Second Baptist Church
August 12, 2018
As a Matter of Fact, you ARE a Missionary
Matthew 9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
John 4:39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
This past Tuesday, I sat in a restaurant with a group of pastors and Gideon (Laymen). It was a time of both thanking and showing appreciation to pastors, and also updating pastors on the ministry of the Gideons. The speaker was sharing about the ministry, and in the course of his comments, he said, “The Gideons is not about handing out Bibles.” That got my attention. I’ve been around Gideons since I was a child. I thought I knew what they were all about. I remember receiving a Gideon New Testament when I was a kid. I remember them giving their testimonials from the pulpit when my father served. I was SURE the Gideons were about passing out Bibles. He continued, “Gideons aren’t about passing out testaments, they are about openly sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with people everywhere.” Of course. The Bible isn’t the end result. The Bible is not the act of Grace we all need. The bible is the book, the source, the word, the message – that leads us to the point of decision and understanding, whereby we accept God’s grace.
I would like to believe that each of you here has invited Christ to come into your life. It is my hope that along the way, you recognized a need in your life that could not be reconciled or fixed without God’s forgiveness and grace. I don’t give an invitation every Sunday, inviting you to accept Christ. I also don’t assume that each of you have made that decision to follow Christ.
In our texts this morning (there were two of them), you notice Jesus befriending a man and a woman. The first was Jesus meeting Matthew the tax collector. What we know about his is very little, but enough to know that he would not have been very popular. He was the guy who was responsible for collecting taxes for the Roman occupying government. He would likely have taken advantage of the people and charged them more than was due – just so he could keep some for himself. Let me put it in these terms so that we can understand the extent of his unpopularity. We all remember the anti-Wall Street protests. It was called “Occupy Wall Street.” It began in September of 2011 in a park near the Wall Street Financial District. People pitched tents, beat drums, gave speeches and staged a sit-in that lasted for many months. Much of it was brought on by the fact that Wall Street had taken a big plunge back in 2008, it became evident that Wall Street traders and investors were benefiting off the backs of the poor. That’s what it was in a nutshell.
So, if we could transport Matthew into modern times, he would have been the Wall Street executive with the 3-piece-suit, the car and driver, the Multi-million dollar salary and the house in the Hamptons. That was Matthew. People disliked him because he gained off the backs of the poor and common citizens. Yet Jesus chose him, reached out to him, and attended a gathering at HIS house. In fact, we can see this passage as Matthew’s personal testimony. This is the story of Matthew from the Gospel of Matthew. There was Matthew, sitting at the tax collector’s booth, and Jesus walked up to him and said, “Follow Me”. Matthew got up and followed him. They had dinner at Matthew’s house. Many other Wall Street executives, hedge fund managers, IRS Agents, and real estate tycoons were gathered there (Pardon my modern extraction of this passage). There may have been some prostitutes, thieves and slave owners there, too. We don’t know.
This did not go unnoticed by the always-attentive Pharisees who kept a vigilant eye on Jesus. The Pharisees asked the disciples, “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners.”I love Jesus’s response when he overheard their question. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” In essence: “I haven’t come to bring comfort to the good Christian by only focusing on their needs and blessings. I have not come to occupy the church building. I have come to bring spiritual health and life to the sinner.”
There is a second person who we will focus on in John 4. Someone else who Jesus connected with, and demonstrated his LOVE. The woman at the well was another hated woman, at least in the eyes of the Jews. She had several marks against her. Just as it set the Pharisee off (the Jewish religion leaders), to see Jesus have supper with Matthew, it would also bother them to see Jesus conversing with this woman.The Jews disliked the Samaritans. It went back several centuries to the time of the divided Kingdom when Northern Kingdoms containing Samaria were separated from the Southern Kingdoms containing Judea. Both established a religious place of worship and both thought the other was an apostasy. Furthermore, the Jews did not consider it appropriate for a man talking to a strange woman about theology and the deeper things of life. Jesus seemed to know all about her. Her struggles, her shattered, relationships, her religious background, and even what she thought (even before she expressed it.)And in the end, Jesus offers her living water. The water that completely satisfies, a metaphor for the saving power of Christ, eternally connecting her to God the father through the power of the Holy Spirit.
So two personalities – a man and a woman – who came in contact with Jesus. Jesus didn’t know them before. This wasn’t a set-up. It was a chance encounter that led to a deeper encounter. Jesus took someone who was an outsider and made them an insider. They were outside societies idea of a moral and good person. They were outside of Jesus’ circle of acquaintances. By loving and accepting them, they were drawn in to the inner circle of relationship. They became an insider.
This final installment in this study of the alongsider concludes with the concept of making insiders. The early church knew how to do this, but something has gone terribly wrong.In the early church, they met in homes. Often it was in the courtyard of a wealthier member. The Christian household were extended family, often with slaves or servants (Acts 1:31-34). Christianity was outlawed and Christians were frequently put to death. So public places of worship didn’t exist. This made for something the Bible describes as “Koinonia”, a Greek word that means intimate fellowship. They shared their possessions. The groups were composed of both rich and poor, converted Jews and gentiles. In Judea, the early church met in the Temple court. It was a place of prayer and community.
What are some ways that our congregation can practice community and love among lost people? That is a question that we should be constantly praying about. Our questions and prayers should not be about “Lord, how can we maintain this congregation? Lord, how can we make the people of this church happy? Lord, how can I get people to come through our door and worship with us?” There is nothing biblical about those three questions. They do not in any way reflect the kingdom message that Jesus left us with. He did not say COME, he said GO. Go into all the world. Expecting the world to come to us is not what Jesus had in mind.
The mission is to become “insiders” with people. Become their friend. Get to know their heart. Listen. It’s what Jesus did, and it’s how people knew they were loved and valued. A man hated by all for his reputation as a tax collector. A woman despised by the culture around. Both were expecting Jesus to shun them, curse them, revile them. Instead, he shared a meal with the man, and offered living water to the women, knowing she would never thirst again for the things she always wanted. AMEN.