Sermon Summary from Feb. 19, 2017
Mark 2:13-17 • Pastor Tim Tseng
Main point: Jesus’ conflict with the Pharisees shows us the behavior and attitudes to avoid in His Kingdom, i.e., a sanctimonious hypocrisy. Rather, we should identify with and reach out to the brokenness of the world’s marginalized and despised people, just as Jesus did.
In Mark 2 Pharisees begin to question who Jesus is and what he is doing. “Who can forgive sins but God?” (v 6). “Why does Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (v 16). In today’s passage, Jesus calls Levi, a tax collector, to be his disciple. Tax collectors were viewed as traitors who serve the Roman enemy of the Jewish people. Then he hangs out with Levi’s crowd – other tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees objected, so they questioned Jesus, who responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (v 17). This backhanded compliment of the Pharisees actually revealed three things:
1 Jesus makes us (and the Pharisees) realize that our vision of reality is broken
The teachers of the law (who were Pharisees) were confounded. How could the Liberator of Israel hang out with the enemy tax collector? How could the Righteous Messiah hang out with sinners? Jesus made them realize that something about their sense of what was right was misplaced and their vision of reality was broken.
What happens when people with a broken vision of reality use their power? They label people sinners and enemies. They create nationalism and legalism which excludes and punishes people who are labeled enemies, traitors, and sinners because of fear and pride
Indeed, 75 years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, issued Executive Order 9066 which incarcerated 120,000 Japanese-Americans – half of them U.S. citizens – during World War II. The rationale was to protect Americans against the Japanese who had attacked Pearl Harbor and drew the U.S. into the war. Therefore Japanese American families, most of whom lived on the West Coast, were uprooted from their homes and required to move to the inland desert into barracks for the duration of the war. It was later discovered that racism was the main reason for the violation of Japanese American civil rights. For many American Christians, the reality of this type of racism shattered their image of the United States as as land of freedom and equal opportunity. American racism is a broken reality. And this is something that the Kingdom of God is reversing.
2 Jesus invites us to reach into our brokenness
When Jesus said in verse 17 “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners,” he challenged the Pharisees to see their self-righteous hypocrisy. Indeed, throughout the gospels, Jesus seems to believe that the sanctimonious attitudes and practices of the Pharisees were worse than the sins of ordinary people. The definition of sanctimonious: making a show of being morally superior to other people. Some synonyms: self-righteous, holier-than-thou, pious, pietistic, churchy, moralizing, preachy, smug, superior, priggish, hypocritical, insincere.
This is why Pharisaic Christians are so disliked. When sanctimonious and legalistic Christians share the gospel, they point to their behavior, their success, and their morality as being better than others. In truth, the only people who are drawn to this gospel are other Pharisees. That is why, even though I believe that every Christian’s speech should be seasoned with grace and love, to focus on external behavior such as avoiding profanity, is a misplaced way of bearing witness to Christ. Furthermore, I really hope that when our teens graduate from high school that they think of Christianity as nothing more than a code of external behavior and a list of practices to avoid. That kind of Pharisaic faith will crumble within a year of college life.
So if the Pharisees really listened carefully to Jesus, they would understand that he is encouraging them to reach deep into their own brokenness. The Pharisees might have thought that they were healthy and righteous. If so, Jesus did not come for them. But if they were honest with themselves, they would see in their sanctimonious behavior their true inner brokenness.
What about those of us who have professed faith in Christ? Are we truly healthy and righteous? Yes, we are declared righteous (justified) because of the cross, but we are not made perfect. We are still broken even after we decide to follow Jesus. Many Christians forget this and think that once we are in the Church club, we are more blessed and better than others. This is incorrect teaching.
Rather, we need to admit that we are not made perfect in this life. Once we confess this, we can dig into our brokenness and allow the Holy Spirit of Jesus to continue to heal us each day that we live. So how can sanctimonious people reach into their brokenness? Three simple rules:
a. Don’t be afraid (1 John 4:18). Facing brokenness within us and in the world is scary. But Jesus is guiding us. In God’s sovereignty, all things will be made right. Don’t be afraid.
b. Other people are also created in God’s image. Recognize that no matter how different other people are, no matter how much they hate us, no matter how much they fear us, every person is created in God’s image. Therefore, we must never forget to see them as equally worthy of God’s love and compassion.
c. We need Christ’s healing every day. The Holy Spirit is moving us toward maturity, fruitfulness, and healing each day by revealing our brokenness and showing the way to healing and restoration. Thus, we need to be open to whatever the Spirit shows us.
3 Jesus leads us to reach out to a broken world through our brokenness
So before we reach out to others for Christ, let us work on our inner brokenness. This is the only way we can reach people without being perceived as sanctimonious. Let us approach people as one beggar showing another where to find food.
So in the Kingdom of grace tax collectors (traitors and enemies) and sinners are invited in. In fact, Jesus reaches out and eats with them. He embraced their brokenness with his brokenness, for in his crucifixion, his body was broken and his blood was shed to heal and forgive the many. So as we follow and imitate Jesus, may the only thing that is visible as we reach out to our neighbors, relatives, and the world is not our own goodness, but Jesus Christ’s love alone.