Binding Broken Hearts

Introducing Jesus to Those Who Need Him Most

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Service and Sacrifice - Mark 2:13-17

When we last saw Jesus, we saw His healing of the paralytic man in response to the faith of the man’s four friends.

After Jesus finished teaching in the house, He walked outside Capernaum’s city gates and took the road that led down to the seashore. On the way out of the city, Jesus (and the large group of people following Him) passed by the tax collection booth that strategically positioned to catch folks coming and going from Capernaum.

Because Roman tax collection was so odious to the Jewish population, everyone avoided making eye contact with the tax collector in the booth hoping to escape notice. This had become such a habit, that I’m sure folks didn’t even see the tax collection booth any more unless they were compelled to stop.

However, Jesus saw that tax collection booth. More importantly He saw the tax collector in the booth.

“As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he arose and followed Him.” (Mark 2:14)

Mark is the only gospel that refers to Levi as the “son of Alphaeus.” The other gospels refer to him simply as Levi Matthew. I find this detail intriguing because another of Jesus’ disciples is always referred to as “James the son of Alphaeus” (e.g., Luke 6:15) to differentiate him from James the brother of John (sons of thunder). Either the name Alphaeus was popular back in the day, or Matthew and James were brothers.

Because it’s a logical option, let’s go with the idea that Matthew and James were sons of the same Alphaeus and were therefore brothers. Why is this an important point? Glad you asked.

For reasons that we don’t know, Matthew chose to work for the Roman government collecting taxes from his fellow countrymen. Nowadays, folks who work for the IRS may not be our favorite people, but we know that that they are all US citizens. How much worse would it be if the IRS represented a foreign, invading government like Rome was to Israel?

Once Matthew started working for Rome, he became persona non grata among those were his family and neighbors. He was an outcast among his people. Someone to be hated and avoided.

But one of Matthew’s brothers – James – began to follow a young rabbi named Jesus. And James began to change as he spent more and more time with Jesus. Could it be that James’ heart toward his “Roman loving” brother began to change? Could it be that James began to reconnect with Matthew? Could it be that James began to tell Matthew everything he was learning from Jesus? Could it be that Matthew began to venture into the large crowds surrounding Jesus to hear Jesus’ teachings for himself?

Could it be that all of this provided the ground work in Matthew’s heart so that when Jesus said, “Follow Me,” Matthew jumped up immediately and followed?

Something to think about. Don’t ever give up on those within your realm of influence. Keep sharing Jesus quietly, softly, creatively. The day will come when Jesus will say to them, “Follow Me,” and maybe, just maybe, they will jump up and follow.

Once Matthew accepted Jesus’ invitation, he went into action to share the good news of what had happened to him.

“Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.” (Mark 2:15)

Matthew’s life was completely transformed by Jesus, and he wanted all of his co-workers, friends, and acquaintances to experience the same transformation. So he introduced them all to Jesus. And, as a result, they followed Jesus as well. Although the Bible doesn’t tell us this, I wouldn’t be surprised if each of these people immediately went out and told others of what Jesus had done for them. The ripple effect in action.

Take a moment and think about this – are you so overwhelmingly thankful for all that Jesus has done for you that you want everyone you know to experience the same thing? If not, you may want to take some time with Jesus and let Him remind you of His matchless love.

Of course, while Jesus poured His life-giving grace into thirsty souls, Satan was not happy about it. So he stirred up the Pharisees to try to stop it.

“And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, ‘How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?’” (Mark 2:16)

I believe that the Pharisees, on some level, took Satan’s bait on this because their desire was to remain pure and holy. The Pharisees were the group who, after the Babylonian exile, were charged with making sure Israel wasn’t taken into captivity again by keeping everyone in line with God’s law. They came from the perspective that to remain pure and holy, you had to avoid everyone you deemed impure and unholy.

However, Jesus turned that notion upside down by reiterating to the Pharisees His mission statement.

“When Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’” (Mark 2:17)

Jesus mingled with those He came to save (including the Pharisees, by the way) and yet He remained pure because of God’s righteousness, not because He avoided unholy people.

The truth is, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and get in contact with folks you may not want to in order to share the gospel with those who are in desperate need of it. And when you do, don’t be surprised if Satan comes at you from multiple directions as you work to share Jesus with others.

Answer the opposition the way Nehemiah did:

“So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?’” (Nehemiah 6:3)

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