A Significant Challenge in Sharing Jesus

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Matthew 9:14-17, Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”

All of us deal with the fact that our world changes. Let me illustrate that fact with changes that have occurred in my lifetime. I want those of us who remember to help me by raising your hand. How many of you remember nickel cokes? (Pause) How many of you remember gasoline for 35 cents a gallon? (Pause) How many of you remember when most places that sold gasoline also sold kerosene? (Pause)

Think with me for a moment about wonderful business opportunities. You do not need to raise your hands, but I ask you to think with me. How many of you remember our society before anyone owned a personal computer? (Pause) How many of you would think you were given a wonderful business opportunity if you were offered the opportunity to be the major shareholder in a company that makes only typewriters? (Pause) How many of you would like to own the rights to the production of 8-tract cassette tapes? (Pause)

My point is, hopefully, worth thinking about, but it is rather simple. If we are going to understand the world before the changes occurred, we must understand the changes. If we are going to understand the illustrations Jesus used in our reading, we must understand a time that had little in common with our society.

In the Jewish society Jesus lived in, fasting was a common religious occurrence. Commonly, devout Jewish people fasted. Every Monday and Thursday, devout Jewish people fasted. It was a way of saying, “We humble ourselves before You, God. We know our place. You do not have to punish us for us to know how small we are and how great You are.” Jews have been participating in religious fasts from the time when the Day of Atonement was instituted (Leviticus 16:29-31). Religious fasts occurred so frequently in Jesus’ day, it was unthinkable that a person could claim to be God’s spokesman and not fast.

Thus, when Jesus and his disciples did not fast, it was considered just plain strange.

Jesus did not condemn fasting. He merely said it was inappropriate for his disciples to fast then. Fasting was not an appropriate part of a wedding. You did not patch a hole in an old piece of clothing with new, unshrunk cloth — to do so would make the tear worse. You did not put new wine in old, hardened wineskins lest the gas escaping from the new wine explode the old, hardened skin and everything is lost.

You and I understand that Jesus was God’s means of unthinkable change during his lifetime. Even today, the man or woman who dares follow Jesus will be a part of incredible change.

  1. When we share Jesus with people, those who come to Jesus may not be the people you want to come to Jesus.
    1. Jesus was often criticized because the “wrong people” listened to him, accepted him, and associated with him.
      1. In Matthew 9:10-13 we read:
        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. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

        1. Tax collectors and sinners were the worst of the worst.
          1. Jewish people who collected taxes that benefited the Roman government were considered by some to be traitors against Israel.
          2. Sinners were Jews who rejected the religious laws and teachings of Judaism–they did not even pretend to be acceptable.
          3. No self-respecting Jew who considered himself religious would associate with either group.
        2. Jesus did more than let them listen.
          1. He ate with them!
          2. That was the highest form of fellowship/association extended in their society.
          3. Jesus did something no self-respecting religious Jew would do.
          4. The religious elite of their society did not like it one bit!
        3. Jesus’ answer was astounding!
          1. The sick need the doctor, not the healthy!
          2. Understand what God meant when he said through Hosea (6:6) that He wanted compassion, not sacrifice–you need to understand what that means.
          3. I did not come to call the righteous (some were righteous).
          4. I came to call those you consider sinners–people who need to turn to God.
    2. Mark referred to the same incident in Mark 2:15-17.
      1. He adds three details.
        1. It occurred where Jesus customarily ate with his disciples.
        2. There were many tax collectors and sinners.
        3. These people were following Jesus.
      2. It was not an isolated incident, but a situation Jesus encouraged.
    3. Luke refers to a reception which Levi gave which records much of the same information:
      Luke 5:29-32, And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
    4. Luke also refers to another situation in Luke 15:1, 2:
      Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
    5. The point I make is simple: Jesus appealed to people the religious elite did not approve of.
      1. When Jesus addressed his Jewish audiences, he appealed to people in need, regardless of their background.
      2. Who Jesus appealed to was not determined by the Jewish devout.
  2. Later, after Christianity came into existence, Paul made this statement to Colossian Christians in Colossians 3:9-11:
    Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

    1. I want you to consider an enormous stress the Christians of the first century faced.
      1. At first the gospel was preached only to Jewish people and those gentiles who has been converted to Judaism (see Acts 2:10).
        1. It started in Jerusalem.
        2. It spread to the Samaritans (who were partly Jewish and accepted the first five books of the Old Testament as their guide).
        3. Only after Acts records its outreach in Palestine does it discuss the outreach of Christianity in other places among other peoples.
      2. Then the presentation of Jesus as the Christ and the Savior of the world was presented to non-Jewish peoples.
        1. The word “gentiles” refers to any nationality or people who were not Jewish.
        2. As long as Jesus Christ was preached only among the Jewish people, those people could regard the preaching and teaching about Christ as a Jewish movement.
        3. However, when gentiles became Christians (consider Acts 10 and the first part of 11) it became a very complex matter for Jewish Christians.
      3. As long as only Jews became Christians, it was simple.
        1. There certainly were Jews who strongly opposed any Jew calling Jesus the Christ or Messiah.
        2. However, they were alike in culture, in tradition, in what they regarded God, and in what they regarded scripture.
        3. Basically, they ate the same things, did the same things, and worshipped the same God.
      4. Then gentiles became Christians.
        1. What they ate, what they did, and what they worshipped before conversion was different.
        2. They did not previously worship the same God.
        3. They did not have thousands of years of history to honor.
        4. Many of them did not have anything that even resembled the role of Jewish scripture.
        5. In fact, most gentile Christians worshipped many gods previously, and often considered people who worshipped only one God as atheists.
        6. They had almost nothing in common with Jewish converts in Palestine.
        7. That is likely why Romans 14 was written to the Christians in Rome.
    2. Because God does not care who becomes Christians does not mean Christians do not care who becomes part of their congregation–I want you to think about how difficult it was for people who believed in Christ in the first century.
      1. Before they became Christians, Jews and gentiles had different gods.
      2. Jews and gentiles did not have the same culture or traditions.
      3. Jews and gentiles did not have the same values, the same concepts of what was right and wrong.
      4. Jews and gentiles did not eat the same things for religious reasons (read Leviticus 11).
      5. Typically, gentile converts had much more spiritual growing to do and would require much more patience than Jewish converts–a person who previously worshipped idols and a person who previously worshipped the God of creation do not have the same starting point when they are converted to Christ.
      6. To look upon each other as Christians required enormous adjustments.
  3. In many ways, we face the same problems as Christians today.
    1. There was a time in many of our lifetimes when we were all basically alike.
      1. We were probably rural because the Church of Christ then was mostly rural.
      2. We were probably lower middle-class because the Church of Christ then was mostly lower middle- class.
      3. We were probably southern because the Church of Christ then was mostly southern.
      4. Our traditions and practices were the same or similar because our backgrounds were the same or similar.
      5. Our values were the same or similar because our backgrounds were the same or similar.
      6. With many of us the Bible played a prominent role in our parents’ lives, and worshipping God on Sunday was not left as a decision or an option.
    2. Have things ever changed!
      1. Now our largest congregations are in cities, and many congregations that were rural have disappeared.
      2. The typical congregation is no longer lower middle-class.
      3. Congregations exist throughout our nation in all regions.
      4. Traditions, practices, and values are no longer the same–they typically change as the region changes.
    3. Now we can no longer assume that converts come from a strong, religious background.
      1. They may come from no religious background, or from a religion that is not Christian.
      2. The only thing we may have in common is faith in Jesus as the Christ.
      3. And everyone will have to adjust.
      4. And faith in Christ starts at many different points.
      5. And nothing is to be assumed.
      6. And it can be very stressful, just as it was when it all began.

There is one thing we all need to understand and remember: people in need respond to Jesus. Those needs may be different and start at different places. But God does not care. And belonging to Jesus means we learn not to be concerned either. We exist to help people find direction in Jesus Christ. The fact that people were tax collectors and sinners does not bother us because it did not bother Jesus. People who believe and repent are always welcome to come to Jesus, and as Christians we want to learn how to help them come to Jesus. It is still the sick who need Jesus. The righteous should not prevent Jesus from ministering to them.

David Chadwell

Author: Greg

Welcome to Gods Message on the web. My name is Greg and I want to welcome you. I started doing these Podcasts, MP3, and Audio Books back in 2007. Stay awhile and make yourself at home. The Christian Podcasts here are free and for everyone to enjoy. I’m doing a complete series on David Chadwell who is a retired minister from Fort Smith, Arkansas. I’ve also done an Audio Book for Wayne Jacobsen’s the Naked Church. Plus a series of MP3s for Pastor Billy Crone and his The Final Countdown series.

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