District Council Monday Night 5/1/2017 - Dennis Marquardt

basic idea of sermon contributed by Ricky Ryan




TEXT:      Mark 2:13-17; Lk. 15:1-2


INTRO:    We are living in a time when the Church is trying to define how to deal with our culture without compromising our understanding of the Bible.  How does God’s people act in a culture adrift as ours currently is today?  These are serious questions that need serious answers.


Too many times the church is known for what it stands against, instead of what it stands for.  The world often defines us by our views of morality which we know are honestly out of touch with their own views, and so they despise us.  So do we shut down, withdraw from them, seek to protect our ability to be different?  Or do we discover what it means to be the body of Christ in a world that desperately needs the healing power of Jesus Christ in their hearts and lives?


PROP. SENT:     This passage of Scripture will teach us that the work of evangelism rarely happens when we so separate ourselves from the world that they can’t see Jesus in us.  Church is not meant to be a country club for believers, it is meant to be a hospital for the sick.


I.   THE MISSION!  Mk. 2:13-15


A.   Reaching The Lost!  Mk. 2:13; Mk. 2:2-12

1.   No theme in the Bible is more evident than God trying to reach the lost.

2.   And how did God often reach out to people?  He did it through other people in most accounts.

a.   Passionate Faith:  Just before our text we read the story of 4 men who had a paralyzed friend that they desperately wanted to bring to Jesus.

b.   Forceful Faith:  The crowd was so large they couldn’t get the man inside the house to Jesus, but theses 4 friends were undeterred, they tore up the roof so they could lower him down in front of Jesus.

c.   Rewarded Faith:  It took 4 friends to get one man to Jesus!

3.   Almost Jesus’ entire ministry was outside of the synagogue and temple!  Today, most ministries to sinners are expected to happen inside church buildings.

4.   It is interesting that when Jesus was in public large crowds ALWAYS came to Him - it was true in the house where the paralytic man was brought, and now it is true as Jesus goes down by the lake in Capernaum. 

a.   The real Jesus attracts people, it is not Jesus people reject most of the time; it is His people acting badly that cause people to reject Christianity many times.

b.   I am convinced that this world would not reject a vibrant Christian witness if we were passionate followers of Christ, and passionate lovers of sinners.


B.   Reaching Levi!   Mk. 2:14

1.   Jesus was walking through large crowds on the lakeshore, and comes upon the owner of one of the most lucrative tax franchises in the Middle East.


a.   Tax collectors were approved by Rome and given authority for their franchise.  You could buy one or get one if connected.  Romans would use local people to own franchises in their own country.

b.   So, in Israel Jews were given the right to own a franchise, and they were hated by the Romans because they weren’t Romans, and hated by the Jews because they were seen as traitors to their own Jewish people.

c.   Levi owned one of the most lucrative franchises, in a major city like Capernaum with the right to be in the most populated area, lakeshore. 

d.   They not only taxed what the Roman’s said was the tax to be paid; they were given the right to tax about anything else they wanted and could get away with.  Some of the things Levi could tax:

(1.  Taxed fish caught on the lake

(2.  Taxed any goods you were carrying with you

(3.  Taxed slips in the lake, and charged boat fees as taxes

(4.  Taxed use of the shoreline

(5.  Taxed travel routes, etc.

(6.  Thus, Levi’s booth on the shoreline was the perfect spot since it often had large crowds, with goods on hand.

e.   Owning a franchise was a license for extortion!

f.    Roman soldiers often stood near the booths in order to arrest those who wouldn’t comply.

g.   A tax collector was allowed to search anyone except a Roman lady.  Some ancient documents said that some tax collectors in Egypt were so ruthless that they often beat up aged women to find out where their tax-owing relatives lived.  Failure to pay the taxes could mean forfeiture of property and land.

h.   There are even reports that when a village during hard times heard a tax collector was coming to their village they would all pack up and leave their village to start a new one somewhere else!

i.    Some people learned to pay tax collectors bribes in order to be taxed at lower rates and tariffs on goods they had with them.

j.    They along with Shepherds were the only class of people not allowed to testify in a court of law because their testimony was considered unreliable.

k.   The ONLY friends tax collectors had were other tax collectors.  It was a very lonely and empty life.  This may explain the quick response of Levi when Jesus deliberately approaches Him with an invitation to come and follow Him.

3.   Consequences for Levi being a tax collector:

a.   He was cut off completely from his fellow Jews

b.   He was cut off from his family since they were Jews

c.   He was cut off going to the temple, thus forgiveness for his sins were impossible since that happened in the temple,

d.   He was cut off from God therefore, no possible avenue for salvation!

e.   He was cut off from Romans who despised him as well.


4.   Jesus utters only two words to Levi:  “Follow me”

a.   Those two words however said something powerful to Levi!

(1.  Jesus noticed him, and as a fellow Jew Jesus was not rejecting him!

(2.  Jesus wanted him, a wicked no good sinner was being asked to spend time with the very Son of God!

(3.  Those words meant Levi had a possible future other than being hated, Jesus accepted him as he currently was.

(4.  This meant Levi was worth something, God desired him – he was being valued by Jesus.

(5.  It also meant Levi was willing to walk away from the amazing wealth and power he had amassed to date to just be with Jesus!  He was more desirous for meaning than money!

b.   I suspect this is true of a lot of sinners today who pretend to be happy and despise religion.  If they met real Christians who reflected the heart of God toward them they would come to understand how powerfully attractive the Gospel of Jesus Christ really is!


ILLUS:  If you can really make a man believe you love him, you have won him; and if I could only make people really believe that God loves them, what a rush we would see for the kingdom of God! -- D.L. Moody, Christian History, no. 25


C.   Righteous Leverage!  Mk. 2:15

1.   Jesus joins Levi and all his sinner friends for supper – and brings His disciples along also!

a.   This meal was obviously planned by Levi to allow his friends to meet Jesus the same way he had.

b.   There was no lecture about going to synagogue to find out about God, or contacting the local priest (besides, as a tax collector he couldn’t do this anyway).

c.   Jesus sits with him and his friends deliberately.  By the way, this was no seeker friendly evangelism; Jesus has them identified in the text clearly as “sinners.”

2.   Levi wants to give his friends the same opportunity and to share with them why he left the tax booth immediately.

a.   This is the way evangelism works today too

b.   Too many long term Christians however have no sinner friends anymore, hence why in older churches it takes as many as 60 believers to make one new convert, while in a new church plant it takes only 2-4 believers, in a new church there are usually new believers who still are networked to sinful friends!


ILLUS:    From time to time we hear statistics about how people first came into church membership. These figures trace back to the Institute for American Church Growth, which asked 10,000 people about their pilgrimage. What led them in? Answers were: Special need, 2 percent; Walk-in, 3 percent; Pastor, 6 percent; Visitation, 1 percent; Sunday school, 5 percent; Evangelistic crusade, 5 percent; Program, 3 percent; Friend/relative, 79 percent. -- Wayne Zunkel, Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 3


c.   How can we in the church today make friends with sinners?

d.   It really isn’t the pastors job to get people saved, it is the church people’s responsibility to do that, “sheep beget sheep, not shepherds.”

e.   Churches today are more like country clubs that allow “members only” with rights and privileges for those members.  It is however supposed to be a hospital for sinners.

3.   By the way, you can tell which kind of church you have, a country club or hospital by asking one simple question:  “What do you love about your church?”

a.   Country club answers go like this:

(1.  I love the music; it is just what I want.

(2.  I love the programs; so many good things for our membership.

(3.  I love the pastor – he/she is amazing – meets all my needs! (ok, you can still love them even in a spiritual hospital!)

(4.  I love our facilities – just feel at home and so spiritual in this place.

(5.  I just love all my brothers and sisters, just one big happy family

b.   Spiritual Hospital answers go like this:

(1.  I love seeing people following Christ in discipleship

(2.  I love helping new believers grow in faith

(3.  I love our outreach programs where we touch real people in real ways.

(4.  I love the pastor – he/she is amazing – challenging us all the time to touch our neighbors and friends

4.   You can bet that Levi’s tax collecting friends wanted to hear from this Jesus who caused one of their most powerful and wealthy friends to simply walk away from his tax collecting booth with only two words, “Follow Me.”

5.   It is noteworthy that vs 15 ends with “for there were many who followed him” referring back to the tax collectors and sinners!

6.   These sinners were worthy of Jesus’ presence and love.  Are we showing that to sinners today still?


II.  THE MESS!   Mk 2:16-17


A.   Religious Leaders!  Mk. 2:16

1.   The so called “spiritual leaders” in town are disgusted by this display of Jesus eating and fraternizing with sinners, much less tax collectors.

a.   Notice however that they don’t take their complaint directly to Jesus; they instead take it to Jesus’ disciples.

b.   The obvious intent of this was to get the disciples to doubt they are following a good example, to create discord among the disciples.

(1.  Church people can still do this today, rather than directly speak to the pastor about some new plan to reach sinners, they simply question the integrity of the new plan with other members in the church!  They might call it “social Gospel” as a criticism.

(2.  This is the divide and conquers technique used by so many self-righteous people today too.

2.   These religious leaders were upset that “good Jewish” men like the disciples were rubbing shoulders with wicked sinners and participating with defiled food and drink.

a.   Eating with someone was considered making a binding friendship with them in antiquity.  So much so that one ancient writer recorded that two warriors who had been fighting with each other discovered during the fight that their fathers had at one time sat down and eaten a meal together, they immediately ceased all hostilities from that moment.  Their families were bound in friendship because of their father’s shared meal in the past.

b.   Even so, they were clearly more concerned about the appearance of evil than they were of the salvation of wicked sinners!

c.   We can do this today too; become so concerned about what something might look like that we forget the lost soul we are reaching out to.


ILLUS:     Dan Betzer’s Women’s Ministries Group at Fort Meyer A/G years ago. When strip clubs opened up near the church some people felt it was necessary to call the local press to watch them protest with signs and advocate for these clubs to be shut down, didn’t want this evil near the church.  The elderly WM director was asked to come up with a better plan.  The ladies of the church decided to instead have their WM president go the Friday night strip show and when the girls were done with their act go back and give them some expensive gifts with a note that says, “You are loved.”  The WM president when giving a gift to a stripper witnessed the stripper break down and cry on the spot, and she asked the WM president, “Lady, are you an angel of God?”  She of course said, “No, why would you ask that?”  The stripper then told her this, “I had planned to commit suicide tonight after my act, I’m worthless … but I had prayed to God and asked, ‘Lord, if you are real would you send an angel to save me before I kill myself.’ Lady, you must be an angel!”  It was long before all the strippers from the clubs near the church were saved and the clubs closed on their own for lack of dancers.


d.   They had taken their mistaken concept of spirituality from Isa. 52:11 and restated in 2 Cor. 6:17 that says, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, said the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing;”  However, this wasn’t about spending time with sinners, it was about letting sinners defile you - it was about when Isaiah prophesied about Israel coming out of Babylonian captivity and being restored as God’s people.  To quote it about being around sinners is an improper application, Jesus Himself spent a great deal of time with sinners, but he didn’t become one of them, and we should keep ourselves clean too among them!

e.   The religious leaders felt like Jesus was “endorsing sinners and sin” – but that was hardly the case since He referred to them as “sinners” – but He considered them worthy of His time and love, genuine love and not coerced love.

f.    “THE MESSAGE” version translates the last part of vs 16 this way, “what kind of example is this, acting cozy with the riffraff?”  Their attitude toward sinners was horrible!  No wonder they had few converts!


B.   Righteous Love   Mk. 2:17

1.   Jesus obviously overheard their comments to His disciples and He quickly addresses their complaint.

2.   Jesus in addressing it clarifies the motive of why He was doing what He was doing; He had come for those who needed a doctor, the sick, not the healthy.

a.   Clearly Jesus saw them as sinners, there was no trying to water down their label as sinners – but He also clearly loved these sinners and this was proven by the fact He wanted to spend time with them and give their lives value – something the Jewish leaders would never do.

b.   Most sinners know they are sinners by the way, Jesus didn’t need to name call them, or refer to them openly as wicked sinners, their lives were empty and full of self-loathing, they had no meaning past making money.

c.   Jesus was offering them love and hope, for something much better.

d.   Levi got this immediately when Jesus offered for him to “follow him” – without hesitation Levi walked out of his booth and followed Jesus.  Now Jesus wanted to help Levi bring his friends down the same path.

e.   There was no compromising going on here, just healing for the sick.

3.   The religious people were more concerned about preserving their purity and rules rather than loving the lost!

a.   What about us today?

b.   Are we more concerned about sinners winning our culture wars in America than we are about us winning sinners to Christ?

c.   Are we more concerned about “rights” we have than the right to life in Christ for those who are still lost?

d.   Aren’t we called to give up all rights to self to bring the Gospel to the lost?

e.   Are political concerns more important than spiritual concerns?


ILLUS:   A wealthy university graduate chose to live frugally in a single room, cooking his own meals. As a result he was able to give two million dollars to foreign missions. In explanation of his choice he wrote these words: "Gladly would I make the floor my bed, a box my chair, and another box my table, rather than men should perish for want of knowledge of Christ." I am not suggesting that all Christians are called upon to forfeit the normal comforts of life; only, when God calls them to a life of sacrifice, they be willing to leave all and follow Him.


4.   You will note in Jesus’ answer that He was not watering down anything about these sinners; they are called sinners by Him.

a.   If you mean by “seeker friendly” ignoring sin and just getting a crowd, I’m against it, but if you mean by “seeker friendly” loving sinners and helping them see real Christians being like Christ, bring it on!

b.   Jesus statement about why He came is set so clearly; He came for the lost, and He feels no shame in going to them and restoring them by touching their lives in a way that gives their lives true lasting meaning, and forgiveness of sins.

5.   Heaven will be our Country Club model for the Church, but on earth it is a healing place, a hospital for sinners to find healing for their souls, and bodies.  The defining power of being a Christian is our love for people; Jesus said this is how all men would know that we are His, that we love one another!


CONCLUSION:   So, what are we going to do about all this?  Maybe we the Church need to ask forgiveness for our willingness to be safe in our churches rather than engaging our culture.  Maybe we should take the initiative in asking God’s forgiveness for behaving badly instead of bad mouthing sinners for behaving badly.  Maybe the church needs a new heart for lost people, and then do something about it.  Just a few amens to a sermon or a few moments at the altar won’t be enough.