Jesus Came for Sinners

Jesus Came for Sinners
October 16, 2016
Matthew 9:9-13

When you have children you always want to make sure that they hang out with the right people.  You scrutinize what you know about their friends.  You have your impressions from the times you meet them, the times you see them interact with others, and the comments you hear about them from others.

We don’t want them to hang out with those kids who may lead them into those valleys of darkness, where our kids will do something or just be with someone when bad things happen.

On the other hand, we want our kids to hang out with people who seem nice, respecting of others, considerate, fun, make good choices, don’t swear, don’t drink, don’t do drugs.  We want them to enjoy life, but to be smart with their decisions, especially with their friends.

Well, we’re in part 2 of a series I’m calling the Heart of Christ.  We’re looking at some stories and situations where Jesus really showed us His heart.  Where we see what our Lord and Savior was all about.  Sometimes we hear people talk a big game, but we don’t see it in action.  For Jesus, His words and actions were congruous.

There’s a story in the Gospel of Matthew which is very telling, which shows the heart of Jesus.  In some ways, maybe the first time we started reading the Bible we came across this passage and shook our head wondering why Jesus would do this.  As we got to know more about Jesus, and understand His mission, this passage made all the more sense.

Let’s look at 5 verse passage from Matthew 9:9-13 ~
9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow me.”  And he rose and followed Him.

10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and His disciples.

11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 But when He heard it, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” — Matthew 9:9-13

Let’s take a quick look at the political and religious environment of Israel, actually, the southern kingdom, called Judea, in the 1st century.  The Romans had conquered almost everything and were in charge.  They set up a capitol city in a place called Caesarea, about 70 miles north of Jerusalem.  Herod the Great built this city in honor of Caesar Augustus and the Roman Empire.

If you were to dock your boat in the port of Caesarea, the first substantial building you would come across would be a temple to Caesar Augustus.  He was considered one of the Roman gods. So in Israel, in the Promised Land, there was a temple for emperor worship.  If you were a Jew living in Israel in the 1st century, this all would have really bothered you — to have Roman soldiers walking through your streets, to have Caesarea built along your coast, and to have a temple built to the Emperor Augustus.

The Jewish people reacted to this by creating a group actually called the “separated ones.”  These people wanted to keep their hearts separate from the Romans for God, as God had commanded, “You shall have no other gods . . . .  Do not make statues and bow down to them.”  The Jews had certain cleanliness practices, including eating only “clean” or kosher foods.  But the separated ones not only believed that certain foods were clean or unclean; they came to believe that there were clean and unclean people.  The Romans were unclean, and the separated ones tried to make themselves clean.

As you read through the ministry of Jesus, you will not run into the term “separated ones.”  Yet, in many ways, we can respect these people for what they were wanting to accomplish.

The phrase Separated Ones actually comes from a word you have heard of – – – Pharisees.  The word Pharisee means “separated one.”  It was the Pharisees who determined not to take part in Roman practices.  They wanted hearts that were separated from the Romans for God.

This is all part of the back story to help us see what was going on.

So Jesus is walking down the road, and He passes a tax collection booth.  A little history . . . The Romans would hire Jews to collect Roman taxes in their villages.  They would hire people who knew the villages, who knew who was who and who owed what.  The Romans would basically auction off the right to be the town’s tax collector to the highest bidder.  Then the tax collector could skim money off the top, calling it commissions.

Nobody liked the tax collectors.  The only reason I can think of someone becoming a tax collector — is simply they didn’t care.  His reputation in the community would be damaged; he didn’t care.  He would break his father’s heart; he didn’t care.  Taking that position would place him on the outside, almost like legalized extortion; he didn’t care.  Tax collectors became part of the unclean, and those who tried to be clean would never associate with them.

As the passage tells us, Jesus called out to Matthew and Matthew followed Him.  Jesus picked a tax collector as one of his twelve disciples — one of the twelve to actually journey with Him, eat with Him, watch Him, and minister with Him.  Jesus picks a tax collector.  We – – – most likely never would have approved of our kids hanging out with Matthew’s kids.

If you were a Pharisee, a separated one, who was trying to keep his heart separated to God and separate from the Romans, and you saw Jesus do this, it would really mess with you.  Jesus is making a statement here, and you would have some serious questions about what He’s doing.

This is an important story because it really shows who Jesus is and what He is willing to do for you and I.  He doesn’t care what others are going to say or what conventional wisdom says.  He cares – – He loves you and I.

Now, this story is beginning to heat up.  Matthew decides to throw a going away party for himself and he invites his buddies.  Remember, nobody wanted to hang out with Matthew, so at his party was Jesus, His disciples, Matthew, and Matthew’s tax collecting buddies.

The word sinners describes anyone who had committed sin which was publically known.  These were people who were not keeping the rules of separation that the separated ones, the Pharisees, had prescribed.  So Matthew has a dinner party that’s basically like a big tax collectors’ convention.  All of these people came to eat with Jesus.  They’re all sinners!

I wonder what they talked about.  I don’t know what the discussion was about, but I’m sure everyone’s talking and sharing stories, laughing and enjoying the party.

Do you think this might have troubled anybody?  If someone walking down the street looked through the open courtyard and witnessed this meal taking place with Jesus in the middle of it all, they would take issue with what they saw.

11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

I would challenge you to read this question as coming from a devoted and confused heart.  At this point, don’t see these men as pompous arrogant jerks; see them as people who are just trying to have a heart that’s fully devoted to God and separate from sin and sinners.

In their eyes, and maybe in ours, Jesus is eating with the people who are helping rob the Israelites blind.  So what’s Jesus doing with them?  Is He condoning their behavior?  Does He approve of what they’re doing?

So the Pharisees ask Jesus’ disciples this question, but Jesus answers them.  He gives them three responses, and I’ve attached a word to each of them.  The first word or response has to do with health, the second has to do with mercy, and the third has to do with mission.

12 But when Jesus heard it, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

Jesus spoke of health.  We might have expected him to have turned to the Pharisees and exclaim, “You judgmental people!  How can you judge these men!  You should accept them as they are!”  But Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”  Jesus is calling the lifestyle of the tax collectors unhealthy.  He knows the work of the tax collectors keeps people from being able to feed their families; He knows their work is selfish.  But He says that it’s precisely the sick people who need a doctor.

13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” — Matthew 9:9-13

The 2nd part of Jesus’ response has to do with mercy.  Jesus said, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.'”  He gave the Pharisees a homework assignment.  Jesus was quoting another part of Scripture.  In Hosea 6:6, we read the same statement.
6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. — Hosea 6:6

In the day of Hosea, the people were heavy on religious tradition and short on mercy.  They went to the temple, they offered all kinds of sacrifices, but they did not show mercy to the people around them.  God tells them, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  He would rather them show kindness than do the work of rituals.  When Jesus quotes that part of Hosea, the Pharisees know what Jesus means.  He’s telling them to study their Scripture and calls them to mercy.

The third part of Jesus’ response has to do with mission, and it’s the last clause of the story.  The end of verse 13 says, For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

When Jesus says, “For I came not to…,” he doesn’t just mean, “For I came not to Matthew’s dinner to. …”  He means, “I came not to the world to call the righteous” — to call those who are right with God.  He came into the world for sinners.  If you want to be one of Jesus’ followers, there’s one prerequisite: You’ve got to be radically flawed.  What Jesus is exposing here that the Pharisees don’t see is that everybody needs to be rescued.

The tax collectors might have had a propensity toward the sin of greed; they were willing to lose their reputation for the sake of money.  That was the drug of choice for them.  But the Pharisees might have temptation toward self-righteousness and arrogance.  Both groups needed saving; both were flawed.  When Jesus tells the Pharisees His mission is to call sinners, He’s inviting them to join Him.  He doesn’t approve of what the tax collectors do, but He spends time with them because He’s there to love and rescue them.

Jesus is showing His heart to the Pharisees and to the tax collectors and to the others who were sinners.  He’s also showing His heart to the disciples who are going to carry out Jesus’ mission after He’s gone.

Later in Matthew, Jesus told this parable – –
12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?

13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.

14 So it is NOT the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. – Matthew 18:12-14

God is that man who will search for that one lost sheep.  We need to understand each of us are that one lost sheep.  We all need a relationship with God.  Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 3:9 ~
9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9

God does not want anyone to die without a relationship with Him.  He wants you and I to know Him, but more than just know about Him, He wants us to really know Him, have a relationship with Him.  Trust Him, be able to count on Him.  To know that whatever goes on in our lives, God will be there for us.  He is not going to let us down.

Injuries, illnesses, bad things are going to happen to us.  But God promises He will always, always be there for us.  So, while we might look at the Pharisees as these mean, angry people, know they were trying to keep their kids away from the sinners, but they didn’t understand the heart of Christ.

The heart of Christ is to eat, hang out, talk and touch sinners!  That is you and I.  Do you know Jesus?  Do you know His heart, His grace, His power?  He’s offering Himself to you today.

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