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Sunday, October 26, 2014

His Treasured Possession (Deuteronomy 26, John 10.11-15)

Sermon by: Kathy Larson - October 26, 2014
Text: Deuteronomy 26:17-19; John 10:11-15

:: Sermon Audio (link) - scroll down for written draft  
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

:: Some Music Used
Gathering Music:"Oh, How He Loves You and Me; I Love You, Lord" (Kaiser/arr. Shanborn)
Hymn of Praise: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" (FAITHFULNESS)
Song of Praise: "One Pure and Holy Passion" (Shelton)
Offering of Music: "Thrive" (Casting Crowns)
Song of Sending: "How He Loves Us" (McMillan)
Postlude:"There is a Redeemer" (arr. Sanborn)

:: Sermon Manuscript: No manuscript available this week.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Eye of a Needle (Matthew 19.16-26)

Sermon by: Robert Austell - October 19, 2014
Text: Matthew 19:16-26

:: Sermon Audio (link) - scroll down for written draft  
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

:: Some Music Used
Gathering Music: Kelsey Gilsdorf, piano
Video: Thoughts on Worship (favorite hymn/song) - feat. "Amazing Grace" arr. by Rick Bean

Hymn of Praise: "Come Thou Fount/We'll Feast" (EBENEZER; ref. by Robert Austell)
Song of Praise: "Here I am to Worship" (Tim Hughes)
Song of Confession: "We Fall Down" (Chris Tomlin)
Song of Dedication: "Take My Life/Here Am I" (Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio"
Hymn of Sending: "Here I Am, Lord" (Schutte)
Postlude: Kelsey Gilsdorf, piano

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)  
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.
16 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” 17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. 23 And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:16-26)
We have been talking for several weeks about discipleship, or following Jesus.  We’ve been identifying some of the key requirements of following Jesus, including 1) counting the cost; 2) making Jesus first priority; 3) actually following; and 4) realizing that Jesus is worth following.  This week we ask specifically, “What will it cost me?”  Today’s text provides one set of challenging answers to that question, focusing on what we must let go of in order to follow.

Go, Sell, and Give

A man comes to Jesus having led a very good life in terms of God’s Law.  He is religious and has kept the commandments.  He’s a good man, as good is generally understood to be defined, but he comes to ask Jesus if there is not one more good thing that he may be missing.  And Jesus doesn’t fail him.  He tells the man to let go of his riches in order to receive treasure in Heaven.  And the man goes away disappointed, for he owned much.

I want to take two passes at Jesus’ response here.  In both cases, note the verbs – the imperative, action verbs.  They are all in verse 21 and there are five of them: GO, SELL, GIVE, COME, FOLLOW.

I often focus on the last two: come and follow.  But look, in order to come and follow, sometimes (maybe all the time), we must give something up and give something away.

In this man’s case, it was money and possessions.  He was rich, and Jesus knew that his attachment to his possessions were in the way of his complete devotion and obedience to God.  And so, Jesus issued the invitation.  It’s not supposed to be comfortable or casual.  Remember the last few weeks?  It costs something.  And in this man’s case, it cost too much. 

Here Jesus says to sell and give away possessions in order to receive treasure in heaven.  Did you hear the Call to Worship today (Matthew 16:24-26)?  What is a soul worth?  Is it worth hanging on to earthly stuff to risk losing your eternal soul?  Jesus’ counsel sounded like a bad deal, but it was exactly what the man needed to hear.  It was truth, spoken in love. 

The question this passage always brings to my mind is this: “Do I have to give away everything I own in order to be a Christian?” 

The short answer to that is, “Yes, if that’s what Christ asks of you; then yes.”  And if that is hard to hear it gets harder before it gets any easier!

Digging Deeper

In the broader context of Jesus’ teaching on discipleship, money and possessions are not the only things that can stand in the way of following Jesus.  It’s just the specific example here.  And this is where this gets harder.  For some, the thought of selling everything, giving it to the poor, and following Jesus is the hardest thing you can imagine.  For others, it’s conceivable… or at least being very, very generous with money, property, and things. 

But Jesus isn’t speaking against wealth.  He is speaking against greed, covetousness, and idolatry.  To “translate” those three into everyday language, he is speaking against holding on to my stuff, wanting your stuff, and putting something before God.  Jesus recognized that one of the biggest spiritual obstacles for the wealthy is wealth.  But the application is far deeper and more personal than that.

Jesus says GO and SELL to anything that we hold closer than him.  It might be our wealth; it might be our addictions or appetites; it might be our habits and sinful behaviors; it might be our time.  We hang on to destructive behavior because it gives us a sense of control rather than yielding control to the Lord of the universe.  We give God an hour or two a week, and begrudge Him even that.  We give to the church and to charities, but do so out of duty or for the tax break; when was the last time you delightfully just gave it away and felt the freedom of letting it go?

Jesus goes on to say GIVE to the poor – that is, love neighbor more than self.  And he ends with COME and FOLLOW.  Here he lays out the pattern for the Christian life.  We must be stripped bare of everything that encumbers us and trips us up.  We must look away from self to those around us.  And we must follow closely after Jesus.

Sound hard?  … maybe even impossible?  Jesus makes an apt comparison – ludicrous, but then so is what he’s asking of us!  It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to give his wealth away.  Surely, it would also be easier for the camel than to give up an extra hour of sleep to come pray on Tuesday mornings; or to give up eating breakfast out in order to support God’s work in our neighborhood.  Personally, I’ll give up the money, but don’t ask me to give up my comfort or habits or entertainment!  You can send that camel packing!

The Impossible Question

In studying this text I read that it was commonly believed in Jesus’ day that being rich was a sign of God’s blessing.  (I think we buy into that pretty much in our time, too!)  This explains why the disciples were so dumfounded at Jesus’ teaching here.  They ask in verse 25, “Then who can be saved?” 

I’ve found myself asking that of God when I study passages like this.  Honestly, I just want my Christianity to be like any number of other things in life: I’d like a moderate degree of “success” with the least effort possible.  We can pull off American Christianity with that mentality; but we can’t be Jesus-followers the way Jesus defined it. 

And the disciples are right.  Who can do that? The answer is no one can, except with God’s help.  Jesus acknowledged this very thing in verse 26: “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 

How does this square with our experience?  Here’s what I can tell you…

Being a Christian isn’t a casual thing; it is an all-or-nothing, stake your life on it, take up your cross and let go of the rest thing.  That’s how Jesus defines it and that’s what he is calling you and me to when he says, “Come, follow me.”

For a very few people, the transformation from unbeliever to believer is sudden, drastic, and a complete overhaul of their life.  The folks I’ve known who have had this experience are usually pretty much at the end of their rope when they meet Jesus, and the taking up and letting go is a no-brainer.

For many of us who have grown up in the church, the transformation to the kind of follower Jesus describes here is slow, halting, and full of resistance on our part.  In this sense, we greatly resemble the rich man in the story, whether “our thing” is possessions or something else we cling to.  Nonetheless, with God all things are possible.  And if we are believers, God is at work in us already!  So God uses the Holy Spirit, the teaching of His Word, the encouragement and accountability of the church and Christian family, and the clear calling of Christ to peel away the stuff we tend to accumulate around our souls.  In these ways God calls out to us: GO, SELL, GIVE, COME, and FOLLOW.

Taking Up and Letting Go

The discipleship question for today is “What will it cost me?”  The answer is anything and everything that stands between you and God.  You know what that is more than I do.  It’s probably the thing that comes to mind if you’re hoping, “I hope he doesn’t name that.”  And this is why it is such good news that God sent His son to seek and save the lost.  If we were left to our own devices to find God, we’d have about as much hope as that camel.  But with God all things are possible. 

So I challenge and charge you, in the name of Jesus Christ, to let go of what keeps you from God.  If it’s everything all at once and God’s doing a real number on you, thanks be to God.  Or, if the Holy Spirit has put one thing on your mind that you need to lay down, I invite you to pray for God’s help to do so.

In order to take up Jesus’ calling and cross and follow him, we must lay down that which keeps us from God.  You are not in it alone, but have the supernatural help of God and His Holy Spirit; and you have the prayers, encouragement, and support of this church family.

I would invite you to pray now with me, and to seek accountability from someone here – a friend in Christ or an elder or me… I would gladly provide that for anyone here.  Let us pray…

Sunday, October 12, 2014

His Eye is On the Sparrow (Matthew 10.24-39)

Sermon by: Robert Austell - October 12, 2014
Text: Matthew 10:24-39

:: Sermon Audio (link) - scroll down for written draft  
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

:: Some Music Used
Gathering Music: Rick Bean, jazz piano
Video: Thoughts on Worship (Worship)

Hymn of Praise: "I Have a Shelter" (Steve and Vikki Cook, Bob Kauflin; Sovereign Grace)
The Word in Music: "His Eye is On the Sparrow" (Gwen Ingram, Bobby White, Rick Bean)
Video: Thoughts on Worship (Apostles' Creed)

Hymn of Sending: "Jesus Calls Us" (GALILEE)
Postlude: Rick Bean, jazz piano

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)  
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 “It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! 26 “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 “So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. 32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. 34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 “For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. 37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:24-31)
Today we are continuing the broad theme of “belonging to God through following Jesus.” In recent weeks we have looked at Jesus’ follow-me invitation to Peter, Andrew, James, and John – the four fishermen-disciples – and to Matthew, the tax-collector disciple. Today we are looking at some broader teaching Jesus is sharing with the full group of twelve disciples. They are all listed at the beginning of this chapter, Matthew 10, if you want to see their names. Two weeks ago we looked at Matthew 8, where we learned four important things about following Jesus: 1) you have to count the cost; 2) you have to make Jesus first priority; 3) you actually have to follow; and 4) Jesus is worth following.

Here in Matthew 10, with the group of twelve disciples assembled, Jesus more or less reviews some of that list. In the first part of Matthew 10, he talks some more about counting the cost, describing the challenges followers of his will face. Then, in our text for today, he explains what it means to follow Jesus as a disciple, and continues that theme of counting the cost as well as the need to make Jesus first priority. Do you remember the man who wanted to first bury his father? Jesus will use language equally as startling in this text today.

Do Not Fear (vv. 24-31)

Jesus begins this text saying, “A disciple is not above his teacher…,” indicating that his followers will face many of the same challenges that he does. But he keeps saying, “Do not fear!” In fact, one might sum up what comes next by saying, “Following Jesus is going to be costly and hard, but don’t be afraid!”

If the disciples had not truly counted the cost, Jesus takes some time to really do so with some thoroughness now. What might they face?

ACCUSATION (vv. 25-27): Some have falsely accused Jesus, naming him a demon; surely they will do the same and more to his followers! But do not fear, for the truth will come out, including Jesus’ true message and identity.

SUFFERING/DEATH (v. 28): Earthly opponents can hurt or kill the physical body, but they cannot kill the soul. So do not fear, for only God has authority over one’s eternal soul. (Side note: you should take God very, very seriously!)

Having built up to the point that God alone is the only one worth really fearing, Jesus turns a sharp corner and reminds us of God’s love. Don’t you know that God takes care of the tiny birds sold for a penny at the market? And that God not only knows and sees and cares for those tiny birds, but knows and sees you – even to knowing the number of hairs on your head. (This is simply to note how intimately God knows you!) Jesus’ point? It’s there in v. 31 – “So DO NOT FEAR; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”

So yes, there is a cost to following Jesus; but do not fear, only God truly holds your life and soul in His hands, and God sees you and knows you and loves you. You are precious to Him!
Do I Belong? (vv. 32-33)

From there, a natural question might be, “Do I follow Jesus? Am I one of God’s sparrows? Do I BELONG TO GOD?”

And that’s where Jesus turns in v. 32: “Therefore everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven.” (and the flip-side – “however denies me; I will deny” – v. 33)  What does that mean, to “confess Jesus?” It’s the first question we ask of everyone who comes to be baptized or to join the church: Who is your Lord and Savior? And you respond, “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.” You do so publicly, confessing with your mouth what you believe with your heart. That’s the beginning of following Jesus; and then there is following after him.

Finding Life (vv. 34-39)

Jesus turns back to the cost of following him, picking up that theme of PRIORITY we talked about in previous weeks. This is one of those texts I would call a “hard teaching” of Jesus. It sounds as if Jesus is intentionally stirring up division and war, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” and “I came to set a man against his father….” There he is quoting from scripture – the prophet, Micah. But he presses on even further, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” To that he adds life itself: “He who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who has found his life will lose it…”

What in the world to do with all that? Let me break that overwhelming group of statements up into pieces. Like the earlier interaction in Matthew 8 and burying one’s father, Jesus is not here saying that his followers should be against parents, children, or somehow hate their family. Indeed elsewhere Jesus is clear to uphold the commandment about honoring one’s father and mother! There are two equally intense things being said here. For one, Jesus is holding up the two things most human beings value most in this world: one’s immediate family (interesting that in-laws are mentioned!) and one’s own life. He is not putting those things down; he is lifting them up to give us some handholds to understand what a priority God should be in our lives, most notably as we follow His Son. It’s what we do when we say something like, “I love you more than ice cream!” or “I love you to the moon and back.” We aren’t saying that we hate ice cream or that the trip to the moon and back is a small thing. We are choosing something we love a lot and a distance that is truly immense and saying, “I love you even more than that!” That’s what Jesus is getting at here. Following him is not a hobby or an amusement or something to squeeze into our schedule when we get a chance. It is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING – which we can only truly calibrate around the people and things we naturally give the greatest value.

Having said that, which is along the theme of PRIORITY, Jesus is also touching on part of the COST of following him that some believers have had to face. Though many of us have been blessed with families who understand our faith and discipleship and we live in a country that protects our religious freedom, some Christians have indeed been set against parents or children or safety in order to follow Christ. I think of people in some Muslim countries who have been disowned by family or even persecuted, arrested, or killed for their faith. Is Christian faith really so important to cost that much? Some have thought so and Jesus seems to be saying so. Closer to home, I remember talking to one young college graduate whose vibrant faith was leading him to consider ministry or missions. His parents, who are not Christians, simply cannot understand. And while they have not disowned him, he has had to choose between meeting their expectations and following where Christ leads him. I know there are some of you in this room who have stories like that.

Family, life and health, discipleship. That’s a pretty steep claim Jesus is laying on us. But he grounds all that in the claim at the end of verse 39, that the one who has set God first will indeed find “life” – and not just the physical sense, but the eternal and spiritual sense.

There is a cost to following Jesus; and following requires that we acknowledge him as who he claimed to be – savior and Lord, the very Son of God. Is it worth it?

Is it Worth It?

When we were in Matthew 8 a few weeks ago, I ended with the claim that Jesus is worth following. Having gone even a little deeper today into the challenges of truly following Jesus, this is a good place to end again today. Despite the high cost, despite the challenges and the obstacles, Jesus is worth following. How can I say that? Jesus is worth following because of the strength, the sureness, the power, and the reach of his love. I say it on the strength of God’s Word and I say it because I’ve experienced it.

In just a moment we will have a time of silence to confess before God those things that come between us. Today those may include doubts and struggles, the kinds of things that stand in the way of fully running after Jesus as a disciple. After a time of silence, we will read together a great passage of scripture that describes that strength, sureness, power, and reach of God’s love through Jesus Christ. It comes from Romans 8 and it is one of many strong reminders in scripture of why Jesus is worth following. Let’s go to God now for that time of silent prayer…

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Who Needs a Doctor? (Matthew 9.9-13, Hosea 6.1-6)

Sermon by: Robert Austell - October 5, 2014
Text: Matthew 9:9-13; Hosea 6:1-6

:: Sermon Audio (link) - scroll down for written draft  
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

:: Some Music Used
Gathering Music: Rick Bean, jazz piano
Song of Praise: "Come, Ye Sinners" (Indelible Grace/Matthew Smith)
Hymn of Praise: "Friend of Sinners" (Red Mountain Music)
Offering of Music: "Remember Me" (Choir) (Nygard)
Communion Music: Rick Bean, jazz piano
Hymn of Sending: "Alleluia, Sing to Jesus" (HYFRYDOL)
Postlude: Rick Bean, jazz piano

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)  
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.
1 “Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. 2 “He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him. 3 “So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth. 4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning cloud and like the dew which goes away early. 5 Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; And the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth. 6 For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. ” (Hosea 6:1-6)

9 As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. 10 Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:9-13)

Have you ever heard the church described as a “hospital for sinners?” I’m not sure who coined that phrase, but I’m pretty sure it came from today’s text. I’m going to briefly describe that encounter narrated in today’s text, then we’ll look at the problem that encounter stirred up, then we’ll see one of those times where Jesus refers to the Hebrew scripture and we’ll ponder what he meant by that before finally returning to the implications for our own life and mission together as a church.

…that saved a wretch like me (vv. 9-10)

So by chapter 9 of Matthew, Jesus has been out and about teaching and healing and now has returned (v. 1) to “his own city” of Capernaum, where we noted last week that he had “settled” for a while. Chapter 9 then describes the healing of a paralyzed man (as well as the greater miracle of forgiving his sins!) and then comes to our text for today.

As Jesus “went on from there,” he saw Matthew sitting in the tax collector’s booth. Jesus said, “Follow me,” and Matthew “got up and followed him.” (v. 9) That’s all we are told directly about that exchange. But there is plenty of context we can piece together. As with the exchange with Peter, Andrew, James, and John in last week’s text, we know that Jesus wasn’t just passing through this town, but was “home.” This was where he lived and the word was getting around about him. Crowds were following him and had just witnessed the forgiveness and healing of the paralyzed man.

We also know something about tax collectors. They were absolutely despised by the Jewish people because they were Jewish people who worked for the Romans to collect taxes. Their taxation was enforced by Roman soldiers and they were fully authorized to line their pockets with extra taxes charged at their whim. Both for serving the Romans and for exploiting their own people, they were truly hated. So for Jesus to include a tax collector in his follow-me invitation was unusual to say the least.

But verse 10 is the one that really gives you a glimpse into what Jesus was doing. He wasn’t just calling wicked tax collectors out of their business to a life of following a master Rabbi; he actually was socializing with whole groups of them! In fact, the first thing that Jesus seemed to do with Matthew is ask him to invite his tax collector and other non-religious (the likely meaning of ‘sinner’ here) friends over for dinner.

This scandalized… SCANDALIZED… the Pharisees, who not only despised the tax collectors as most Jews did, but also would have found the non-religious friends as or more undesirable than the tax collectors. And so the confrontation was set.

What is He Doing? (vv. 11-13a)

Becoming aware of this scandalous dinner party, the Pharisees asked the disciples why Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners. They only had one template for religious faithfulness and it was law-keeping and Temple worship. The rest of the world, including non-religious or non-observant among their own people, were to be avoided and shunned. Yet Jesus seemed to turn all of this upside down and backwards. Jesus heard about their questions and responded in two ways, with an analogy and with scripture.

ANALOGY – Jesus first responded with this analogy: “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” (v. 12) It is from this idea that we understand the church to be a “hospital for sinners.” The point is easy enough to understand: doctors are for sick people. But think of all the ways we complicate that analogy. For one, we have well checks. So, sometimes doctors are for healthy people. And think about hospitals, though I know many of you don’t like to. They would be pretty fascinating places – with all those halls and labs and cafeteria and gift shop and research and doctors and nurses – except for what? …all the sick people? Mix all that together and you get a pretty good picture of what the church often turns into: a place we go for “well checks” periodically just to make sure we have a dose of this or that for our good… and a place where we’d just as soon see other healthy people as deal with real spiritual need. In fact, if you can gloss over or keep out the real spiritual needs, churches can be pretty fun and interesting places to be… sometimes even like a mall or movie theater or restaurant. But do you see how we get off track? Jesus didn’t really stop to explain his analogy; he just laid it out there and moved on: “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” Except in moving on, I think he did explain further.

SCRIPTURE – Jesus told the Pharisees to “go and learn what this means” and he quoted from the prophet Hosea. He quoted from a passage that had to do with God’s judgment of His people and has everything to do with his previous analogy. In Hosea 6, God’s Word through the prophets and His own mouth has “hewn them” and “slain them” (v. 5) – not literally, but in spiritual judgment. In other words, by the standard of God’s Word, God’s own people have been shown to be sinners. And the sacrifices and burnt offerings of the people – the kind of thing the Pharisees emphasized – are not going to be sufficient to bring healing and life. (v. 6) This same passage uses imagery of God as the Great Physician. You heard it for the Call to Worship and we’ll recite some of it again as our Prayer of Confession and Assurance of Grace:
Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him. (Hosea 6:1-2)
Wow, so much there! Sacrifices and burnt offerings will not bring life; only God will! God, who is portrayed here as the Great Physician, who will “heal us” and “bandage us” and “revive us”; God will even resurrect us from death to life. Does that start to ring any bells?! And all that finally comes to v. 6, which Jesus quoted: “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” It is not sacrifice and offerings that delight God, but loyalty and knowledge of God. ‘Loyalty’ is the great Hebrew word hesed, which can be translated as ‘mercy’ or ‘compassion’ or ‘faithfulness.’ Ultimately, it is what God has towards us; and it pleases God to see us mirror that towards others. Jesus follows the Greek translation ‘compassion,’ leaving the Pharisees with two things to grapple with: God is the Great Physician, whose purpose is to show compassion and restore the sick (or sinful); and what pleases God is not legalistic rituals, but compassion for others that flows out of knowledge of God.

Came for What? (v. 13b)

Jesus concludes and aligns his own purpose with what God spoke through by saying “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (v. 13) Why is Jesus calling a tax collector to follow him and having a dinner party with other tax collectors and sinners? It is to demonstrate the very compassion of God and introduce those same dinner companions to the beginnings of a knowledge of God, the Great Physician, who would heal, bandage, revive, and raise them into new life. Oh, if only the Pharisees could glimpse a bit of what God was doing and what God desired!

And that is just where this story connects with our story. There are some key questions we need to ask ourselves:
  • Is this church primarily for the healthy or the sick?
  • Are you the healthy or the sick?
  • What would it mean for God to heal you, bandage you, revive you, and even raise you up? – or do you not need that?
  • What does it mean for us to show compassion?
  • With whom would Jesus ask us to have a dinner party? – not just generically, but specifically?
  • Would you come?
For whatever reason, we can tend to view church as a museum for “finished masterpieces” rather than a hospital for the sick.  Within our walls we have financial crisis, struggling marriages, desperate people, depression, and much more.  Outside our walls we have all the same. Why we gather here is because of the news and hope of the Great Physician, who we believe does heal, bandage, revive, and raise up the sick, and even the spiritually dead, to life. If we are doing anything less, we are falling far short of Jesus’ intent for us and we may be missing the dinner altogether.

To say all this another way, Jesus asked a very basic spiritual question: Who needs a doctor?

It’s another way of saying, “Follow me.” It’s another way of understanding our belonging to God.

And there are really only two answers to that question: “Not me” and “I do.”

Who needs a doctor? I do. How ‘bout you?