SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT FOR TODAY
Passage: Luke 5:24-32 (NKJV)
4 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” — He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”
25 Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. 26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen strange things today!”
27 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.
29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. 30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Memory Verse: Matthew 22:14 (NIV)
“ FOR MANY ARE INVITED BUT FEW ARE CHOSEN”
In a previous edition we looked at the need for believers to praise God for the amazing things he does in our lives as well as the lives of others around us. The point was made that as we express our gratitude to God through praises, he does greater things in our lives. This was based on the reaction of the paralytic who was healed by Jesus and the people who were around him. In this edition we want to focus our attention on Jesus’ calling of Levi, also known as Matthew.
At the time Jesus started his ministry in Palestine, the Jews were under Roman rule. They had employed some of the Jews to collect taxes on behalf of the Roman government. They were referred to as ‘Publicans’. Those who were given that responsibility used it as an avenue to enrich themselves by inflating taxes they were expected to take from their own people. This became a common knowledge to the extent that publicans had very little or no respect among their own people in spite of their great wealth. They were seen as one of the worst group of sinners. They had no right to any Jewish court except the Gentile courts. They were sometimes treated as the heathen. Their testimonies were not regarded by the Jews. People who were respected in the Jewish society were not expected to have anything to do with such people. But Jesus broke that norm when he invited Levi to become his follower (disciple).
Jesus did not look at how sinful Matthew was or the negative things people had to say about him. He invited, that is, chose him to be his disciple. What a privilege it was for a sinner like Matthew to be called by Jesus! Unlike the rabbis of Jesus’ time whose followers chose them, and would have been practically impossible for Matthew to choose to follow any rabbi, Jesus chose his own disciples.
The point which needs to be re-emphasized is the fact that Jesus did not look at Levi’s sinful condition; he chose him in spite of all his sins. Left to other people alone, Jesus, being a righteous teacher, would have chosen someone more righteous than Matthew to follow him. Jesus did what was unthinkable. What a privilege it was for the unrighteous tax-collector, Matthew, to be called a follower of the righteous son of God, Jesus Christ!
What we need to remind ourselves however is that we were once in the situation Matthew found himself. We were counted among the worst sinners until God showed his love towards us, sent his son Jesus Christ who agreed to come and die on the shameful cross of Calvary in order to redeem us from the bondage of sin, Satan and death. Through the blood Jesus shed on the cross, we have been saved and are now called children of God (John 1:12) even though we did not deserve to be among the children of God.
What a great privilege Matthew had for Jesus to choose him; and what a privilege we have to be called children of the Most High God! Indeed it is a great privilege that among all the sinners in this world, God chose you to be his son and Yeshua chose you to be his follower.
Levi, acknowledging how unworthy he was and how privileged he was to be called by Jesus, GOT UP, LEFT EVERYTHING AND FOLLOWED HIM. This means that Matthew responded positively to Jesus’ call, left his old way of life and accepted to follow Jesus. Unlike Matthew, many of us are still living (‘sitting’) in the old ways of life from which Jesus called us. We are not ready to let go of the past life and commit ourselves fully to the cause of Christ.
This is very sad because it is an indication that we do not appreciate our redemption by Jesus and the subsequent calling to be his disciples. Matthew never went back to live as publican after Jesus had called him. He cherished being with Jesus more than the money he was making as a tax-collector. In fact Matthew saw his calling as a privilege and stayed with Jesus for the rest of his life.
Do you see it as a privilege to be a saved son of God? Do you cherish being a Christian? Do you value what Christ did for you on the cross of Calvary?
Are you willing, as Matthew did, to leave the world behind you and follow Jesus to the end? I want to challenge you never to despise your status as a child of God because it is the greatest privilege ever given to mankind. May we see ourselves as the most privileged people in the world because the Saviour found us in our sins, chose to save us by dying for us, and now calls us his own brethren and co-heirs with him.
THE WORD OF THE LORD!
It’s a Privilege to be Called by Jesus! (Part 2)
In the forgoing edition of Spiritual Nourishment for Today, we saw how Jesus called Matthew to follow him even though he was a publican (tax-collector) and therefore sinful. Jesus showed his love for even the worst of sinners including you and me. We also saw how Matthew treated his calling by Jesus by standing up and leaving everything he was doing in order to follow Jesus. It is all because he saw his calling as a great privilege. In this edition we want to look further into how Matthew treated his calling by Jesus and how Jesus demonstrated his love for the spiritually unhealthy.
After Jesus had called Levi (Matthew), Levi became so glad in his heart that Jesus found him worthy to be his disciple. He might never have regarded himself worthy to be called by such a righteous Master as one of his disciples. So he responded to Jesus’ call quickly, left everything he was doing, and followed him. This is what God expects from those of us he has chosen to be part of his family. We need to come to the understanding that our membership in the family of God to the point of being called the children of God is a great privilege.
There were many sinners out there at the time Jesus saved you. There are still many people whose eyes have not been opened to experience the light of Jesus. There are many people who still hear the gospel but cannot accept Jesus as their Savior. Yet Jesus chose to save us over them. We are not better than them. We should understand how favored we are to be called children of God and always express our gratitude to him for that.
Matthew expressed his sincerest gratitude to Jesus for calling him to be his follower by organizing a banquet in his honour. Matthew did not leave out his fellow publicans out of his banquet. He still treated them as friends even though he was not going to be their partners in the tax collection business. He invited them to come and meet Jesus and his disciples. He also invited Pharisees to the banquet. Matthew wanted to show his friends that he was no longer going to live as a publican but a disciple of Jesus Christ. He did not hide his new identity as a disciple of Christ. Above all, he invited his friends to meet Jesus and his disciples.
Do you feel shy to let people know you are a Christian or you feel proud to be a follower of Jesus Christ? Are you bold enough to let your former friends know that you have become a new creature or you continue to live as if you are still part of them? Have you broken allegiance with your past ways of life or you are still living in it? Have you invited your friends and families to meet Jesus since you became a Christian? If you have not done that, I want to implore you to start doing so from today. Invite your friends and family to Jesus and you will be blessed by God!
Even though Jesus really loved to be with those who were spiritually weak, the Pharisees could not understand why such a righteous teacher should mingle with unworthy people. Jesus’ made it clear that he came because of those who are spiritually sick and are in need of spiritual healing. He was talking specifically about sinners. This is in line with what Jesus said in Luke 19:10 as follows:
“FOR THE SON OF MAN CAME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE WHAT WAS LOST” (NIV).
Indeed Jesus came to look for us when we were wandering like sheep in the desert without a shepherd. He came to rescue us from the hands of the wounded lions which were seeking after our blood and brought us. He did not come because of the sheep which were comfortable at home with their shepherds.
O what a privilege it is for us to be sought after and saved by Jesus even after we had chosen to rebel against the Father and follow our own selfish desires! We all, like Levi, need to rejoice over our salvation and subsequent calling of Jesus to be his disciples and reciprocate his gesture by leaving everything we used to do and become his committed disciples. As we aspire to become true disciples of Jesus, we should not leave our friends and family members out. Let us encourage our friends and families to come to Jesus for them to also benefit from the blessings which come through following Jesus!
It is my prayer that we shall all see our inclusion in the Kingdom of God as a great privilege and encourage many more to come to Jesus!
THE WORD OF THE LORD!
Pastor Nana Kobina Baisie
Teacher/Pastor at Nadrim Mission International School, Busan, Korea.