CRITICS OF CHRISTIANITY FAIL TO UNDERSTAND THE RADICAL MISSION AND THE NEW MOVEMENT COMMANDED BY JESUS
Leaders who sit on top of any hierarchical system with its perks and advantages oppose any changes that would threaten to unseat them and puncture the bubble of their supremacy. So it was with the Pharisees and scribes at the time of Christ. In contrast to those like Levi who genuinely repented at the preaching of Jesus and responded to His call to Forsake all and Follow Him in discipleship, the Jewish rulers remained sideline observers who could only criticize what they didn’t understand. With the answers to two complaining questions and the lessons from two very short parables, Jesus puts His finger on what is so radically different about His Mission and His Movement.
(:27-28) TRANSITION – RADICAL MISSION = CALL OF A TAX COLLECTOR TO FOLLOW JESUS
“And after that He went out, and noticed a tax-gatherer named Levi, sitting in the tax office, and He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ 28 And he left everything behind, and rose and began to follow Him.”
Links to the previous section – call to Forsake all and Follow Jesus
Who “gets it” are the sinners who repent and forsake all to follow the Lord Jesus Christ in genuine discipleship.
The Jews hated these tax collectors who operated on the basis of extortion to extract as much money as they could from their fellow countrymen; viewed on the same level as prostitutes
Geldenhuys: Along the main road between Acre, on the Mediterranean Sea, and Damascus, in the north, that went past Capernaum, Levi was sitting in his custom-house to collect for Herod the customs on the goods transported by that road.
J. Ligon Duncan: Matthew is a part of a despised segment of society, because his fellow Jews would have considered him both a traitor and an extortioner. You see, he was a traitor because the Jewish people would have viewed tax collectors as being in cahoots with their Roman oppressors, because it was the Roman emperor who appointed petty kings in the provinces in the outlying part of the Roman world to collect taxes, and then those petty kings would have appointed others to collect taxes. And of the taxes that Matthew was collecting, some of them would go back to the petty king, and then some of them would go back to Rome. And so ultimately the Jewish people viewed people that were participating in the tax collector profession to be traitors. They were serving the interests of the very people who are oppressing them. And they viewed them as extortioners. . .
This is not something that Jesus just asked the twelve apostles to do. It’s something that He asks every disciple to do. He is saying, “There is no one, there is nothing in this world that equals Me. There is no one, there is nothing in this world that I will allow to be a competitor with Me. I will be your Lord. And if you’re going to follow Me, you’re going to have to leave everything, and I’m going to have to be your Lord.”
Leon Morris: Matthew must have been the richest of the apostles. We should not miss the quiet heroism involved in this. If following Jesus had not worked out for the fishermen, they could have returned to their trade without difficulty. But when Levi walked out of his job he was through. They would surely never take back a man who had simply abandoned his tax office. His following of Jesus was a final commitment.
(:29) – SETTING – RECEPTION AT THE HOUSE OF LEVI
“And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax-gatherers and other people who were reclining at the table with them.”
Levi’s circle of acquaintances and co-workers were not respected by the Jewish religious leaders;
Levi had the resources to throw a very lavish feast
Our response to finding Jesus should be to joyfully celebrate and be enthusiastic about introducing our circle of people to this Jesus
We find the critics of Jesus, probably not invited to the feast, but onlooker who were dumbstruck by what they saw and how it conflicted with their Messianic expectations based on their misinterpretation of the Old Testament.
I. (:30-35) TWO COMPLAINING QUESTIONS –
THE CONDUCT OF JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES MAKES SENSE WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND THEIR RADICAL MISSION
These are essentially Gripes – charges that the religious leaders are leveling against Jesus –
All about external conduct because that was their measure for righteousness – appearances were everything
A. (:30-32) Question #1 – Why Associate with Sinners?
1. (:30) Complaining Question – Regarding Association with Sinners
“And the Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with the tax-gatherers and sinners?’”
This question is actually directed to the disciples, but Jesus answers them
2. (:31-32) Corrective Answer – The Mission is Directed to 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.’”
B. (:33-35) Question #2 – Why Not Fast?
1. (:33) Complaining Question – Regarding the Appropriateness of Fasting
“And they said to Him, ‘The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers; the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same; but Yours eat and drink.’”
2. (:34-35) Corrective Answer – The Mission Changes Based on Whether Jesus is Physically Present or Absent
“And Jesus said to them, ‘You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.’”
First reference to the coming death of the Messiah, followed by His resurrection and ascension
Donald Miller: The inappropriateness of fasting when Jesus was here, therefore, does not rule out fasting entirely. When Jesus was here, the Kingdom was present. But in the period between his death and his Final Coming, the Kingdom, though present, is not here in its fullness. Fasting, therefore, may again be appropriate in the life of the Church as a sign of desire for the final coming of the kingdom, and as a spontaneous self-discipline undertaken to keep the joy of the Kingdom bright, and to make it possible to share one’s goods with the needy (see Isa. 58:1-12).
II. (:36-39) TWO INSIGHTFUL PARABLES –
THE NEW MOVEMENT USHERED IN BY JESUS:
– BREAKS WITH TRADITION AND
– SURPASSES THE OLD
A. (:36) Parable #1 – The New Movement Breaks with Tradition
“And He was also telling them a parable: ‘No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old.’”
B. (:37-39) Parable #2 – The New Movement Surpasses the Old
1. (:37-38) New Movement is Different
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.”
2. (:39) New Movement is Superior
“And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.”
Leon Morris: Both this and the previous illustration drive home the point that Jesus is not simply patching up Judaism; He is teaching something radically new.
Geldenhuys: New wine which has the power to ferment cannot be put into old, stretched leathern bottles, for the fermenting wine will cause the bottles to burst and thus the wine as well as the bottles will be lost. But when the wine is put into new, elastic wineskins, both will be preserved. In like manner it is fatal to attempt to preserve the vigorous, new form of divine worship, which Jesus brought, in the old, obsolete forms of religion of the disciples of John and of the Pharisees. Jesus’ new way of life also demands new forms of worshipping God. There must be no mixing of the old with the new. There is indeed the closest connection between the Old and the New Dispensations, but only in the sense of preparation and fulfilment, shadow and reality. And now that Jesus has come as the Fulfiller of the promises of the Old Covenant, everything has been made new and no room is left for the old ceremonial, shadowy forms of divine worship. The new spirit existing in the religion of the New Covenant demands new forms of expression. So Jesus does not allow His disciples to act like those of John and of the Pharisees.