Friday, June 23, 2017

48 - Tax Collectors and Sinners

   Again he went out beside the sea; and all the crowd kept coming to him, and he began to teach them. 
   But as he was passing along, he caught sight of Leʹvi the [son] of Al·phaeʹus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: “Be my follower.” And rising up he followed him.
   Later he happened to be reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many of them and they began following him. 
   But the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw he was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, began saying to his disciples: “Does he eat with the tax collectors and sinners?” 
   Upon hearing this Jesus said to them: “Those who are strong do not need a physician, but those who are ill do. I came to call, not righteous people, but sinners.” Mark 2:13-17 NW

The Tax and Toll Collector

It seems that Christ was an outdoorsman; when possible He was out in the wilderness, or walking along the seashore, or teaching as He was walking along the road with His friends or even strangers.

The tax collector's office, very conveniently, was standing on the sea shore and the tax collector was also the man who sold the tickets to take a boat across Galilee. 

This lake is 12 1/2 miles long, and from 4 to 7 1/2 broad. It(s) surface is 682 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. Its depth is from 80 to 160 feet.

We know that Christ already had four distinct followers. Namely, Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John.  Now He met a man who was not in the same category as the first disciples.  Mark and Luke call him Levi but the Gospel of Matthew calls him by the more familiar name, Matthew.  This is the same Matthew that later wrote the Gospel of Matthew.

The fishermen could be supposed to have been hard working, honest men but Matthew was a tax collector.  Back then, in the Roman culture, the tax collectors were known to be shysters.  Many of them would collect as much from the public as they could get away with and then probably give to the government as little as they absolutely had to.

Christ called him to follow And rising up he followed him.  Upon meeting Christ, Matthew became a different man.  He left his "shady" job.  After that, he invited Christ and His disciples to his home for a meal and many of Matthew's tax collecting friends and other sinners also came to enjoy the feast.

This great feast very likely was made some time after his call, though recorded here; for it is not reasonable to think there could be time enough that day to get ready so great a feast. 

Levi, it should seem, was a rich man else how could he afford to feed so many people?  Can't help but wonder if, in his case, his riches were ill-gotten. Gill.

The NW writes the scribes of the Pharisees.  This statement at least makes sense but unfortunately, it is not like that in the Greek text.  In Greek, it is this way, the scribes and the Pharisees.

Many translations have And there was a great company of tax-collectors and of others who were reclining with them. But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against His disciples. Luke 5:29-30 MKJ.  It sounds as if the tax-collectors and sinners have their own scribes.  

Not the Scribes of the publicans and sinners that sat down, but the Scribes of the people in general; the Scribes of the Jewish nation: all the eastern versions leave out the word "their" so that it would read But scribes and pharisee's murmured. Gill

when they saw he was eating with the sinners and tax collectors.  To keep the scribes happy Christ could have foregone eating with the sinners and tax collectors and stood at the end of the room and preached while the meal was going on.  Really though, is there a better way to break down barriers than to eat together? 

The scribes asked Christ's disciples does your master really stoop down so far as to eat with such lowlife?  

Upon hearing this Jesus said.  Maybe Christ overheard the scribes whispering to the disciples.  Or perhaps, the meaning here is that the disciples told Christ what the scribes were upset about.

I can picture the following rebuttal. Upon hearing this Jesus sarcastically said to them: “Those of you who are morally strong do not need a physician, but those who are ill do.  Just look at these people I am eating with.  If they hear Me, maybe they will change their lifestyle, but you are so much better than they are.  You will probably never see your need to change because you were "brought up" in a synagogue.

I came to call, not righteous people, but sinners.” Mark 2:17.  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.1 Timothy 1:15.  The church is the only group in the world where you have to be unqualified before you can join. Guzik

Matthew is the only one to include the following statement in this story.  Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, 'Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.  Mat. 9:13  CEV.   Or, in other words, You are overly strict about following all the man made rules you have been taught since childhood.  Why don't you spend some time providing food for the hungry, or visiting the lonely; then you will be following the Scriptures.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

47 - A Paralyzed Young Man

He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Him. Mat 3:16.  This statement may well be the key to defining the ministry of Christ. 

   And getting into the boat, He crossed over and went into His own city. Mat. 9:1 

   And He entered again into Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in a certain house. 
   And immediately many were gathered together, so that there was no longer any room, not even near the door. And He was speaking the word to them. 
   And they came to Him, bringing a paralytic being carried by four men.
   And not being able to get near Him because of the crowd, they removed the tiles from the roof where He was, and having dug through they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. 

   And Jesus, seeing their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Child, your sins have been forgiven you." 
   And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts,
  Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who is able to forgive sins except God alone?" 

   And immediately, when Jesus recognized in His spirit that they were reasoning thus among themselves, He said to them, "Why are you reasoning these things in your hearts? 

   Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins have been forgiven,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk'? 

    But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on the earth to forgive sins"--He said to the paralytic, 
   “I say to you, arise, and take up your bed, and go to your house."
   And immediately he arose, and taking his bed, he went out before them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!" Mark 2:1-12

Getting Medical Attention 

As was said earlier, not all the synoptic gospels have the stories arranged in the same order.  This is just the same as any modern storytellers will not always repeat all their stories in the same order.  This is not a problem while studying the Gospels except that it can become confusing when trying to keep the continuity going.

According to the Gospel of Matthew Christ had just cast out demons in the country of the Gadarenes but the people there did not want Christ to stay in their area so He getting into the boat, He crossed over and went into His own city. Mat. 9:1.  We recall that when Jesus left His home, in Nazareth He moved into Capernaum; this is where we find Him now, in  His own city.

It was in Capernaum that Christ had cast a demon out of a man in the synagogue.  The fame of that act must have spread all over town and the countryside. A few days after Christ returned to His home town many were gathered together, (they came to hear Him preach) so that there was no longer any room, not even near the door. And He was speaking the word to them. 

After the house had become totally crowded four men brought a paralysed man to be healed by Christ.  Because they could not get through the crowd, they hoisted the man, sleeping mat and all, onto the roof.

Here is one theory: Now, in these roofs, there was a door, ... "the door of the roofs"; now when they had brought up the sick man to the roof of the house, by a ladder fastened on the outside, which was common; they took up this door, and let him down in his bed into the room where Jesus was: and because they wrenched the roof door open with violence, therefore it is said, ... and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. Gill

Dr Luke disagrees with Mr Gill.  He writes, And not finding a way by which they might bring him in through the crowd, going up on the housetop, they let him down through the tiles with his cot into the midst, before Jesus. Luke 5:19 

Here is a different theory: Because of the crowd four men bearing a litter might well despair about entering the house.  But with palsied paralysis at stake, they would not be repulsed. They gained the roof by an outer staircase.  Then they uncovered and broke up the roof, by which strong phrases St. Mark means that they first lifted the tiles which lay in a bed of mortar or mud, broke through this, and then tore up the poles and light rafters by which all this covering was supported. Then they lowered the sick man upon his pallet, in front of the Master as He taught. Expositors Bible Commentary

And Jesus, seeing their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Child, your sins have been forgiven you." Mark 2:5.   The argument is made that since Christ forgave the patient his sins Christ must be divine because Who is able to forgive sins except God alone?"  The Jews and the "church" both believe that to be true. 

the Son of Man has authority on the earth to forgive sins.   This authority was given to Christ by the Father.  For as the Father has life in Himself, so He ... has given Him (Christ) authority to execute judgment. John 5:26-27.   

We must be careful that we do not read the word judgment as condemnation.  The Greek word is kree'-sis (Subjectively or objectively, for or against); by extension a tribunal; by implication justice. Strong G2920.  It means "a fair judgment" - leading to punishment or forgiveness.  In this case, Christ decided to forgive; the choice was His.

Those who use this story to validate the divinity of Christ seem to overlook this one important point.  The authority was given to Christ by The Father, therefore, the Father must be superior to the Son and so Christ cannot be an equal with God; or as the church loves to say, Christ is God of very God.  If the two were equal one would not be giving authority to the other!

Then Christ said, Just to prove to you teachers of the Law that I have the authority to forgive sins I will heal this paralytic.  And He did.

Friday, June 9, 2017

46 - Death By Degrees

He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Him. Mat 3:16.  This statement may well be the key to defining the ministry of Christ. 

And He proclaimed in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out demons. 
   And a leper came to Him, begging Him and kneeling down to Him, and saying to Him, If You will, You can make me clean. 
   And Jesus, moved with compassion, put out His hand and touched him, and said to him, I will; be clean! 
   And He having spoken, the leprosy instantly departed from him and he was cleansed. 
   And He strictly charged him and immediately sent him away, 
   and He said to him, See that you say nothing to anyone. But go and show yourself to the priest, and offer those things which Moses commanded for your cleansing, for a testimony to them. 
   But going out, he began to proclaim it very much, and to spread about the matter, so that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was outside in deserted places. And they came to Him from every quarter. Mark 1:39-45
   And Jesus said to him, See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest. And offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them. Mat. 8:4

The Curse of Leprosy

After Christ left Capernaum where He had cast a demon out of the man in the synagogue He went throughout Galilee and preached in various synagogues. Remember preaching, not healing or casting out demons, was Christ's main calling.

However, a certain leper came to Him, begging Him and kneeling down to Him. Mark 1:40  We well might imagine that he knelt to show his humility.  No doubt, as a leper he was humble.  He was scorned by all in his community.  The Jews believed that a person would get leprosy only as punishment for sins committed. 
The story is told of a Jewish rabbi who was walking down the street to buy some eggs but when he saw a leper on the same street he refused to buy eggs from anyone on that street.  Perhaps the rabbi thought he was too holy to deal with anyone who had a leper walking their streets.
The account in Matthew indicates that his purpose for kneeling was to worship; a leper came and worshipped him. Mat. 8:2.  However, the word worship, as it is used here, has a variety of meanings.  It can mean as little as to fawn or crouch too. Strong G4352

Leprosy begins as small, red spots on the skin. Before too long the spots get bigger, and start to turn white, with sort of a shiny, or scaly appearance. Pretty soon the spots spread over your whole body and your hair begins to fall out - first from your head, then even from your eyebrows. As things get worse, your finger nails and toenails get sort of loose; they start to rot and eventually fall off. Then the joints of your fingers and toes begin to rot, and they start to fall off, piece by piece. Your gums start shrinking, and they can’t hold your teeth anymore, so you lose each of them. It keeps eating away at your face until literally your nose, your palate, and even your eyes rot - and you waste away until you die. Guzik

And Jesus, moved with compassion, put out His hand and touched him.  No doubt Jesus could have healed him by simply saying the words but He knew how lonely this man must be.  Luke tells us that there was a man full of leprosy.  This statement tells us that he was not recently diagnosed with the disease; he had been sick a long, long time.  Once it was known that he had leprosy no one would touch him anymore.  

Lucado@ writes a very emotional, imaginary story about this man and his contact with the Saviour.  Here are two snippets from that story.  

Five years ago my wife stepped toward me.  She was the last to do so.  Now, he did.  I did not move, I just spoke.  "Lord, you can heal me if you will."  Had he healed me with a word, I would have been thrilled.  Had he cured me with a prayer, I would have rejoiced.  But he wasn't satisfied with speaking to me.  He touched me.  Five years ago my wife had touched me.  No one had touched me since.  Until today. ...
He cupped his hands on my cheeks and drew me so near I could feel the warmth of his breath and see the wetness in his eyes."

Our society has taught us that it is "not proper" to touch?  Would we put our arms around an unkempt homeless man?  Jesus Christ knew the value of the human touch.  

Jesus said to him, See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest. Mat 8:4.  This was required according to the law of Moses. 

 And so that is where I am going.  I will show myself to my priest and embrace him.  I will show myself to my wife and embrace her.  I will pick up my daughter and I will embrace her.  And I will never forget the one who dared to touch me. He could have healed me with a word.  But he wanted to do more than heal me. He wanted to honour me, to validate me, to christen me.  Imagine that ... unworthy of the touch of a man, yet worthy of the touch of God.  

Christ said to the man He had healed, See that you say nothing to anyone. But the man was so excited, and who wouldn't be, that he disobeyed Christ and he began to proclaim it very much.  Wasn't he speaking well of Christ, was Christ not being glorified?  So often we think we know what is best and so we do not follow instructions.

Because this healed man disobeyed Christ Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was outside in deserted places.  No doubt everyone in the city would have clamoured to be healed.  Christ's mission was not to heal but to preach the gospel of the kingdom.

   Max Lucado, Just like Jesus, copyright 1998, p.35