Are there people out there that you would rather not hang out with? People that you just don’t connect with? People that maybe make you uneasy or uncomfortable? People that rub you the wrong way? People that you strongly disagree with? People that are just so different from you? People that are just so difficult? Or people that carry so much baggage? Maybe these people are close friends or even family. Maybe they are coworkers or neighbors or acquaintances. Or maybe they are people you don’t really know at all. But whoever they are – or what kind of relationship you have with them – or whatever they bring to the table – you would rather not bother with them. It’s too complicated or too uncomfortable or too awkward or too (fill in the blank). Maybe you even feel like you might be better than them – you might not admit it – but maybe you think they aren’t worthy of your company.
I had a major moment of conviction about this very thing several years ago.
The drama team had formed a relationship with a group of women at the women’s prison and we were on our way down to meet with them one Wednesday night. This was back when the women’s prison was located near downtown Indianapolis. I was a passenger in one of the cars headed down there and we took Keystone avenue – from northern Hamilton county all the way to downtown Indy. I looked out the window the entire way down there – thru some of the wealthiest areas to some of the poorest and as we pulled into the prison parking lot – I realized I had been judging people the whole way down. I had decided – in my own mind – that none of them – no matter their socio economic status – no matter their gender – their race – their culture – their education – none of them were worthy of me. My time – my attention. It was a true come to Jesus moment for me. And as I came to Jesus in that moment – He was pretty clear in His thoughts – “get off your high horse Amy – when did I ever give you the impression that you were better than anybody else?” And I think that’s a message He has for all of us – for the church. Let’s be honest we as the church – as the body of Christ have done some significant damage in this area (as individuals and as a group) – I think there is a big world out there that views us – Christians – as a judgmental and self-righteous and at times angry group of people. And I believe much of that has been brought on by us and our words and our actions. And I believe this is absolutely contrary to everything Jesus was about.
And that’s way we are in this series – Formerly Known as Christian – to discover thru the book of Mark everything that Jesus was about and then live our lives patterned after Him. I am personally loving this series – I mean this is what’s about, right? To surrender our lives to Jesus and then allow the Holy Spirit that dwells in us to shape us and mold us into the person God calls us to be. And by looking at the life of Jesus thru the book of Mark – we are given the DNA of what it means to be a Christian – a Christ follower. Over the last 3 weeks we have seen what some of that DNA is – characteristics that should define those of us who call ourselves Christians.
We are people of the Good News!
We are people who proclaim the Good News!
We are people who run to it!
We are people who have real faith in Jesus through the storm.
And today we continue our journey thru Mark as we discover another aspect of who Jesus is. We’re going to be looking at Mark – chapter 2 – starting in verse 13 – you can find it in the house bibles on page _______.
(How I ended up preaching on this passage)
As you’re getting there – not exactly sure who wrote Mark – but it’s likely that Mark wrote it for Peter – it has more of a reporter feel – as opposed to a narrative story – not overly wordy or tons of detail – gets to the point – if I wrote a book I’d have Alison write it. believe Matthew and John used the book of Mark as a source for their Gospels. Regardless it is a great, concise picture of Jesus life and ministry. So let’s look at Mark 2 – starting in verse 13 – leading up to this – Jesus has already called several to be his disciples – he has preached to crowds – he has done several healings -and already irritated the religious leaders and the Pharisees – word about Him is spreading quickly - right before the passage that we are looking at today – Jesus healed the paralyzed man whose friends lowered him thru the roof just to get him to Jesus – so already people are awed by him and willing to go to great lengths to see Him and touch Him. And now we are at the place where he is calling out Levi – who will later be known as Matthew. Let’s read Mark 2 starting in verse 13 – if you’ll follow along with me:
13Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. 14As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.
15Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) 16But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees[a] saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?[b]”
17When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Like I said – Mark is concise – gets to the point but there is still a lot going on in this passage. Let’s go back to verse 13
Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him.
Right away you notice that Jesus is on the move again – not stagnant – not passive – on the move – finding people – moving toward people. He knows his time is limited and He has a mission – a job to do – spread the Good News!
Earlier in Mark 1:38 – Jesus’ disciples are come to him telling him that the people of Galilee are looking for him and Jesus reply is:
“We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them too. That is why I came.”
He also says in Mark 1:17 when calling out Peter and Andrew to be his disciples:
“Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”
There was an urgency to find people. Look at verse 13 again.
“Jesus went out to the lakeshore again” – moving toward people.
Jesus meets people right where they are.
Christ is always first with his people; he first seeks them, and then they seek him; he first finds them, and then they find him
Are you willing to move into the world and meet people right where they are? Are you constantly moving into a broken world and engaging with people right where they are?
And because Jesus moves into the world and meets people where they are – they in turn are drawn to Him. “And taught the crowds that were coming to Him. They want to be near him – they want to hear from him – they want to be in His presence. How about you? Are you someone that people want to be around? Are people drawn to you? Do people just want to be in your presence?
Or are you someone that people try to avoid? Someone that makes people roll their eyes at the mention of your name? Someone that makes other people uncomfortable? Not easy to be around? Confrontational? Argumentative? Likes to post and share things on social media that makes other people kind of want to punch you? Look you’re never going to argue someone to your point of view – and you’re certainly never going to argue someone to Jesus – the Good News can become bad news real fast if the person proclaiming it is kind of a jerk.
Jesus meets people where they are.
And because of that people are drawn to Him.
Let’s keep going. Verse 14
. 14As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.
So there He is – Jesus walking along the road – looking for people.
“Come follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people.”
That’s what Jesus was doing – fishing – looking – pursuing people.
And he sees Levi – a tax collector – the worst of the worst in that culture. He is offending so many people by calling out Levi. But He does –
“Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him.
Jesus calls people to follow Him right where they are.
because Jesus isn’t concerned with where people are – He is concerned with where they are headed. Not concerned with who they are but who they could be. He makes the least of these – the most important. We see it all thru out scripture.
• Jesus will sit at table with tax collectors, prompting Pharisees and scribes to ask, “Why is it that (Jesus) eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” (2:16).
• Jesus will make a tax collector the hero of his parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector (Luke 18:10-14).
• He will also honor Zacchaeus by inviting himself to Zacchaeus’ home—and by pronouncing salvation on Zacchaeus’ house (Luke 19:1-10).
Jesus does not say – Levi – go home – clean yourself – get yourself presentable and then follow me – no he says – follow me and be my disciple. Not think like I do – act like I do – speak like I do – No – just follow me, truly follow me – be my disciple and the rest will come.
How many years I wasted thinking I needed to change people’s behavior? I was more concerned with what they were doing than where their heart was. I just needed to call them to follow Jesus right where they were – the Holy Spirit working in their surrendered lives would do the rest.
It is significant that Jesus takes the initiative in this call. Levi did not ask to be included or forgiven. There is no mention of repentance—although we can assume that this is a turning point in Levi’s life—
Jesus calls people to follow Him right where they are.
And what does Levi do – follows Him. It says he got up and followed him. Not only did he follow him – we see in the same account in Luke chapter 5 that he dropped everything and went with Jesus. It says in verse 28:
So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.
For Levi to abandon his tax office to follow Jesus is an act almost as remarkable as for Jesus to call him. He was well off financially and had the backing of the Roman government and he left it all. People often make that sort of break with their previous life at the call of Jesus. Our souls ache for purpose, and Jesus gives us something worth living for—even worth dying for.
Mark 1:18 – it says Peter and Andrew left their nets and followed him. Again no hesitation.
If we claim to be followers of Jesus – we will not wait – we will call people right where they are – into a life of purpose and meaning. We don’t need to wait for them to clean up – to be presentable – we just need to call them out – right where they are. The Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8
Come and follow me – right here – right now – be my disciple. Walk with me – learn from – find your purpose.
And again if we meet people where they are and call them where they are – in love and humility (like Jesus) – they will be drawn to us. (like Jesus)
Let’s continue in the passage – picking up in chapter 2 verse 15
15Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)
So Jesus is invited to Levi’s home to dine with Levi’s friends – who are all considered as bad if not worse than Levi – we know this because those are the only type of people that would accept an invitation from someone like Levi– does he go? Of course, he does! – so not only is Jesus calling out this man – the worst of the worst – to be his disciple – now he is going to dinner at his house with even more horrible people. And I love the little addendum there in parentheses – there were many of this kind among Jesus’ followers – I imagine Peter saying to Mark – make sure you get that in there – I want to make sure that people know that Jesus’ followers were made up of all kinds – He didn’t discriminate – if you were willing to follow Him then come along.
This is was a real source of scandal for the scribes and Pharisees. If Jesus really was a Rabbi he would have had nothing to do with such people. To sit down and eat with such "unclean" people was to be contaminated oneself. As we have already seen, Jesus' whole mission is one of salvation and redemption of restoring people to wholeness. And how is he to help sinners/ broken people change, unless he is in direct contact with them?
Jesus engages and loves people right where they are.
Let’s continue – verse 16
16But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees[a] saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?[b]”
And there are the Pharisees and teachers of the law – always right behind Jesus – just waiting for him to mess up. Even though this is only the second chapter of this Gospel, Mark has already recounted several instances where Jesus acted in ways that Pharisees would regard as offensive.
He was provocative and always challenged the religious status quo. They found it repulsive that Jesus would sit with such “scum” – in their words. Jesus didn’t care – He engaged with all people no matter where they were in life.
But I find it interesting that they ask his disciples the question instead of going right to Jesus – it’s almost as if they were afraid to ask him to his face. They are so junior high. And of course, Jesus hears this – he kind of reminds me of a mom in that way – hearing and seeing everything. And I love his response. Look at verse 17.
“Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
He describes them as "sick"; they are in need of healing and rehabilitation. This can only be done by reaching out to them.
And He is talking about all sorts of sickness or brokenness - pain, isolation, hate, injustice, separation from God – you can only bring hope and grace and love and forgiveness to the 6 broken places if you are willing to engage with broken people. And you can only move into broken people’s lives when you are willing and able to acknowledge your own brokenness. You can move into their lives one broken person to another.
“I have come to call NOT those who THINK they are righteous, those who KNOW they are sinners.”
Jesus has no time for Christians who think that they are above or better than anyone else. No time for piety and self-righteousness or judgement or hate.
Jesus engages and loves people right where they are.
Honestly who do we think we are to think we are any better than anyone else in this broken world? The only thing that separates us from anyone is that we have accepted and surrendered ourselves to the grace mercy love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
We are all broken - we have just surrendered to the hope love joy mercy grace forgiveness that can only come from Jesus
You cannot change a broken world if you refuse to engage with broken people.
If you call yourself a Christian – if you claim that you have surrendered your life to Christ – then:
You are a person who lovingly pursues lost and broken people.
Meeting them right where they are
Calling them right where they are
Engaging and loving them right where they are
When I think of Jesus’ interactions with people – as he’s walking along the road, as his sitting with them at dinner in someone’s home. I always think of my grandma. One of the greatest women I have ever known.
Pic of Grandma
No one here on earth can even be close to who Jesus was – we are all sinners – but I’m telling you my grandma was about as close to an earthly Jesus as you can get. When you were with her – you never felt judged or shamed or less than or belittled – you felt loved and seen and heard and respected. We used to fight over who was my grandma’s favorite and when we’d ask her – she’d just say – “my favorite is whoever I am with at that moment.” And that was the truth – when you were with my grandma you felt like you were the only person in the room – that she was completely engaged with you. That for that moment you were her favorite. And people were drawn to her presence. She:
Lovingly pursued lost and broken people.
Meeting and loving them right where they were.
She gave me just a small glimpse of what it must have felt like to be in Jesus’ presence.
I picture Jesus sitting and listening/wanting to know as much as he can about the people around him
Like my grandma - her favorite was whoever she was with and you felt that way when you were with her – I picture people like that with Jesus – feeling so special and loved and heard.
Are you a person who loves people right where they are that cares about the broken people in this world enough to sit with them - invite them to your table or be willing to go to theirs - to know them - understand them - love them
Are we engaging with a desperate world - do we see everyone around us as a child of God?
Are we pursuing the broken and lost people in our lives? And are we pursuing them because we love them?
If we claim to be Christians – then we have not choice – we are called to be people who proclaim the Good News but we must proclaim to a broken world that we desperately love.
If we don’t pursue and engage and meet people with love – than we are just a clanging cymbal – no one wants to listen. Who wants to listen to someone that doesn’t care about them?
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
Loving people means putting them ahead of you – realizing that you are no better than anyone else – humbling ourselves.
It means getting off social media and sitting down and engaging in a conversation with someone. No one cares about your opinion anyway. But when you take the time to sit across from them and listen to them – then they care.
It may mean talking to someone that is different than you – getting to know them – trying to understand them. Loving them right where they are.
Have you engaged with someone who is not like you? If not, why not?
Are you scared? Tired? Indifferent?
There should be a burning inside us for the people around us – for a desperate world – we cannot be indifferent – there is no time for that
We must pursue broken people and we must pursue them because we love them.
It takes time. It takes intention. Don't you want to be the person that people invite to their table.
We have Good News and if we claim to be Jesus’ disciples we must be a people who:
Lovingly pursue lost and broken people.
Wouldn't be awesome if people heard the word Christian and thought about beautiful true just and right things and people. Instead of an institution or a people that are full of judgment and hate and self-righteousness and piety.
I want we as a people to be known as lovers as safe places as harbors for a lost broken world
Not haters and insulters and mean-spirited and judgmental
It may be risky and maybe scary it may take courage may be hard and difficult but Jesus never said it would be easy.
We will have to step out of our comfort zone.
This right here – what we are doing this evening/this morning – it’s just the launching pad – the real work is outside these walls. We want you to come here to learn and grow so that you can go out and
Lovingly pursue lost and broken people.
I want to say to the people around us – the community around us – the world around us –
You will be found
Because we – the people of God – as individuals and as the church – will lovingly pursue – find you and share with you the love of Jesus.
When you are lost
When you feel forgotten
When you are afraid
When you are on the ground
When you feel lost and alone
You will be found
Because we – we Christians - love you enough to do just that…