The Amazing Power of Jesus
Receiving the Sinner/Refusing the Righteous, Part 2
Matthew 9:14-17
        
Last week we began looking at verses 9 through 17 of chapter 9.  There are several different elements to this text and, yet, they all come together to give the same message.  They combine to tell us about receiving the sinner and refusing the righteous.
 
The key to the passage is at the end of verse 13 and we looked at that a little bit last week where Jesus says, "For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."  That is, in a nutshell the essence of the coming of Christ.  That is the real heartbeat of Christianity.  He came to save sinners.
 
Whenever you hear a preacher who says, "I don't preach on sin.  It's negative," you are hearing a preacher who has no Gospel in his message.  He feels no need or compulsion to bring men to salvation.  I guess in some way or the other everyone will be alright; after all God is a loving God.
 
But when you follow the ministry of Jesus, His message is “Repent, for the kingdom is at hand.”  That is absolutely consistent and expected because, after all, He came to call sinners.
 
And the passage before us in Matthew 9 focuses on this reality.  That is the heart and soul of the message.  He can't do anything for people who think they're already okay.  He can only help the sinner who, in desperation, knows of his need.
Now this becomes abundantly clear and very specific in the 9th chapter, for here you have the first incident where an individual is specifically forgiven.
 
We saw that back in verses 1 to 8.  Here was a man who was a paralytic.  His friends brought him and lowered him through the roof, and what the Lord said to him was, "Your sins be forgiven you."  The Lord knew that that was the cry of his heart.  The physical was only an incidental.
 
The thing he needed most was the forgiveness of sin and Jesus forgave him.  That, then, forced some questions.  If He could forgive that man, who else could He forgive and to what extent can He forgive and what kind of sinners can He forgive?  Can He forgive the worst of sinners?
 
And Matthew inserts a short version of his own testimony beginning in verse 9 to say, “Obviously He can because He forgave me.”
 
Matthew was the worst guy in town as a traitor against his own people, working for the Roman government as a tax collector who extorted and stole from his own people. And, yet, it was to Matthew the Lord said, "Follow Me," and he rose and followed.
 
Then in verse 10, Matthew threw a banquet and he invited all the riffraff of Capernaum and Jesus was the guest.  And, of course, in verse 11, "When the Pharisees saw it, they rebuked and criticized Him.  They said, "What's the deal, hanging around a Teacher who hobnobs with the riffraff?  Why would you want to be with a Man who runs around with the scum?"
And Jesus came to the defense of His disciples and overhearing the conversation, He gave them a threefold answer.  First by analogy, He said, "They that are well need not a physician, but they that are sick.  By your own self-confessed diagnosis, you have affirmed that these are the worst of people.  Don't you also affirm that they are the ones who most need a physician?"
 
The second argument He uses is one from Scripture in Hosea.  "Go and learn what the Scripture says," is really what He's saying.  "I'll have mercy and not sacrifice.  You better go back and find that what God wants is not your ritual, but your heart of compassion.  That you could be uncaring and unsympathetic and uncompassionate to these people in sin betrays the fact that your religion is false."
 
And, thirdly, He says, "From My own authority, this is the direction of My ministry, for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners."  So the Lord rejects the righteous and receives the sinner.
 
Tonight, we’ll focus on the final four verses of the account.
 
Verse 14-17
 
Now these are the disciples of John the Baptist.  You remember when John came, many people followed him; and at a point in his life, he tried to transfer his followers over to Christ.  In John 3:30, he said, "I must decrease and He must increase."  In other words, "You've got to leave me and go to the Messiah now.  He's here."  But it's apparent that not all did.
And here are some of those connected somehow to John.  And they come with a question.  Notice
 
  1.  The Inquiry
 
Verse 14
 
It seems to me these guys are kind of stuck between the truth and a lie.  Even though they followed John the Baptist and were close to the truth, they were still stuck in Judaism or what went under the name of Judaism.  It was the Pharisees who believed you should fast twice a week.  The Old Testament only listed one fast and that on the Day of Atonement.  But they had built all this ritual and all this routine.
 
So they come with this question and what they're really saying is, "How come your religion is so different than ours?"
 
The Jews had three primary traditions at that time:  fasting, almsgiving, and prayers.  And they had their little routine during the day when they would stand out on the street corners or in the middle of the4 street and say their prayer.
 
And they had their little almsgiving routines and they  had their routine fasts.  And they would go to great lengths to make sure everyone around knew what they were doing and they made a big spectacle of being religious.
 
And they notice Jesus and his followers don’t do any of that stuff and so they come asking, "How come you don't do what we do?  How come your approach is so different?"
 
 
That's a very important question.  To them, religion is just a matter of ritual and ceremony and performance.  It had nothing to do with sinfulness and repentance and humility and forgiveness.
 
And there are many like that today.  Think, for example about the way Catholicism does its thing:    You go, you kneel, stand up, you take the mass, you run through the beads, you burn some incense; light some candles, say some Hail Mary’s and that's about it.  If you really feel the need to repent, go to the little phone booth and talk to a priest behind a screen.  It’s just a bunch of routine and ritual.
 
And we have them in our churches also.  They pray a little prayer at the dinner table.  They own a Bible.  Now and then they open it.  They go to a church service.  They sing a song, and they go through the forms, the routines, the externals.  They have no clue what it means to be convicted of sin, to have a deep repentance in the heart.
 
So that's essentially what they're asking.  "How come your system's so different?  You don't do what we do."
 
And notice
 
2. The Answer
 
Verse 15a
 
In those days a wedding would last seven days, and a man getting married would choose his best friends, and they were responsible to keep the party alive.
They kind of promoted the festivities, carried out the celebration, generated the fun and made sure everything went well.
 
And Jesus says, "Look, this is a wedding.  This is a celebration.  This is a happy time.  You don't expect the groom's attendants to mourn during the wedding feast, do you?"  In other words, "Your ritual is out of sync with reality."  See what He's saying?  He's saying, "You have no clue about what God is doing right in front of you.”   In other words, there's no connection between reality and all these rituals you are involved in.
 
They might say, "Why, we fast twice a week."  "Well, are you sad twice a week?"  "No, we just fast twice a week."  "Well, don't you know that fasting is connected with mourning?"  "Don't you know that fasting is connected with praying?"
 
We don’t know about that, we just fast twice a week.
 
We go to church every Sunday."  "Oh, you do?"  "Oh, yes, we've gone to church every Sunday for years."  "Why?"  "We've always gone to church."  "Why do you go to church?”
 
What is the reason?  What is the attitude?
 
He's saying, "You have a system that is utterly external.  It functions with no connection to reality.
And I'm telling you, the bridegroom is here and this is a celebration time.
 
Then notice how He continues
 
Verse 15b
 
Now He’s talking about His crucifixion.  Timing is everything.  What you’re doing ought to have some connection to what’s going on around you.  If you go through all this religious stuff apart from an honest attitude in the heart, it is ritual and nothing more. If you fast just to fast, pray just to pray, go to church just to go to church, read the Bible just to read the Bible, sing a song just to sing a song, you've missed it."
 
As Christians, we have the privilege of having an internal, vital, real relationship with the living God and what we do ought to be a result of what's happening in that relationship.  And right now, He says, the bridegroom is here, and the wedding is going on.  You don't cry at a wedding.  You cry at a funeral.  You're happy at a wedding.  I'm here with them.  This is not a time for mourning.
 
So here comes Jesus forgiving sin, and they're all happy, and the bridegroom is there, and the forgiveness is going on, and it's joyous, and they say, "How come you don't do the pharisaic thing?"  And He says, "Because it's unrelated to reality.  It's an empty, meaningless form.
 
But even beyond that, there is a bigger question and this is where we really get to see
 
3. The Issue
 
I think their thinking is this:  “So how do we relate to You?  How does our present religion relate to what You're teaching?"  And, in effect, the Lord says, "It doesn't relate at all.”
 
verses 16-17
 
Jesus is not teaching reformed Judaism.  He's saying, "My Kingdom is diametrically opposed to everything you are doing.  There is no connection."
 
Now, some people believe this passage teaches that He's setting aside the law and bringing in grace.  I don’t see it that way.  That is not what He's saying.  Watch
 
verse 16
 
Now, in those days, the garments were cotton or wool, and both would shrink.  If you had an old robe, and you got a big hole in it, you could take a piece of brand new cloth, stick it in that hole, and stitch it all around.  But as soon as you wash that garment, that new cloth shrinks, and the old fibers are going to be ripped by the strength of the new cloth.  So you just wind up with a bigger hole.
 
So what?  What does that teach us about what’s going on here in Matthew 9?
 
What Jesus is saying is this.  "There is no way that what I teach can fit into your system.  The message that I am giving of an internal holiness, of a real repentance, of a heart attitude, will never fit in the ritualistic system that you hold.  No way.  Not only won't it connect; but, secondly, your system can't contain it."
 
Verse 17
 
 
Now, what they used to do in storing wine was take the skin of an animal, take the hair off, and maybe turn it inside out.  Then they would stitch up the openings and they'd have this big, strong container to use for wine storage.
 
Now, once it had been emptied and had hung around without anything in it, it would get very dry.  Filling it would stretch it, and then if it was allowed to dry, it would crack.
 
Then if you refilled it again, the weight of it would just break the cracks open and you'd lose it all.  So you had to put new wine in new wineskins.
 
And what the Lord is saying is, "Your system won't hold this truth.  You need to discard your system and dump your way of doing things.”
 
There is no connection between your legalistic, perverted presentation of Judaism and My ministry.  We can’t mix or mingle the two.  It’s all me or nothing.
 
So how did their system deal with that?  They killed Him.  They agreed with Him.  They two can’t mix, therefore they had to eliminate Christ.
 
But they needed to understand, and our world desperately needs to understand He did not come to make a few additions to Judaism.  He didn’t come to peacefully co-exist with all of the other “good” religions in the world. He didn’t come to just provide another way to get to God.
 
 
Jesus said, "Your system says you're righteous.  Mine says you're vile and sinful.  No way to match those two together.  If you hang onto yours, that's your choice, but you can’t get in on what I’m doing and stay there to."
 
Somewhere along the line we stopped preaching that when someone comes to Christ, they have to say goodbye to a ritual system and performance and going through the motions of religion and say hello to the reality of a personal, inward relationship with Jesus Christ.
 
Now, quickly, before we leave this text, I want to kind of pull it all together by showing you the marks of a true believer.  There are three of them given here in this text.
 
No. 1,
 
  • He Follows The Lord
 
 
verse 9
 
Jesus said to Matthew, 'Follow Me.'  And he arose and followed Him."
 
It is characteristic of a true believer that he lives a life of unquestioning obedience.  Does Matthew say anything?  No, he just gets up.  I think about Peter, who got up and, in John 21, the Lord says, "Follow thou Me," and he starts to follow a little way, and then he turns around and says, "Oh, what about John?"  And the Lord says, "None of your business.  You follow Me."  And from then on, he didn't ask any more questions.
A true Christian lives a life of unquestioning obedience.  I don't believe a true Christian's always kicking against the traces, always despising the life of obedience, always resisting the obedience.  I believe a true Christian follows the Lord.
 
Secondly, I believe a true Christian
 
  • feeds the lost
 
Matthew couldn't wait to call all the sinners together and give them Jesus.  Look at your life.  Does the Spirit of God dwell in you?  If He does, the same compassion for the lost that exists in the heart of Christ will exist in you.  It may get cluttered and covered up by your own selfishness from time to time, but it will be there.
 
If the Spirit of Christ dwells in you, there will be that compassion.  That's why Jesus condemned the Pharisees.  They had no compassion.  He says, "You've got the sacrifice.  You just don't have the mercy."  A true believer follows the Lord and feeds the lost.
 
And, thirdly, a true believer
 
  • forsakes legalism
 
We see that in the remaining part of the passage.  He says no to the “sew a new patch in an old robe, fill up an old wineskin with new wine” crowd.  He sees there's no connection.  He knows you're not begun in the Spirit and perfected by the law or by some routine or some ritual.  He knows you don't get entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
 
So there they are:  three marks of a true believer.  He follows the Lord, He feeds the lost and he forsakes legalism.
 
How about you?  Do you follow the with a life of unquestioning obedience?  Is your highest privilege and greatest joy and deepest desire to obey Him?  If not, there's a question about your salvation.
 
Do you feed the lost?  Do you have compassion, mercy, care?  Do you sense the heart of God beating in your heart toward those that are outside Christ?
 
Have you forsaken legalism?  Do you understand the difference between true worship and going to church?  Do you really comprehend the knowledge of God through His Word or are you just reading the Bible?
 
Do you know the difference between baring your heart before God and praying as a routine?
 
I hope you do.  True believers follow the Lord, feed the lost, and forsake legalism.
 
I hope you have come to know Him, and that those are the desires of your heart.  I think the great hymn of John Newton may put some words to your emotions as we close this evening.  Listen to it.  In it, he chronicles his transformation when he saw he was a sinner and he came to Christ.
 
Listen to these words.
 
 
 
"In evil long I took delight, unawed by shame or fear, till a new object struck my sight, and stopped my wild career.  I saw One hanging on a tree in agonies and blood, Who fixed His languid eyes on me as near His cross I stood.
 
Sure never till my latest breath can I forget that look.  It seemed to charge me with His death, though not a word He spoke:  My conscience felt and owned the guilt.  It plunged me in despair.  I saw my sins His Blood had spilt, and helped to nail Him there.
 
A second look He gave, which said, 'I freely all forgive; this blood is for thy ransom paid; I die that thou may live.'  I do believe.  I now believe that Jesus died for me, and through His blood, His precious blood, I shall from sin be free."
 
Let's pray.
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