his life, he made only two decisions – one was to follow money - he was almost killed, because it was a wrong direction; the other was to follow Jesus. This decision led him to a wonderful life, transforming once a spiritually bankrupt person to a great man of God; it was the right direction.
Second, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (29-32). Look at verse 29. In order to express his thanks to Jesus, Levi held a great banquet at his house. At the same time, it was his farewell banquet to the world. He prepared all kinds of delicious foods, and invited a large number of tax collectors and others. In verse 30, the Pharisees called these "others" as sinners, referring to the prostitutes. The tax collectors and the prostitutes were outcasts in the society, classified as public sinners. People just hated and despised them, only seeing them outwardly. But Levi had been one of them, and had known their agony and sorrows very well. Out of compassion for them, hoping that they too might meet Jesus and have a new life, he invited them to the banquet. Once he experienced Jesus' grace, he became a good shepherd for them. At the banquet, everyone was happy: Levi was happy for Jesus' grace; Jesus was happy because he had found one lost sheep; his disciples were happy because they could eat gourmet food freely; the tax collectors and the prostitutes were happy because, unexpectedly, they were given a chance to meet a holy servant of God, Jesus, and have fellowship with him. It was a heavenly banquet where the Prince of the Kingdom of God was enjoying the beautiful eating fellowship with thankful and repentant sinners. But there were some people who were not happy. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law complained to Jesus' disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus was enjoying the heavenly banquet at Levi's house, but these religious leaders considered him violating the law. According to their understanding, Jesus, a holy Rabbi, should not eat with such sinners, but with holy people like themselves. What was Jesus' response to them? Look at verses 31 and 32. Let's read these verses together:
Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Jesus here shows the purpose of his coming into the world, that is, to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Jesus saw them - sinners - as sick people and himself as a doctor for them. His idea was clear: Because they were sinners, they needed help. So, as a spiritual doctor, he offered them his hand of acceptance, his hand of friendship so that, through his help and having fellowship with him, they might not live a sinful life, but live a righteous life. That's the purpose of his coming into the world - call sinners to repentance.
We lived a sinful life, but Jesus came to help us. What was his purpose? It was to call us, sinners, to repentance so that we may not live a sinful life any longer, but a holy and righteous life. By his grace, we now live for him. We must never go back to our old way of life.
Sometimes, we feel condemned because of our unsolved sin problems. Even after experiencing his grace and even if we live as shepherds, still we suffer from sins; we feel guilty and thereby, we are burdened to come to God. The Pharisees discriminated sinners, considering them worthless. But Jesus looked for sinners, because they needed help. In Jesus' eyes, we simply need his help, and he is there to welcome us and help us so that, eventually, in him, we all may overcome our sins and live a holy and righteous life. He is there to help us. The apostle Paul was deeply touched by this statement of Jesus, and said, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst." (1Ti 1:15)
Third, "New wine into new wineskins" (33-39). Look at verse 33. While Jesus was eating, some people said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but your disciples go on eating and drinking." Their words showed that there was general consensus about how God's servants, or spiritual leaders should conduct themselves or what they should do. Basically, those who were dedicated to God were expected to do fasting and praying regularly; that's what John's disciples did, and so did the Pharisees; due to their struggle for such spiritual activities, they looked holy and devout, and people recognized them and respected them. But Jesus' disciples were different; they didn't have that kind of training or practices; instead, they kept on eating and drinking. They didn't look so holy at all. According to the general consensus, it seemed that they were not dedicated to God. People were confused. So, they challenged Jesus about it, implying that, if he wanted to establish them as servants of God, he should train them in the same way other religious institutions did.
What was Jesus' answer? Look at verses 34 and 35. Let's read these verses together:
Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast."
Jesus says, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?" The guests of the bridegroom should not fast at the wedding banquet; it will be such insult at the bridegroom if they did. Instead, they must rejoice, eating, drinking, singing and dancing, blessing the newly wed couple. But if the bridegroom is taken from them, then, they would mourn and fast. His point is not that fasting is bad. Instead, his point is "while the bridegroom is with them," or "when the bridegroom is taken from them." The bridegroom at the wedding banquet is the Most Important Figure; the whole wedding banquet is for him. So, when he is there at the wedding banquet, they can enjoy the banquet freely, but if he is taken, there is no reason or purpose for the wedding banquet at all. Jesus says, "But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast." Here, Jesus does not say, "They must fast," but, "They will fast," showing that, when Jesus is taken from them, naturally, on their own, they fast. How come? It is because they love Jesus and want to enjoy fellowship with him.
Jesus' answer shows us what Christian life is about very well. Many people think that being a Christian means to be religious; they are greatly mistaken. Many people also think that when they do all the religious or even spiritual looking activities, they are good believers, and that they truly worship God. But if it is so, then, those who are self-controlled, like Navy-seals or CIA special agents, are the best believers, and those who cannot get up early in the morning to pray or those who are so weak to fast will never become good Christians. Such activities do not make one a true believer. Rather, Jesus shows that the one who is with him is the true believer. Such a person's believing life is not boring or so difficult to beat the flesh, but he can rejoice freely because of Jesus. The whole point of Christian life is whether we have Jesus with us or not because he is everything of our Christian life - the very cause and purpose of our Christian life - He is the Bridegroom of all the Christians. Romans 1:5 describes this very well, saying, "Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith." So, our whole struggle is to secure him in our Christian life so that we can have life together with him.
When Jesus is with us in our Christian life, our Christian life is so wonderful and we can enjoy it freely, expecting great things from him and attempting great things for him. But often, we feel that we are far from him, maybe, because of our own sins, or because we have become complacent; when we do not have Jesus in our day to day life, then, there is no joy, no happiness; instead, we just go through the motion, so tasteless and boring. At that time, we do all we can do to have him back with us, to have life with him. We pray, harder than before. In testimony writing, we spend more time than before so that somehow, we may be renewed and refreshed by his words, and thereby, with renewed heart, we can come to Jesus and have fellowship with him. If there is any sin, we repent thoroughly. If fasting is necessary, we fast. In this way, we struggle really hard to secure him in our Christian life and have life together with him, because he is everything in our Christian life - the very cause and purpose of our Christian life - the Bridegroom in our Christian life.
Look at verses 36 through 39. Let's read these verses responsively:
36He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.'"
Jesus describes his disciples as new wine, full of passion and zeal for God, rejoicing at this new life; their potential is limitless. New wine is still in the process of fermenting; it produces gas and bubbles come up, and as a result, its total volume increases. In those days, the container was made of animal skin, and new wineskins was a little elastic. As the volume of the new wine increases due to continuous fermenting, the new wineskins expands, being able to accommodate the increasing volume of new wine. Old wineskins is the skins that have already expanded to its max that it is no longer expandable; so, if new wine is poured into it, as the new wine's volume increase due to continuous fermenting, the old wineskins cannot hold it any longer, and eventually, the old wineskins burst forth, and the wine spills to the ground; thus, both of the new wine and the old wineskins are ruined; surely, it is not a good idea to pour out the new wine into old wineskins; new wine must be poured out into new wineskins. It is common sense.
When people talked about fasting, they meant that Jesus should adopt other religious groups' system and train his disciples in the same way so that they would look holy and devout like other religious people. But Jesus didn't think so; he was not going to train them to beat their flesh through fasting or prayer. In his eyes, that's not what they needed, and that's not going to work for them either. If they were to go through that kind of religious struggles of beating their flesh, then, their spirit would be ruined, and they would lose all the joy of this new life, and eventually, at best, they become like Pharisees, so proud, self-righteous, and unyielding - completely worthless and harmful. He did not think that Levi, a former tax collector, should become a Pharisee after experiencing His grace. He did not think that Simon Peter should fast twice a week to become a spiritual leader; if it were so, then, Simon, who was not well self-disciplined, would not find any joy in serving God and his believing life would be so torturous. Simply, it would not work. Instead, Jesus was going to provide them a new environment, in which they could enjoy this new life freely, that was, life together with him; he let them stay with him, enjoy fellowship with him, learn from him, do God's work together with him, and try to copy his example. How fun it was to teach so many people as leaders appointed by Jesus! How fun it was to stand on Jesus' side and defended him while temple guards tried to arrest him! How fun it was to have personal Bible study with him on the streets! Often, they suffered together with Jesus - hunger, poverty, sleeping in the fields, mistreatment and persecution from others, and it was also fun. In Luke 11, we see the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray. It was the time when Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem to die on the cross for the sin of the world (Lk 9:51). We are really shocked that, until that time, Jesus had not taught them or trained them to pray as his disciples - for three years, he didn't try to train them to pray, but let them have life together with him; of course, he always prayed, and his disciples always slept during his prayer time; but they were watching and learning from him. Then, when they picked up spiritual desire, and asked him about prayer, he taught them what they should pray for. Actually, they asked him about how to pray - technical aspect of prayer, but Jesus didn't teach them about how to pray, but what to pray for - God's name, God's will and God's kingdom - what they should really pursue. During all this time, he kept teaching them the word of God, sometimes encouraging them, saying, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you," (Mt 13:11) and sometimes, rebuking them harshly, "Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but things of men." After giving them further explanation of his parables, Jesus asked them, "Have you understood all these things?" Then, they answered, "Yes." Then, he said to them, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." (Mt 13:51,52) What great encouragement it was for the disciples! Surely, it was exciting to live as Jesus' disciples! When the disciples enjoyed their life in Jesus freely like this, they remained in him to the end while so many, even thousands of people came and went away. And later, when they accepted Jesus' will for them truly, they prayed day and night not as an expression of their devotion to God or as an expression of their religiosity, but so that they could really serve and fulfill Jesus' will upon their lives. They became great spiritual leaders. Christian life is not about polishing our flesh with religiosity, but about having life together with Jesus, and struggling to pursue him by studying and obeying the word of God. Those who love Jesus and thereby pursue him and enjoy fellowship with him are good Christians - they grow according to God's will and purpose and become great spiritual leaders for God's kingdom work.
This simple expression of Jesus, "New wine into new wineskins," shows us Jesus' amazing vision for his newly emerging disciples. They were young, weak and immature in every aspect. They were not completely refined like other religious leaders such as the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, that their style, sometimes, was rough, like new wine tastes sometimes, too strong – Maybe, their manner in conducting God's work, such as preaching the message of repentance boldly, was not desirable yet. But they had great potential to grow. Because he had a great vision for them, he was willing to provide them a new environment in which they could grow up freely and have a chance to live up to the full potential of their lives. For this, he offered himself to them.
At this direction, some people may say, "Then, let these new growing disciples go to other groups and reform them." But Jesus doesn't think so either, because simply it will not work. He says, "And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.'" When people are used to their way of serving God, they don't want to change - just once a week, they go to church, and other than that, they pursue success in the world, occasionally participating in God's work by distributing gospel flyers on the streets, or going to a short term mission trip in Mexico, or serving homeless during Christmas; then, after 20 years' church attendance, they become elders occupying positions in their church. We say to them to serve God wholeheartedly, but they don't listen, because, for them, the old which they have been used to and familiar with is better.
Today, Jesus looks for the lost; he calls sinners to have life together with him so that they may be healed of their wounds and scars; Jesus helps them truly repent and be healed of all their sin-sickness and live as beautiful and wholesome children of God. Today, Jesus calls us, "Follow me."
One Word: I Have Not Come To Call The Righteous, But Sinners To Repentance.
Current Message >