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The New Way to Life

Text: Mark 2:13-22

Proposition: Jesus has brought a new way, a way where faith comes when an  awareness of need is more important than independence and where the respectability of God comes before my respectability.  

Introduction:  Jesus had just healed the paralytic who had been let down through the hole in the roof, the man had gotten up and carried away his stretcher and the crowds were absolutely amazed. It was a short while later that Jesus again slipped away, leaving the crowded house for the fresh air of the lake side beauty of the  Galilee. It was somewhere near the edge of the lake that Jesus saw Levi sitting in the official Roman station for the collecting of taxes. There were only three towns in all of Israel that were set up for this, Jericho, Caesarea and Capernaum. Levi was one of the well known tax collectors in Capernaum and much like a sub-contractor it was up to him how he extracted the toll fees for Rome. Though a Jew, Levi was an outsider among his own people. In their eyes he was a traitor to his own country because he personally gained from their misery. He was a wealthy misfit, one who had long ago lost the trust of his community. It was to this most unlikely candidate for discipleship that Jesus calls out… “Follow Me.”, and to everyone’s’ amazement, he does. Don’t miss the response of Levi, for he immediately gets up, leaves the affairs to others and goes. When Levi left that office there was no turning back, he left it all, his bridges were burned. The despised publican or tax gatherer was no longer under the shelter of Rome. Peter, Andrew, James and John could still fish, Levi now had nothing but Jesus. Like a birthday, it marked both a point of departure and a new arrival, for Levi this was a new way to life. Turn with me to Mark 2:13 as we see what it means to take this new way to life.

I. When You’re Ready to Leave What You Can Never Have…                               What is it that you might suppose Levi could never have? It wasn’t money or power… that he had. Perhaps one of the things that Levi longed for but would never ultimately have was acceptance, to belong or be a part of the community. Perhaps it was significance, that he would be remembered or somehow make a difference. It’s my guess that Levi had heard of Jesus and maybe even listened to Him or saw the miracles that He did. When Jesus called Levi to follow Him, there was already a work taking place in Levi. You see, when you’re ready to leave what you can never have Jesus can now catch your eye and you can hear Him call you. It takes awhile to be ready to leave, especially if you don’t want to leave. If you’re a parent you know well the delaying tactics of a five year old, especially on Monday mornings. They aren’t ready to leave the house, to leave play time, to leave that warm bed. It can take awhile, but when you’re ready to leave what you can never have there’s a new way to life. For Levi it was this moment of time, a new purpose, a choice to be made and belief in Jesus to rest in. It was the good news he had been hoping for, even searching for, though he hadn’t realized it. The good news is that Jesus Christ wants you to follow Him, to have the significance, security and all that you have pursued but could never have. Now through faith in the forgiveness that Christ’s death on the cross brings, you belong to God who loves you with a depth and dimension we’ve never known. You could say that God has bought you out of the slave market of sin and now you are a member of His household. That was the new way to life that drew Levi forward, Levi who would soon be called Matthew and would become the writer of the gospel that bore his name. If you’re ready to leave what you can never have, there’s a new way to life in Christ that’s here for you this morning.

II. When Awareness of Need is Greater Than Self Confidence…                            It’s interesting how the call of Jesus toFollow Me’ quickly turns to Jesus following Levi to his house to dine with him and those who knew him. One moment He leads us and then the next it’s like He allows us to host Him, in so doing we also host others. Though it’s a wonder what He has done in our lives, it’s Jesus in the midst of others where the action takes place. This is where it becomes evident that what Levi has done is only what Christ wanted him to do, to let go of his attempts at being self confident and competent and to be aware of his need. Had Levi messed things up, had he taken advantage of others, had sin made itself evident in his life… it was time to wake up to the fact that he needed Jesus, for salvation … yes… but for life itself, here , now, today. That’s probably the point where the scribes came in and began to attack Jesus through quiet murmurings with the disciples, “How is it that He eats with tax collectors and sinners?” To eat with someone implied that you were part of them, you were friends, perhaps even family. It sounded like an attempt to correct Jesus while at the same time preserving self righteousness. ‘Jesus, we really care about you, perhaps you should be more careful as to what kind of image you’re creating. This is blurring the lines between evident good people and evident bad people.’ This quasi concern Jesus responds to by saying, “Those who are well have no need of a physician , but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  It is as if Jesus is saying that awareness of need is greater than the self confidence of self righteousness. The way to new life begins with an awareness of need that sees past the foolish and short sighted hopes of my self confidence. To need Jesus means to need Him like the very air that you breathe. When awareness of need is greater than self confidence, this is a first step on the new way to life in Christ.                                                                                            

III. When the Respectability of God Comes Before My Respectability…         Perhaps it was still while Jesus and the disciples were dining with Levi that the scribes attacked Jesus directly by accusing His disciples. If their disciples and even the disciples of John the Baptist fasted, why weren’t Jesus disciples also fasting?  Fasting had been elevated from an act done once a year on the Day of Atonement, to several times a year and now with the Pharisees, twice a week. It was for them a sign of spiritual devoutness and was seen as a badge of respect among the spiritual crowd. The response of Jesus to this charge of disrespect is that He uses three pictures or images to explain what He considers to be obvious truth.

1. It’s obvious that the attendants to the bride groom don’t fast during the wedding.

2. It’s obvious that a piece of new cloth if sewn onto an old garment will tear it.

3. It’s obvious that new wine will destroy old wine skins and the both will be lost.

What Jesus is inferring is that if He were to direct His disciples to do what the Pharisees were pushing Him to do it would obviously cause ruin. It would ruin the joy of the wedding and insult the groom to fast in his presence. It would ruin the old garment and ruin the wine and wine skins, metaphorically speaking. The idea of fasting is one that God directed the people to do and it had great purpose behind it. Isaiah 58:6-8 says, “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness; to undo heavy burdens; to let the oppressed go free; and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him and hide not yourself from your own flesh? Then your light will shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily and your righteousness shall go before you…” In other words if you fast for the purposes of gaining personal respect for exhibited righteousness you cause affront to the bridegroom, you insult His presence. You tear away at the original purposes of fasting as a means of caring for others and demonstrating true righteousness and you destroy both the wine or joy of God and the wineskin, the means by which joy is carried to others. Is it possible that Jesus is speaking about fasting in all of these images and that the new in each case represents what the Pharisees were seeking to push into place? What Jesus is saying is that the obvious way to new life in Him begins when the respectability of God comes before my respectability, for that is what the scribes were pushing. Respectability, after all, is what we convert into righteousness. How respectable I am is often the exact equivalent to how righteous I perceive myself to be. The sink hole in that kind of thinking is that I equate the opinions of man with the opinion of God, as if God can only see what man sees. The truth is that God sees far deeper, He sees the unbelief that lies behind the actions, He sees the love that is genuine and the love that is faked. He sees the existence of faith and He sees the belief that honors Him, the truth of how I respect God in my speech, action and thought.  This is the next step in the new way to life in Christ, respecting God’s presence, respecting the existing garment of truth about sin, Satan and self. It means that I seek to preserve the joy of the Lord, to bring joy to His heart through humility and faith, and to embrace the fast of Isaiah 58. This is the new way to life in Christ.

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