Day Six with Mark: Mark 2:13-17

Today in our sixth day walking together through Mark, we look at Mark 2:13-17.  This passage is called Jesus Calls Levi.

Jesus Calls Levi
13 Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. 14 As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

15 And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

jesus-calls-matthew-2Levi is Matthew the tax collect, the Apostle and author of the Gospel Matthew.  Matthew is the Greek form of his name, Levi is the Hebrew form of his name.  Well, why would Levi (Matthew) go by two names?  Especially when unlike Peter, Jesus didn’t change his name?

Well, that had a lot to do with his job and why the Jews HATED the tax collectors.  We joke about tax collectors and the IRS and how no one likes tax collectors.  This isn’t that.  There were no more despised by the Jews than tax collectors.  Maybe the Samaritans, but it would be close.

Why were tax collectors so hated?  To the Jewish people, the tax collectors were traitors. They were Jews who betrayed their people and worked for the Romans. And even worse, the majority of tax collector were seen as thieves. What the tax collectors would do would be they that tell someone they owed a certain amount of money to Rome. Then, they would go and collect from them double or triple that amount.  And if the person could not pay it they would suffer the consequences from the Roman army.

So basically the tax collectors use the power of the Roman army to steal from their own people.  So, in short, they were thieves, they were traitors, and they associated with Gentiles.  Religiously, socially, politically, economically, every possible way that you could be hated, they were.

In Jesus day, tax collectors were truly despised.

If you were able to worship with us Sunday at St. Matthew’s, in my sermon we talked about how in Jesus’ culture, and still today, to share a meal with someone is a powerful thing, it is an act of acceptance, of friendship, of basically become family.  So, what then does it say that Jesus shared a meal with Levi (Matthew) and other tax collectors?  By the way, pay attention in all the Gospels to who all Jesus shares a meal with.  He eats with everyone, tax collectors, “sinners,” Pharisees.  He loved and loves the world.

In this act of eating with Matthew and his fellow tax collectors, Jesus is saying this.  I love you.  But notice this.  He doesn’t just accept them and it ends there.  Levi (Matthew) leaves behind tax collecting and follows Jesus as a Disciple.  He doesn’t just leave him there, but Jesus comes, loves, and calls.  Calls Levi to follow Him.  Calls him to leave behind his past, his mistakes, all that he has done. And follow Jesus. And Levi does.

Now, look at the response of the religious leaders.  They can’t believe that Jesus is doing this.  I’ll unpack later why the religious leaders get so upset at Jesus, but for now, just know this, its misplaced passion. They actually, in their minds, are trying to honor God, but they are doing it completely, totally, wrong.

And Jesus says this, He has come for this sick, not the righteous.  Now, we know that none are righteous, so Jesus is speaking hyperbolic here.  He’s making a point.  What is that point?  It’s better to know that you are weak and sinful and need help than to think you are stronger than you really are, and never ask for the help you need.

Today, Jesus calls and eats with tax collectors. And He calls us wherever we are.  May we be like Levi.  May we follow, wherever He calls us!

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 2:18-28.

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(One of) The Most Misunderstood Verses in the Bible

Our Wednesday Night bible study at Asbury is one of the highlights of my week.  It’s always a fun time of conversation about scripture, life, and what God is teaching us.  We laugh, ask questions, and try to dig deep into God’s Word.

And, as I am prone to do, I will usually chase a rabbit or two.  We are finishing up Galatians, and last night, we took a sidebar conversation into what I said was one of the most misunderstood verses in the bible – Don’t judge lest ye be judged yourself.  We had some good conversation about it, and today, I wanted to share a little bit about this verse.  It can be found in Matthew 7:1-5:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

plankeyeNow, notice what I did first.  I didn’t just include that verse, but I included the verses after it, and I could have included the verses in front of it.  One of the most important things we can do when we read the bible is to understand context.  What is happening before the verse, what is happening after the verse.  You don’t just want to look at one passage but look what’s happening around it, to get the full picture.

Jesus said, don’t judge, so you won’t be judged.  How we judge others will be how we are judged ourselves.  Then look at what happens.  Your neighbor as a speck (a small thing), while you have a log (a large thing).  Take the log out of your eye.  Why?  So you can help your neighbor take the speck out of their eye.

I think this passage teaches at least two things – humility.  We are no better than anyone that we may want to “judge.”  We are human.  We have made mistakes.  We have failed, we have major things that we have done. We need to always understand that as Christians, we are not better than anyone else.  We are simply sinners saved by grace.  We have to approach everything with humility. That’s the only way that we can make a difference, the only way that we can help others.

Understand your weakness and sin, own it, and when you do that, you will really be able to help others with their weakness and sin.

We have to understand and live out humility in everything.

The second thing is this – the point of “judgement” is heal others. To help others.  We are never to judge. We are to help.  If someone you love is doing something wrong, you job is not to beat them up, but to help them come to healing.  To restore them. To love them.  To help them to be complete.  You never want to beat them up. But you do, through love, want to help others (just as you would want them to help you) come to a healthy and whole place in their life.

And sin, in the end is destructive.  Destructive to our walk with God, and our walk with each other. That’s why our log, and their speck, must both be removed, so what we can walk in peace with God and each other.  Sin destroys, and God desires healing and wholeness for all of us.

That’s point here.  Not judgement. But healing. Forgiveness.  Restoration.  So, yes, help your neighbor with their speck.  But first, humbly look for the log in your own eye. And then, let every action, every word, every thought you take for them by about what is best for them, and be about loving them, as Jesus loved them.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

God’s Got a Plan

One of the things I like most about Matthew’s Gospel is how many times things are fulfilled in prophecy.  So many times, Jesus will do something, or something will be said, or something will happen, and Matthew says, this was done to fulfill the prophet.

For instance, look at today’s text, Matthew 12: 15-18:

Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased, I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.

gods-planMatthew is showing how each of Jesus’ actions, all that He was doing, from His birth, His teaching, His death, and His resurrection, were all part of God’s plan, not just for Jesus, for the world.

Why do I like this so much?  Why does this give me a sense of hope and peace?  Because God’s got a plan.  God knows what He is doing.

We have choice, we have decisions to make, we have things that we have to do, but God has a plan.  God has a plan for us, for our lives, for our families, for all that is going on.  You are not just floating randomly through life.  This is not happenstance. This is not all just random noise.

God has a plan.  He knows what He is doing.

And you can trust in that, today. Trust. God knows what He is up to, God know what He is doing.  And God will accomplish that plan in your life and through your life. Be obedient to His calling and His leading today.  Follow.

And let that leading guide you.  Follow Him.  Even when you don’t understand.  God has a plan.  You can trust.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

Like a Child (SOAP)

Today, let’s reflect upon Matthew 18:1-6 together!

S – scripture

Matthew 18: 1-6:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

O – observation

Jesus exalts a child as the example of faith

Jesus tells us that we should have a faith like a little child.  And that sounds nice and sweet to us, but in Jesus’ day, that wasn’t the case.  Children were not important.  They were little more than property in that day.  The number of kids you had would show the wealth that you possessed, but it was not a child friendly society like ours is.

So, Jesus takes a child, of little worth in the culture, and says, be like this.  Humble yourself.  Don’t be proud.  Be humble. And in that, you will find the kingdom.

Jesus tells us welcome little children

Jesus doesn’t just tell us to humble ourselves like a little child (which is bad enough!) but He tells us that we should welcome children.  In His day, that simply was not the case.  Children were to be seen (rarely) and never heard. They didn’t matter.  They didn’t have value in that day. They were simply not important.

First, He tells to be like someone not important. And now He tells us to welcome someone not important.

Jesus is challenging us to consider our values of who is important and who is not important.

millstoneJesus warns us to consider out actions

And finally, Jesus tells us that if we cause one of these little ones to fall, our fate would not be good.  A mill stone is HUGE stone.  Bigger than any stone that you have ever soon. There is  no way that you could tie it around your neck, it’s simply too big.  Jesus is making a point here.  It would be better for you to do something impossible than for your actions to hurt one of these.

He reminds us that our actions have consequences that we can never even see.

A – application

Who is not important to us, that is important to Jesus?

Jesus calls us to pay attention to those that don’t “count.”  That don’t “matter.”  That aren’t “important.”  Why?  Because they count, the matter, and they are important to Him. They matter to Him.  He loves them, wants us to love them, and they may have something to teach us about faith.  God may be wanting to use that one that you think doesn’t matter to point other to Him.  He may have a high and lofty purpose for them, that we’ll never understand.

But He does. And He wants us to respect, love, and care for them.

Today, who are we missing, that Jesus isn’t?  Today is not important to us, that is very important to Jesus?

How can I humble myself?

CS Lewis said “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”  We have to learn to humble ourselves, and take the focus off of us, and put it on Him.  But our vision, our plans, our lives on Him.  He calls us over, and over and over again to humility.

Every wondered why?

If we are focused only on us, we will never be able to see Him.  Today, may we take the focus off of us, and place it upon Him.

Have I considered the consequences of my actions?

My life, my decisions, my actions, they have have consequences.  They affect others.  I don’t live only for myself.  I live for God, and I live for His plan.  The choices I make today, they will affect others in ways that I can’t imagine. Today, in our lives, may we remember that the choices that we make, the have a great affect on others, than we realize.  May we live with that knowledge.

P – prayer

Dear Father, my I live today, keeping my eyes open for those that I normally miss because I am so busy.  May I seek to place the focus of my life upon you, and may I consider how my actions affect others.  Give me grace for this day.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

Follow Me – Hope and Change Podcast

The sermon podcast for Sunday, August 21, 2011 is up on Asbury Church’s website.  This is the second sermon in our series about discipleship and the transformed life entitled “Follow Me.”  It is about following Jesus to a life of hope and change. It deals with the life of Matthew and the text is Matthew 9: 9-13.  You can listen to it by clicking here, or you can listen to it here on this blog by clicking below. And, as always, you can subscribe to my sermon podcasts through iTunes.