GOD'S CHURCH - HER ASSIGNMENT
Dear friends in Christ,
I don’t know how to feel about all those children who are at our border from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. It is easy to feel both anger and pity at the same time. It is so difficult to understand how parents could send their own flesh and blood 1500 miles away and alone. They can be easily harmed, preyed upon and even killed. There was even a child who was just four years old. It is hard to understand how the Mexican government can allow these children to pass through their country and literally hang off the sides of freight cars and not do something about it. It is difficult to understand how the heartless cartels can take advantage of people to make this happen for profit.
It was also difficult to watch a senate hearing on C-Span interviewing the people who are responsible refuse to allow aid from churches that was ready to supply some resources and spiritual words of comfort. While it is true that these children are suffering from swine flu, tuberculosis, lice and scabies and who knows what else are contagious and could spread disease with contact with other people, the government says they are more interested in protecting their privacy. Kind of ironic considering another government scandal with the NSA! These kids need to know Jesus too.
What this all shows is what evil exists in this world! Satan laughs. He has no heart. But God calls his church to keep working on her assignment. That’s the subject today. “God’s Church - Her Assignment: 1) To reach out to the sick; 2) To lead them to the doctor.
We are studying the Gospel of Mark in our Midweek Oasis Bible study. One thing we’ve noticed is how Jesus moves from one place to another preaching and healing. His adopted hometown was the city of Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. That’s where Jesus is. John Mark writes, “Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.”
Crowds were always following Jesus. Imagine what the crowds looked like. Were they “Bible times millennials” or Bible time “Baby Boomers” as sociologists nowadays likes to categorize people? There were all kinds of people. There were the curious. There were the people laden with problems. Scripture tells us how the lame and the maimed and the deaf and the blind followed him. There were those who had fevers and demons. There were even parents who had carefree and playing children. What did the crowds look like? The crowds had a bit of everything. One thing we know they were all sinners.
There are very few times when a problem can be worked out by a single solution. That is one of the reasons that people complain about ObamaCare. The government is making people accept its parameters even though parts of it son’s apply to them. Post menopausal women have to pay for child bearing benefits. There are parts of it that go against the Christian conscience or ought to. Our government is trying to do the same with education. The Common Core education curriculum is receiving complaints because its curriculum is supposed to fit everyone even though kids learn differently and at a different rate from each other. If one size fits all, how different OJ’s trial would have turned if all gloves fit all.
That’s why we have different models of cars with different colors and engine sizes and options. That’s why we have different styles of clothes and different colors at different prices. That’s why we have different foods. Look what happened to the Israelites when they had manna every day.
Yet when you look at the crowds that followed Jesus, the different ages, the different genders, their different problems, they did follow Jesus because he provided solution to one area of their lives, their sin. He does fit all.
Everybody needs him whether they know it or not. Buddhists need him; Muslims need him; atheists need him. Young people need him; old people and every age in between. Unfortunately one day all people, no matter how different they are from one another, will find that out and “at the feet of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven, and on earth and under the earth; and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” But far too many will know it too late.
You in the fifth row, third chair, you need him. In fact, all you people in the fifth row need Jesus. All you people in all the rows, you need him. And you know what? The old guy who walks around on the altar needs Jesus too. We say every Sunday, “Hey you out there! Come on in! Come today and every Sunday! You need to hear and believe and trust the one who is proclaimed here.
No one should ever be turned away. Jesus wants everyone; everyone needs Jesus.
Look how Jesus reached out to Matthew. “As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.” He is also called Matthew. We don’t know why the two names. Many Bible commentators believe that when he came to know Jesus he didn’t want anything to do with his former life – even the name Levi. After all, tax collectors were often very crooked guys. So when he left the profession to follow Jesus, he wanted to leave all evidence of his former occupation behind – That included his name.
Of all people he reached out to, Jesus reached out to a tax collector. He wasn’t the only one the Bible speaks about; there was Zacchaeus. The Greek word for tax collector literally means “tax farmer.” Kind of ironic, don’t you think? A farmer plants a few seeds and gets back 30 or 60 or 100 times what he plants if the weather is good and there is no blight or bugs. But that came through honest day’s work and the blessing of God.
Tax collectors or farmers could build up a lot too… from a dishonest day’s work. There was so much fraud and extortion connected with tax collection. Historically according to one historian, tax collectors went back to 212 BC when Roman officials contracted out the collection of taxes to individuals. The government was more interested in the money collected rather than how it was collected. There weren’t many checks and balances to keep tax collectors honest. Cicero, the famous Roman philosopher called tax collection “a vulgar occupation.” Livy, Roman historian who lived around the time of Christ said, “Where there are tax collectors there is no liberty.”
John the Baptist had tax collectors who heard his message of repentance and the Spirit touched their hearts and brought about a change in their hearts. After they repented they asked John what they could do. John the Baptist said, “Don’t collect any more than you are required to.” It is obvious that they were dishonest thieves looking only to line their own pockets at anyone’s expense.
But you know what? Jesus reached out to that slime ball, Matthew and Zacchaeus. The church needs to reach out to slimeballs and scum bags. We are the slimeballs and scumbags too that Jesus reached out to. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
James, the brother of Jesus, was head of the church of Jerusalem. He made this observation in his day about what Christians do even in his own church. “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,”have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” When people drive up in a Benz or have celebrity status and come to church, it is so easy to fall all over oneself to welcome them. Yet somehow we don’t think that the person who sits around in soiled pants in the nursing home or sitting in a slimy cell in prison isn’t as important. Yet the blood of Jesus paid for all. God’s church needs to recognize that. God’s church needs to roll up the sleeves and seek everyone so they can be led to Jesus, the physician of body and soul.
As I already stated, there are very few things where we can say that one size fits all, but Jesus fits the need of everyone from the tiniest baby to The Incredible Hulk, from Bill Gates to the skid row beggar. All need him because he addresses the problem that all have, the problem is sin.
One of the chief purposes of God’s church is to help all people come to the realization that they are sinners. They are spiritually sick, and they will all die eternally of this sickness unless they get help.
Understand what this means. This does not only mean that we must get people to admit they are not perfect. Even unconverted people will do that. “Nobody’s perfect” is in everyone’s vocabulary. What people need to understand is that God demands from his creation moral perfection. Why? Because he is. “Be holy for I the Lord your God am holy.” Yet we have all fallen so short.
One of the most common words for sin in the Bible takes us to the sport of target practice – bows and arrows or spears as they would have understood it in Bible times. The bull’s eye is what God demands of every thought, word and deed in our lives. When we fail to attain it, we are sinning. In this story, John Mark writes, “While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Humanly speaking the Pharisees were generally better for society than the tax collectors a lot like white-haired grandmas appear to be a whole lot better than Mexican drug kingpins. But when we compare grandmas with drug kingpins we are not making the right comparisons. We dare not compare our lives with other people’s lives. Compare your life with the Lord. We see that no one measures up. No one is righteous. All have sinned. In fact, it isn’t even close to what God demands and deserves.
So when we come to church, we come not because we are good but quite the opposite. At the beginning of almost every service we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against God in thought, word and dead. But we come here because we know who will be proclaimed. There is a doctor in the house. In fact, this is the doctor’s house. He has given us his church as a clinic to treat us for the worst sickness that ails anyone – sin that leads to death.
There is concern these days that the plague that killed thousands upon thousands of people in the Middle Ages has returned. It is not in some country across the oceans or some jungle of a south Pacific island. A man in Colorado contracted it recently. They say he got it from his dog that died and had the disease. They think the dog got it by stirring up some dead rodents or prairie dogs. There is an effective medicine that can treat the plague if it is given within 24 hours of contact. The problem is that it is hard to tell when it was contacted. There is no vaccine for the plague like we have for polio or for small pox.
“Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” He is the doctor, the Great Physician. The only hope we have in the face of death is the life that our Great Physician provides to give us life. He gives us forgiveness fully and freely. No cost to us; great cost to him. This gift has been earned by his holy life and innocent death. The medicine he offers has a 100% cure. There is no doubt about the outcome.
He dispenses it at a baptismal fount and at the table of his holy Supper. He dispenses it at the pulpit of his church and from a book that so many own. We come before him as sinners, unworthy of God’s grace. We went to the fount lost sinners. We left cleansed. We come to the altar with sin. We received Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. We come to church having lived a week of sin. We leave with the promise – brother and sister in Christ, you sins are forgiven. Hey that’s the business, the assignment give to God’s Church.