Thursday, March 19, 2015

Jesus: friend of scumbags

( image from David LaChapelle )
Which is better?  a) go to church or b) go to a bar ?

Jesus spent time in church (the synagogue) but he also so much time with people who partied that his enemies called him a "glutton and a drunk". I'm sure that Jesus didn't overeat or get drunk, but he hung out in places where people usually did.

In Matthew 9 Jesus calls a scumbag named Matthew to follow him.
"As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him."

" Follow me and be my disciple"- Be my student, my apprentice, learn from me, learn to do what I do. This was a call to a life of obedience. Matthew immediately got up and followed Jesus. He took his first step of obedience.

When you disciple someone, give them homework. Give them something to do, to obey right away.

Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 

The first thing Matthew did was to obey and follow Jesus. Then later (later that day? later that week?) Matthew invited Jesus to meet his friends, AND he invited his friends to meet Jesus. He did so in the best way he knew. He threw a party. Jesus called him to "be my disciple" and Matthew begins right away by throwing a dinner party for Jesus & his friends. Matthew's friends weren't just sinners they were "tax collectors and other disreputable sinners." They were in the words of the religious people "scum".

But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum? ” 

I have some exciting news: Jesus loves scum. Scum is what is left in the bowl or pan after you've eaten your dinner. Scum is what is left in the bathtub after you've drained out the dirty water. Scum - it's not a nice word. It is a good description of some of us. We're nothing in the eyes of the world: under-educated, single moms, broken marriages, unloved and unwanted - if we died tonight few people would notice. Jesus would notice, Jesus cares. We don't qualify for high society but Jesus calls to be his disciples, to be part of his family. 

When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 

If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, then start hanging out with "sick people". Jesus called Matthew to share his heart. Matthew got it. He invited his "sicko friends" to meet Jesus. Who are you inviting to meet Jesus? Do you have any "sick" friends in need of the doctor? If not, get some. If so, throw a party and invite them to meet Jesus and his disciples. Jesus came to help "sick people. When someone is really evil we call them a "sick SOB". If they know it and want to change, then Jesus can heal them. 

Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”  

This last sentence takes me back to my opening question: which is better to go to church or go to a bar? Church is where you go to "offer sacrifices", to do religious activity - sing, worship, donate to the offering, read scripture, etc. Where do you go to show mercy? The hospital, the bar, maybe to the party. You go where sick people are. Reaching out to the hurting people is better than religious activity. Jesus calls us to his mission - reaching the lost, showing mercy to the hurting. We will not find those people at church, but rather in a bar or at a party. 

What do you think?

Above passages is from Matthew 9:9-13 NLT

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Priorities of the Messiah

I use a compass when I go geocaching (look it up). The compass helps me fulfill my mission of locating the hidden cache. Priorities are like a compass. If we follow them we will reach our intended destination. Jesus had clear priorities, but until recently I didn't think about God's priorities for the Messiah. His priorities are evident in the prophecies about the Messiah. 

I've started a reading plan to take me through the Gospels in 30 days. On day 4 I read the following passages. I've highlighted the sections that jumped out at me. Before, when I read the list of prophecies Jesus fulfilled (in Matthew) I thought "O yeah, Jesus fulfilled OT prophecy" but I never thought about the CONTENT of the prophecy. In Mt. 4 the prophecy quoted says that the Savior would be concerned about the Gentiles and have a priority of shining light on those who have not seen the light. 

Matthew 4:12-16 GNT
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he went away to Galilee.  He did not stay in Nazareth, but went to live in Capernaum, a town by Lake Galilee, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was done to make come true what the prophet Isaiah had said,    “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, on the road to the sea, on the other side of the Jordan, Galilee, land of the Gentiles!  The people who live in darkness will see a great light. On those who live in the dark land of death the light will shine.”

Jesus confirms his commitment to this priority by telling the people that God has chosen Gentiles in the past, and after he prayed, he set out to preach to those who had not yet heard, because "that is what God sent me to do."

Luke 4:25-27, 42-43 GNT
Listen to me: it is true that there were many widows in Israel during the time of Elijah, when there was no rain for three and a half years and a severe famine spread throughout the whole land.  Yet Elijah was not sent to anyone in Israel, but only to a widow living in Zarephath in the territory of Sidon.  And there were many people suffering from a dreaded skin disease who lived in Israel during the time of the prophet Elisha; yet not one of them was healed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”  At daybreak Jesus left the town and went off to a lonely place. The people started looking for him, and when they found him, they tried to keep him from leaving. But he said to them, “I must preach the Good News about the Kingdom of God in other towns also, because that is what God sent me to do.”

In the encounter with the Samaritian woman Jesus brings the good news to a half breed woman of low reputation. And he tells his disciples to wake up, because harvest time is now. Many Samaritans believed. From the beginning, God's plan had a strong focus on non Jewish peoples. Jesus taught and lived those priorities.

John 4:34-42 GNT
“My food,” Jesus said to them, “is to obey the will of the one who sent me and to finish the work he gave me to do. You have a saying, ‘Four more months and then the harvest.’ But I tell you, take a good look at the fields; the crops are now ripe and ready to be harvested! The one who reaps the harvest is being paid and gathers the crops for eternal life; so the one who plants and the one who reaps will be glad together. For the saying is true, ‘Someone plants, someone else reaps.’ I have sent you to reap a harvest in a field where you did not work; others worked there, and you profit from their work.”  Many of the Samaritans in that town believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they begged him to stay with them, and Jesus stayed there two days.  Many more believed because of his message, and they told the woman, “We believe now, not because of what you said, but because we ourselves have heard him, and we know that he really is the Savior of the world.”