Posted on July 31, 2013
#13: An Example of Grace
Glad you’re joining us for Knowing Jesus—our study on Mark. If you’ve ever felt the sting of judgmental attitudes, you’ll appreciate the theme of today’s study. Christians who have been saved by God’s mercy can be very unmerciful! Let the hard-hearted example of the Pharisees remind us to keep our hearts soft and our opinions gracious.
Read Mark 2:13-17.
Then read Luke 5:27-32 and Matthew’s own account in Matthew 9:9-13.
Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, one of His favorite places. He spent a lot of time on or near this sea and logged many miles walking its shores. He’d become acquainted with local folks—fishermen, sail makers, merchants and customs collectors—many of whom were in the crowds listening as He taught. In fact, several fishermen were now among His disciples.
Capernaum was a customs post on the trade route between Damascus and the Mediterranean Sea. One of the collectors stationed there, a Jewish man named Levi who also went by Matthew, had caught Jesus’ attention. It’s likely they’d had earlier encounters; evidence suggests that Matthew was related to one or more of the disciples—possibly a brother to James the Less, or a cousin to Jesus Himself. Though tax collectors were despised by the Jews, Jesus had seen potential in Matthew.
Imagine the scene: One day, instead of passing by Matthew’s booth, Jesus stopped. He placed his hands on Matthew’s desk, leaned forward, looked Matthew in the eye and said, “Follow Me.” Immediately Matthew left Herod’s service to serve Jesus.
Tax collectors were wealthy, usually off spoils of cheating the people. (A fair tax collector was so rare that one named Sabinus who kept a clean reputation was honored with the epitaph, “Here lies an honest publican.”) They typically owned fine property and large homes. Matthew was no exception; his house was spacious enough to host a big dinner party that included Jesus and the disciples, as well as many of Matthew’s friends—other tax collectors and “sinners.”
A group of Pharisees was there observing, refusing to eat with such riffraff. They pulled aside some of Jesus’ disciples and sniffed, “Why does Jesus eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” They may have hoped to draw the disciples away by causing them to question Jesus’ judgment. But Jesus intervened, handling their question Himself.
He spoke a well-known proverb, then gave it a piercing new meaning. “The healthy don’t need a doctor; the sick do. I haven’t come to call the righteous; I’m here for the purpose of calling sinners.”
Why did Jesus eat with sinners? Because He didn’t want to eat alone! The truth was, every person in that room except Jesus was a sinner. Some realized it, some refused to. Those who refused were unreachable. Proverbs 26:12 says, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Their self-righteous arrogance had turned their hearts to stone, rendering them hopeless. Jesus chose to invest in those who had soft, pliable hearts.
Here’s another truth: Every person who has ever lived except Jesus is a sinner. That includes you and me. We don’t like to apply that term to ourselves. We like to think we’re good. We prefer to be the standard by which others are measured. We like to be the observant critics, set above the riffraff. When we face our real status and with open hearts measure ourselves by the holy perfection of Jesus, we can only fall on our knees, grateful for His grace that replaced our rags with His righteousness.
“He who had every right to judge,
He who could freely condemn,
chose in great mercy to love,
freely forgiving my sin.”
There is only One qualified critic. He chose to save us instead.
Share your thoughts….
To what degree is the church’s problem with reaching the world due to arrogance—a holier-than-thou attitude that unbelievers draw away from? Are there certain “kinds” of people you have trouble loving or identifying with? How can you show them genuine grace?
© Diane McLoud 2013