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Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Christ's Method Alone  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  40:40
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Calling Levi

Mark 2:13–14 ESV
He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
Capernaum, along one of the most important trade routes of the ancient world, Herod was collecting taxes for the Roman government: to build infrastructure, to “keep the peace” with soldiers, and to facilitate emperor worship.
The Jews bristled at these tax collectors. They were worse than the Romans. They were traitors, working with the enemy, facilitating idolatry… And most of them were extortion artists. Getting rich by tacking on a little extra here and there.
And here comes a Jewish Rabbi, teaching people about the kingdom of God.
And instead of condemning, berating… Jesus says to Levi, “Follow Me!”
Levi either already had a relationship with Jesus OR Jesus knew what was in his heart and character - A longing for something more; a desire for a life of meaning; an understanding of the messianic prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures.
Confronted with a life-changing call - FOLLOW ME, Levi stops, closes his tax drawer, cleans out his office and follows Jesus. No questions asked.
When Matthew tells this story, he tells us that Matthew LEFT EVERYTHING.

Christ’s Method Alone

Ministry of Healing Work of the Disciples

Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.”

Over the next three weeks, as we head toward LOVESLO Day (March 24) and Easter the next weekend, we’re going to stop and take a look at Jesus among the people:
Mingled - contact
Desired their good - camaraderie
Showed sympathy - compassion
Ministered to their needs - commitment
Won confidence - confidence
Bade “Follow Me” - calling

Mingled - Contact

Mark 2:15 ESV
And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.
The first thing we see after Matthew starts following Jesus is that he invites Jesus to his home.
Many Bible commentaries say this didn’t happen right away, but was a few months after Matthew’s call.
Luke tells us that Levi “made a great banquet” and that Jesus and the disciples were there eating with the sinners and tax collectors.
And we see back in our text in Mark that “there were many” of these tax collectors and sinners “who followed him.”

Desired their Good - Camaraderie

These sinners and tax collectors could tell that Jesus was different!
Jesus didn’t merely tolerate them or see them as a project.
Jesus actually liked them and wanted to be with them.
Jesus joked with them and ate with them and loved them.
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Here we see Jesus daring to be seen associating with sinners. And he gets called on the carpet for it. But the great thing is that he’s okay with that. Why? Because it gives him yet another opportunity to teach people about the love of God and to show it in a way that everyone could relate to.
It’s easy to say that God loves everybody. It’s another thing to hang out around people that you’re not always comfortable around simply because God loves them.
---
In this passage, I think we can find four habits of Jesus that are actually exhibited throughout the gospels. These habits excited some and bugged others. But they all served to glorify the Father and expand the kingdom of God.
Here at the SLO Adventist Church, we are tasked with the mission of “becoming the presence of Christ in our community.” So we’re going to spend the next few weeks looking at what kind of presence Jesus had in his community.
Let’s get started, shall we? Here’s the first habit we find:

Jesus called all kinds of people

I wonder what kind of reaction Jesus got from the other disciples when Jesus walked up to Matthew?
I wonder if they were thinking, "This’ll be good - Jesus’ll give him the old ’what for!’" And then, to their shock, amazement, and maybe even horror, they hear Jesus utter the words of invitation.
"Follow me."
Jesus called fishermen, tax collectors, and even a Zealot - a person who was dedicated to the violent overthrow of Rome. Can you imaging HIS reaction when he first met Matthew?
There is no place in Scripture where Jesus asked for a guy’s spiritual or career credentials before becoming his follower. He didn’t call spiritual giants to be his followers.
I don’t know about you, but I’m awful glad about that. That not only gives me hope for myself, it gives me hope for some of you, too! He called all kinds of people.
Here’s another habit we find in our passage...

Jesus "hung around" all kinds of people

Jesus could hang out with the rich and the poor, the religious leaders and, as we see in this passage today, those who weren’t particularly religious.
Verse 15 -
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples.
And this caused no end of scandal. It got him into trouble more than once, as we see from
Luke 15:1–2 ESV
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
What attracted all these "sinful" people to the holiest man of all time, Jesus? It was his willingness to be with them!
There is a mind-set among some Christians and especially Adventists that says we should insulate ourselves from the world (even from other Christians) so we don’t get polluted by their sin.
Too often this has been the reason we put our kids in Christian schools - to keep them away from the world.
We know that you get a reputation from the company you keep. That “water finds its own level.”
After all, the Bible does say, in 1 Corinthians 15:33 -
"Bad company corrupts good character."
And there is some wisdom in being sure you’re not influenced by things that can easily drag you down.
So Jesus did all the influencing - he never allowed the world to influence him.
But unless you’re ready to move into a cave somewhere to avoid contact with people, you will be in situations where you will have the opportunity to influence people. And by the way, there is nothing in Scripture that supports a lifestyle of avoidance of people who need Jesus.
In fact, the overarching teaching of Jesus is that rather than shrink from society, we’re to invade and impact it.
If we aren’t willing to be around people who need Jesus, then how will they hear the good news of forgiveness, a home in heaven, and a changed life?
As an example of this principle, let me read a portion by Joseph Aldrich, from a message he gave once.
[Education in the Red-Light District, Citation: Joseph Aldrich, "How to Be a Redemptive Person," Preaching Today, Tape No. 113.]
When my wife and I went to Dallas Seminary, we decided we wouldn’t live in the seminary housing.
Instead, we lived in the high-class, red-light district.
If you want to get an introduction to life itself, that’s the place to be.
We made a commitment to take one non-Christian person, couple or individual, out to dinner once a week.
Did we ever get a liberal education.
But what fun; we had people coming to know the Lord right and left in that place, because we simply loved them.
We opened our home to them. (SermonCentral.com - Contributed by: A. Todd Coget)
By and large, these types of people won’t be coming to church, because they see the church as out of date, irrelevant, and uncaring, sometimes even part of the problem. So we have to be the church to them. In other words, we need to display the love of Christ to them.
Where do we do this? In the workplace, in your natural relationships, on the golf course, in your interactions with other parents of your kids’ sports teams, in how you interact with the sales clerks, and even how you drive. Don’t get me started about how I see some people drive - especially those with little fish stickers on their car...
But folks, let me just say this as we get ready to move on to the third habit of Jesus. Jesus was a friend of sinners.
What about you? Can anybody accuse you of that? Can anyone who is not yet a believer in Jesus point to you as someone who genuinely cares for them?
Boy, I hope so. And so does Jesus. Because he’s counting on us to represent him to those who still need him.
Jesus had the habit of being around all kinds of people. Let’s look now at the third habit we see exhibited in this passage, and that is that...

Jesus saved all kinds of people

Mark 2:16–17 ESV
And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
He saved tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen, and even religious leaders who thought they had it all together.
And here’s something to make note of: he saved them right where they were. He didn’t ever say to anybody, "Okay, I’ll tell you what. You get your life all cleaned up and quit sinning, and I’ll see what I can do, alright?"
Nope - the instant someone recognized their need for forgiveness and put their faith in him, that was the end - they were forgiven.
And it was at that point, that he started doing the cleaning up of the person’s lifestyle.
He didn’t just save white-collar professionals. He didn’t just save fishermen. He didn’t just save women caught in adultery. He didn’t just save Palestinian Jews.
He saved whoever came to him to be saved. It didn’t matter. There was only one qualification for Jesus to save someone: they were a sinner who came to him for salvation.
2 Peter 3:9 ESV
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
He has no wish that any man should be destroyed. He wishes that all men should come to repent.
Keep that in mind, because it’s very important that you remember that as we get into the last habit we’ll examine today, but let me just very quickly run through these first habits again very quickly:
* Jesus called all kinds of people.
* Jesus hung around all kinds of people, and...
* Jesus saved all kinds of people.
Here’s the fourth habit I want us to look at today, and it’s really the point of the whole message:

Jesus still does all these things

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Jesus still calls all kinds of people.
Jesus still "hangs out" with all kinds of people. I mean, he hangs out with you, doesn’t he?
And Jesus still saves all kinds of people. No one in this room is outside that. And no one out there is outside that.
You cannot point out anybody and tell me that Jesus wouldn’t want to save that person. The church has too often excluded people based on social status, sin status, racial profile, or sexual orientation… WWJE? Who would Jesus exclude?
And if you’re here today, and you haven’t come to the point of personally putting your faith in him, then you fit the category of "all kinds of people" that Jesus wants to save.
Jesus wasn’t just a flash in the pan who came, did his thing, then died and went away.
He’s still here today, and he’s still moving, and he’s still working in the lives of his people - first to save them and then to mold them for his use and the Father’s glory.
Don’t ever get the idea that Jesus was finished when he went to be with the Father. He’s working today, through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
Conclusion
As we start to wind down here, I’d like us to take a look at two main lessons we can learn from the example of Jesus:
1. If you are already a follower of Jesus,

reach out to others on his behalf.

2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
There is no Plan B - we are Plan A - we’re to tell people about Jesus.
Angels won’t do it, the plants and animals won’t do it. We need to do it. Jesus is counting on us, and people need us to do it. Tell them about Jesus or bring them to someone who will.
But if you are a follower of Jesus, reach out on his behalf.
The second less is this:
2. If you are not already a follower of Christ,

accept his invitation.

Matthew 11:28–30 ESV
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The invitation is just as valid today as it was when he first gave it.
He’s saying that in spite of everything life throws at you, you can find rest - rest in knowing that he is there to give you strength to live for him while on earth, and rest for eternity in heaven.
He’s not saying that life will be perfect, he’s saying that you can count on him both now and forever.
Your job can’t give you that. Your relationships can’t give you that. Your money can’t give you that. Your baptism can’t give you that. Your family can’t give you that.
Only Jesus can give you that.
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