Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sermon-- Offensive Draft Pick by Jesus-- Mark 2:13-17

The audio for this message can be found here.

Yesterday was the start of something big in NFL circles. The Draft. Each year, college players are poked, prodded, processed, and timed. And the teams pick the best players, or the ones who will best fit the needs of their team. But it’s not an exact science, there have been some terrible decisions. Some decisions draw the ire of the fans because they are astounded by the horrible decision that has just been made. And there have been some great players that have sat on the shelf—that no one saw their greatness, their competitive spirit, rather only their flaws, deficiencies and weaknesses.

Draft Picks—Yesterday—NFL Greatest Draft Steals--
• QB Joe Montana (Notre Dame)--Drafted by: 49ers, third round, No. 82 overall, 1979—3rd QB
• QB Tom Brady (Michigan)--Drafted by: Patriots, sixth round, No. 199 overall, 2000
• Brett Favre—was picked in the 2nd round--#31 by the Atlanta Falcons—but immediately traded him to Green Bay thinking he wasn’t worth it.
• S Rodney Harrison (Western Illinois)--Drafted by: Chargers, fifth round, No. 145 overall, 1994

Sometimes the ones that are the true champions are the less obvious—the hidden gems—that nobody talks about, that nobody expects much of.

Jesus made a habit of doing this—making offensive picks. If Jesus was a team’s draft expert—there would be calls for His firing. I mean, look at the kind of men Jesus picked for His team.

James and John were a bit judgmental—disrespect for Jesus deserves fire from heaven in their mind—hardly the best example of turn the other cheek

One was a zealot--violent and quick to a fight

Peter—one who is a loud-mouth, uneducated, boastful, but not courageous enough to back up his boasts.

One of Jesus choices betrayed Him

But Jesus, being God in the Flesh did what God often does—He chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise—according to Paul, to the larger Christian community—1 Corinthians 1:26--“think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential, not many were of noble birth.”

They were reaches—they were bad draft picks—the kind of people Jesus picked were the ones that you least expected and despised—what’s worse—some didn’t think they could play the game or even have a place at the table. And it was offensive.

Offensive Decisions—Read Mark 2:13-14

You probably know this, but there are some professions in this country that just get ripped to pieces on a regular basis. April 15th is only a couple of weeks in the past and for many of you, you may still have a bad taste in your mouth. Not only do we not like taxes, we often don’t like tax collectors—here’s a couple of examples.

Q: How is golf like taxes?
A: Well, you drive hard to get to the green, and then you wind up in the hole
Q. What is the difference between a terrorist and a tax inspector?
A. You can negotiate with a terrorist.

"What's the difference between an overzealous tax auditor and a rottweiler? Answer: "A rottweiler eventually lets go!"

"Why do sharks not attack tax auditors?" Answer: "Professional courtesy."

If we were to be given the opportunity to look into the faces of the crowd that day, we’d probably see several qualified, good looking, popular and resourceful people. I can imagine us tapping Jesus on the shoulder and saying—“hey, look at that one—they would be great to add to the team.”

The last one we would expect is the one who is not allowed in the church (synagogue) because he’s been kicked out. The last one we’d expect to see Jesus would want us to talk to about faith and salvation and the call is the one with no respectable friends, the one who is in fact so unpopular that he is hated as an outcast and who at least is suspected of cheating those who pay him anything.

Jesus Sees People In the Crowd in ways that we do not—the way we cannot—the way we are unwilling to and the way that is offensive to us.

Of all the people along the way, Levi sitting there in his tax collector’s booth—ripping people off—he’s not one we would think would respond to an invitation from Jesus.

Levi was able to listen while at work—listen to Jesus teaching the crowd. Jesus’ message wasn’t complicated—Follow me—and Levi did—he got up and followed Jesus

The one Least Likely to Respond—responded.—oh, but that’s Jesus.

When you and I live our lives as disciples of Jesus we too often fall for this attitude—“Oh, I’m not going to bother sharing Christ with this person, I know they’ll say no—they’ve still go too many problems and issues—I know they will not respond to Jesus so I’m not even going to ask—I’m not going to risk it—I’m not going to waste my time.”

You don’t know!!! You can’t wait around in life for the sure thing, the guarantee—if you waited only for that before acting—then you would never do, say, accomplish anything. You are not responsible for someone responding favorably to Jesus.

You must not second guess yourself into silence when the opportunity to testify to your faith is before you—even if they are the hardest case, the most indifferent—you are not going to convince anyone—that’s God’s job—you are responsible to be faithful and share—be prepared by all means—but leave the results to Him.

There are few people clamoring for you to tell them about Jesus, few saying—“Pick Me!” when Jesus—in the form of you--passes by.

Not only is Levi on the Least Likely to Respond list—in most people’s mind—a tax collector like Levi should also be on Galilee’s Most Wanted—for the belief that he is lining his own pockets by ripping off of his fellow Jews. They looked at Tax Collectors—working for the Roman authorities as Traitors. So on one hand, Levi was on Galilee’s Most Wanted-- but he would also qualify for Galilee’s Most Unwanted—he’s a sell out—he’s a cheat—he’s not good enough.

That’s what we see.

You don’t really want “that sort” to be a part of the church, do you? They don’t look like us—different culture, different race, they don’t act like us, they aren’t smart enough, they don’t have enough, they have too much, they’re snobby. They work at a bar, they don’t work at all.

The Patriot—the movie with Mel Gibson had dialog that reflected this. The father and son went out to sign up people to serve in the South Carolina militia against the British during the Revolutionary War. The son, went to a church to sign people up because they are good men of principle, who believe in the cause of liberty. The father goes to a local pub to find men who know how to fight and who are mean enough to actually do it and not just talk about it. When the son sees the men his father signed up he says, “These aren’t the sort of men we need.” The father responds by saying, "these are exactly the sort we need. They've fought this kind of war before." One of the father's recruits comes to him and asks: "Am I that sort?" "No, you’re the sort that gives that sort a bad name." to which the man responds in laughter.

See, underlying the thoughts that says—I don’t think they’ll respond—underlying that, if we’re honest with ourselves—in many instances is the notion that we don’t really want them to respond--we don't want "that sort" to come to our church.

What kind of people do we want?
The Kind of people we want to start coming to this church are the kind that know their Bible? That’s good, right?

We want the Kind of people we want to start coming to this church are the kind that don’t drink, smoke, cuss, or work at the bar, right?

That’s Wrong!

The kind of people we want and need to start coming to this church are the kind that don’t know what the Bible is—who have only seen a Bible under 3 inches of dust, who wouldn’t qualify to read the "Bible for Dummies".

We need to invite the kind that don’t know that the Bible is the Word of God, who don’t know that God loves them, that Jesus loves them and that He died for their sins and that He rose from the dead in Victory. You know why?

Because we can show them that we believe it, believe that we have "good news". We can teach them those things—because they will learn their Bible, actually read their Bible when they see us living our claims.

We actually want the people who don’t know to stop drinking yet, who don’t know to stop cussing yet, who work at the bar—because we can love them and show them another way to live— if we want to see the transformational power of the Love of God working in the People of God by the Word of God--"that's the sort we need". We want and need those kinds of people in church so you and I can be a part of the God at Work.

Levi was one of those guys—someone who everyone tells to pass right on by—Levi? He’s not the sort we need.

Let me put it this way. How many of you have ever caught a fish? When you caught it, was it already de-scaled, de-boned and filleted, ready to cook? NO—you get those at the grocery store. What would you do if you pulled in your line and the fish looked like this? Would you think there was something wrong? I sure hope so!

We want the cleaned up kind of people, the ones who are already know their Bible because they require less of us, less time, less effort, less building of a disciple—less chance of ruffling my feathers, less chance of offending my self-righteousness.

Jesus doesn’t see people that way. Jesus—He sees people in their sin and moves to intercept.

Sees People In Need of the Life Changing Power & Influence of God—He sees the Least Likely, He sees the Sinners--and rather than shrinking away from them, rather than avoiding them—He seeks them out—He goes where they are—He befriends them. He calls them—and they rejoice.

READ 2:15—Luke 5 tells us that in response to Jesus calling him, in response to Jesus inviting him, in response to Jesus giving him a chance to participate in the spiritual life—Levi throws a party—he hosts a great banquet at his home.

Now how many of you, when you meet an alcoholic and talk to him about Jesus--when they invite you to their house for a party—you’re like—sure, love to!

How many of you when you meet a criminal want to go back to their house to hang out his buddies that just got out of jail?

Now unfortunately for Jesus reputation—the only friends an outcast can invite into his home are other outcasts—more tax collectors, more people with their lives out of whack—more people who have rejected God. Upon seeing the guest list, you or I may be inclined to avoid going altogether. Not Jesus. Jesus goes and celebrates with them—has dinner with them.

And that is offensive—to who? The religious types—the Pharisees, the teachers of the law. Because you know this dinner crowd probably don’t have their life in order, all cleaned up. Weren't upstanding members of the synagogue.

Jesus called Levi—and he responded in faith—but he had a long way to go—his life was headed for some major changes—but before he even had the chance, he did invite all his friends to meet Jesus. Here was a sinner, who’s life is being transformed—and Jesus was right in the middle of it—and not everyone liked it.

READ vs. 16—

Let me share with you a story that I read this week from a pastor of a young man named Eric.
Whole unedited story can be found here:

He was driving by the church with a pistol underneath the front seat, an open container of beer in the cup holder, and was on his way to an open field where he would drink himself to drunkenness in order to have the courage to commit suicide. As he drove past the church he the church sign that said, "Prepare to Meet Thy God." The words so rattled him he turned into the parking lot and prayed, "God, if you are sending me a sign, let someone be inside this church to help me." The Lord answered his prayer.

Guess what, he went in, talked to a minister and got saved! The next Sunday..

--First person testimony--
When the appropriate time came "I" introduced him to our church. "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to introduce you to a young man who this week was intent on killing himself, but God has intervened. This is Eric . . ." As I was speaking to the crowd I turned to look at Eric and to my horror, I saw Eric was wearing a Budweiser Beer T-Shirt that said, "Budweiser, King of Beers."

I knew some of the deacons would be upset. Sure enough, after church one of the older deacons came up to me and said, "Pastor, did you talk to Eric?" Acting ignorant, though knowing full well what he meant, I said, "About what?" "Did you tell him he ought not be wearing that beer t-shirt in church? It ain't appropriate."

I took a deep breath and said, "No, I didn't. He has just come to faith in Christ. If we begin to tell him what he can't do, shouldn't do, ought not do, etc . . . we quench the work of the Spirit by imposing a law. Let's love him, get to know him, and encourage him - but let's stay away from the 'should nots' of religion and give time for his relationship with Christ to develop."

Apparently Eric had quite a collection of Beer shirts and for the next 4 weeks, he wore one to church. The pastor says it was difficult at times to hold his tongue. But then, on the 5th Sunday, Eric walked in wearing one of these.

About the fifth Sunday Eric came to church wearing a new t-shirt. It was a t-shirt with a Christian logo. He had found a Christian t-shirt store and, prompted by the Spirit, Eric purchased several t-shirts with a Christian message.

That Sunday he had traded in his "Budweiser: King of Beers" t-shirt for one that said, "Jesus Christ: King of Kings." Christ had Eric's heart. The change that occurred happened within. There was not the demand for conformity imposed upon this young Christian by a Southern Baptist congregation, but rather, there was the powerful, internal work of the Spirit within the heart of a man that experienced the love, acceptance and patience of a people who themselves had tasted of the grace of God

READ 2:17--

Ministry with the sick is messy—it makes us uncomfortable—but that is exactly the kind of mercy and love we need if we are going to survive as a church.
Jesus doesn’t look at us in terms of “I don’t want that one.” Or “Least Likely to Respond” All Jesus sees is the hunger, the spiritual need, the longing for something real, the power of the Kingdom of God. Levi, better known as Matthew—went from a bad reputation tax collector and sinner, to the author of one of the Gospels of Jesus life.

We better know who Jesus is because He reached out to "that sort".

At some point, we were that sort. You and I were the ones that in some way or another were sitting behind the tax collector's booth.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11-- Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Have you ever thought, “I can’t imagine what God would do if He ever got a hold of _____________--there’s no telling what God could do through them.”

Who did you think of? Maybe you thought of someone famous. Tell me, how many of the Apostles were famous before Jesus met them?

Now, how many of you thought of someone other than yourself?

There’s the problem with the church in the world today—it's usually filled by somebody other than me.

At one point—you were the one sitting in the tax booth. God looks at you and He looks at me just like He did this small town tax collector and He says to Himself—“If Only they would let Me into their hearts, if only the would let Me change them, if only they would let Me use them! I can change the world!”

At some point looking over the crowds, looking at the least likely, in the mind and heart of God—He was thinking of you—If He can only get a hold of your heart—my heart—

Are there "that sort" of people around you sitting at the Tax Booth?
Are you still sitting at the tax booth?

The Jesus wants to invite you to a greater life.

1 comment:

Richard said...

Another great sermon. It's just a shame all of us don't realize that we are all sinners and fall short of God's perfection without the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

We are experiencing a situation here in our church with someone who is so judgmental.

Love you.