Summary: 4th sermon in series - "Living Life on Purpose, Christ’s Answers to Our Questions".
There are two questions pointed in Christ’s direction in our scripture today.
Verse 11 - And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with the tax-gatherers and sinners?"
Verse 14 - Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast."
All at once in this passage of Matthew’s gospel masterpiece we see conflicting viewpoints whirling about in a tornado of spiritual drama.
A suffering sinner is brought to Jesus by his friends. Christ forgives the man’s sin and he is healed of his paralysis.
Then Christ calls a tax-gatherer, Matthew, to be one of His apostles. Matthew’s acquiescence is immediate. It all happens so suddenly that we’re not even told what the other apostles thought about having a tax-gatherer on the team.
We ARE told what the religious hypocrites thought about it by their question. They didn’t like it one bit. Jewish tax-gatherers were the lowest of the low in the minds of many of their countrymen. They cooperated with the heathen Romans. They were notorious for living in opulence from the fees exacted for collecting the taxes. Now this upstart Nazarene rabbi adds one of these low-lifes to His personal entourage!
Jesus even attends a dinner in Matthew’s home for the explicit purpose of meeting others like Matthew. [There’s a great idea - inviting people into your home to introduce them to Jesus!] This really got the tongues of the phony Pharisees wagging.
[Can you imagine why the tax-gatherers and sinners felt comfortable around Jesus and not around the judgmental Pharisees? Go figure.]
The disciples of John the Baptist also wade into the discussion about acceptable spiritual behavior.
They noticed that the Pharisees practiced the religious discipline of fasting - as they themselves did. They also noticed the disciples of Jesus DID NOT fast. Who was really spiritual here?
If we’re not careful we too may sometimes get caught up in the vortex of trying to figure out true spirituality by the wrong means and methods. Like the Pharisees and John’s disciples, the litmus test for being truly spiritual is not always what’s on the surface.
Christ’s responses to the questions of the Pharisees and John’s disciples should cause us to re-evaluate our level of spirituality.
Do we really care about bringing others to Christ? Bringing people to Jesus is a truly spiritual trait.
The paralyzed man healed by Jesus could not transport himself to be healed so having his friends bring him to Christ was essential. Chapter two of Mark’s gospel includes a familiar detail not mentioned by Matthew. The man’s friends couldn’t get him to Jesus through the door because the house was so crowded - so they let him down through the roof of the house!
That’s quite a demonstration of faith AND innovation!
How far are we willing to go to get our friends to Jesus?
We give up so easily when we encounter obstacles.
Here’s a gospel statistic we’ve come across before that’s worth repeating:
95% of the people healed by Jesus were brought to Him by others!
People don’t come to Jesus - they are brought!
And they aren’t always brought easily! It takes determination and innovation!
National Football League running back Sherman Smith, the "Sherman Tank", stood six feet four inches tall and packed 225 pounds of solid muscle. His reputation for bowling over defensive lineman raised his celebrity to near-cult status in the Pacific Northwest, where he played for the Seattle Seahawks. Sherman couldn’t cross a Seattle street without being stopped, patted on the back, or asked for an autograph. He was treated like royalty among the gentry.
Without warning, the Seahawks traded their most popular player to the San Diego Chargers. Everything changed for this running back whose Christian faith was as rock-solid as his rib cage. Sherman arrived in a city where nobody knew him and nobody cared. He wasn’t with the Chargers for more than a few weeks when he blew out his knee. While in rehabilitation, he wondered, "Lord, why did you ship me to San Diego?"
While his knee mended, Sherman participated in team meetings and joined the club on road trips. he also spoke boldly about his faith - fellow Chargers knew exactly where he stood.
Once while flying back to San Diego after a game, Sherman stood in the aisle with a Bible the size of the Ten Commandments tablets in one hand while leading a Bible study for several players. A defensive back named Miles McPherson asked Sherman to move so he could use the restroom.
Sherman didn’t know that Miles had a line of cocaine in his pocket and was planning to get high, but he knew his teammate did not have a personal relationship with God. A good-looking party guy, Miles was a single who knew how to mingle.