It’s Party Time
Bible Text: Luke 5:27 – 39 | Speaker: Clayton Fopp | Series: Luke – A Careful History | Luke 5:27 – 49
It’s Party Time!
The least likely …
Who is the person who you think is least likely, to ever come into a relationship with God?
Just call them to mind for a moment.
If they’re sitting near you, don’t look at them, that could be a bit awkward!
But maybe it’s you actually. Maybe you think other people can become Christians, but it just doesn’t seem likely that that could be true of you.
Maybe you think there’s a particular type of person who needs God, or goes looking for God, but actually just a quick look around here would suggest there’s not really a particular type of person who’s likely to become a Christian. We’re a real mix, aren’t we?!
But even if our experience didn’t demonstrate it, this man Levi who we meet in Luke chapter 5, blows out of the water any thoughts we might have about the type of person who can become a follower of Jesus, or that there are some people who are just not ever going to put their trust in Jesus for forgiveness and relationship.
Levi was an unlikely candidate. As unlikely as they come.
Luke our historian tells us here in verse 27, Jesus saw a tax collector by the name of Levi.
Being a tax collector meant being seen by all your countrymen as colluding with occupying Romans, so to the Jews he was both a traitor, and defiled, from his contact with them.
You know how to call someone “Un-Australian” is just about the worst insult you can muster today? That’s what you’d call a tax collector.
And we don’t like paying tax, particularly, but we don’t hate tax collectors like these guys did.
Imagine though, that Australia gets over-run by ISIS, and they force us all to pay the “jizya” tax that they non-Muslims must pay in an Islamic caliphate, you either pay, or you convert to Islam, or you’re killed, this is what’s happening in Syria at the moment.
So imagine your neighbour, your Aussie neighbour, does a deal with ISIS to collect the jizya, from all of us, in return for a percentage.
And that’s someone, on whom God’s mercy is poured out in Jesus,
And that’s someone, from whom I think we can learn a thing or two about following Jesus.
Levi: a model disciple (v 27 – 28)
If last week we saw what we called a textbook definition of faith, today we get a textbook definition of discipleship.
Verse 27 again, After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
This Levi is also known as Matthew. He’s the one who wrote the Gospel According to Matthew.
And see his response to Jesus’ call?
Jesus calls him,
He got up,
He left everything,
And he followed Jesus
Most of us, I imagine, whether we’re Christians, or at least interested in Christian things, we like the idea of being a follower of Jesus.
We probably are one, or we wonder if we might like to become one.
But I reckon Levi’s response raises the bar for us a bit on what following Jesus means.
He gets up,
He leaves everything,
And he follows Jesus.
Often we like to imagine that responding to Jesus’ call means I can stay exactly where I am,
We sometimes think I can follow Jesus without leaving anything behind. In fact I’ll bring along everything from my old life, nothing much will change, but now I’m also a disciples of Jesus.
We hold onto past priorities,
We’re reluctant to leave behind us things that would hinder us from full-hearted devotion to Jesus,
And so here we’re challenged by a man who gets up, and leaves everything, and followed Jesus.
Time and time again in his gospel account, Luke shows us that being a disciple of Jesus means Jesus is the number one priority.
Everything else comes second.
That means if you’re a disciple in your 20s or 30s, following Jesus means being willing to leave behind everything you thought your life might look like.
Are you ready for that?
If you’re a disciple in mid-life, I think that’s where I am! If you’re in there with me, then following Jesus means leaving behind perhaps everything you’ve spent your career working towards,
Perhaps even things you wanted to provide for your family.
If you’re a disciple if retirement, then following Jesus means leaving behind the things you’ve laid up for yourself,
The time, perhaps you’d hoped you’d have to enjoy the fruits of your labours,
He got up,
He left everything,
And he followed Jesus
There’s our example.
Responding to Jesus’ call is reason for celebration (v 29)
But notice, even so, Levi thinks that responding to Jesus’ call is reason for celebration.
Vere 29, Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.
Levi thinks that following Jesus is worth celebrating with the kind of party that you invite all your friends, neighbours and workmates to.
And so I wondered if that’s that how we think of Jesus.
Do we think that becoming a follower of Jesus is something worth celebrating?
Of course, not everybody does, the religious leaders get upset, not so much that Levi is celebrating his new relationship with Jesus, but with the fact that Jesus is hanging out with the ISIS tax collectors!
“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
And Jesus’ answer shows us why, coming into a relationship with him is worth celebrating.
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
What has happened to Levi?
What is it, to be a follower of Jesus?
It is to be a sinner, who has heard and obeyed Jesus call to repentance.
It’s to realise that you’ve got a great burden of sin and rebellion standing between you and God.
It’s to recognise that you have been ignoring or rejecting God and his chosen king Jesus, and to then follow Jesus as the rightful king of your life.
That’s what repentance is, and that is, the very reason that Jesus came into the world.
Sure, Jesus welcomes the so-called sinners, verse 30,
And today he welcomes us without any regard for the kind of life we’ve lived, or how bad you’ve been, or what kind of a mess you’ve made of your life or somebody else’s.
But Jesus doesn’t leave us there,
He calls us, sure, But he calls us to repentance.
Nathan Tasker who’s touring Australia at the moment has a song. He sings, “Though I can come without changing, your love changes me.”
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.
No wonder Levi wants to celebrate with everybody he knows!
But it’s not just Levi who thinks knowing Jesus is reason for celebration. Celebrating God’s goodness is part of what Christians do.
See, the leaders complain that John the Baptist’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but Jesus’ disciples go on eating and drinking
And we need to remember that the paragraph break, and the title weren’t in Luke’s original manuscript. In fact Luke wouldn’t have even left spaces between his words!
So verse 33 just flows straight on from verse 32
People who are followers of Jesus are really just too happy!
That’s the objection, isn’t it?
The disciples of John the Baptist, the disciples of the Pharisees, they do all the proper, sombre, religiously observant things, they fast and pray, but people who follow Jesus go on eating and drinking.
eating and drinking is just how you celebrated in the first century AD.
Which is, pretty much the same today, isn’t it?
It’s our church birthday in 2 weeks time.
How are we going to celebrate? How do express our joy at what God’s done for us and among us in the last 7 years, with cake! By eating!
But do people see us, the way they saw these first disciples of Jesus?
Do the people who you and I know, Do they look at us and think, “Wow! They are so happy!”
And I don’t mean that, our life is really hard, and we’re being stretched in all kinds of ways, that we just have some silly grin on our face because we think we’re supposed to be always happy.
But do people think, “That Clayton, or that other Christian friend of mine,
They think they’ve got something worth celebrating”?
Do you know what I’m afraid of? It’s that they don’t.
Our friends and family don’t see us like that,
They don’t think we’ve got lots to celebrate,
Because we don’t think we do.
Some of the most grumpy, bad tempered, and bitter people I know, are Christians. And you probably know people like that, too!
Instead of living like a relationship with Jesus is something worth celebrating, they live like a relationship with Jesus pours cold water on every other area of their life.
Following Jesus is something worth celebrating.
It should be something that makes our friends think, “Oh, I’m so glad Clayton became a Christian!
He’s so joyful,
There’s so much celebration in his life now that I get to be a part of.
I don’t think our lives look like that as often as they could, or should. And maybe the reason our friends don’t think those things, is because we don’t think those things,
Or we’ve forgotten those things,
We’ve forgotten just how good, the good news of Jesus is.
What is fasting all about?
And so Jesus explains, why for his disciples, it’s not the time to fast.
Now fasting, going without food, fasting and praying were good things, it’s not that Jesus doesn’t like them.
In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus talks to his followers, and he says when you fast, do this and that.
Jesus assumes his followers are going to fast.
And in the book of Acts, which is Volume 2 to Luke’s gospel account, we see on a number of occasions, the early Christians fasting and praying.
For Old Testament Israel there was one annual fast required in the law.
But fasting was also a way of showing that you were concerned about something, but it was also a way of acknowledging your sinfulness.
So the one obligatory fast, was on the Day of Atonement, the particular day in the calendar when the people recognised God’s wonderful provision for taking away their sin.
So fasting was a way of expressing, “We’re sinful. We reject God’s pattern for life. We need God to take away our sin because we can’t do anything about it ourselves.”
It’s one thing to say that. But if you fasted, you really felt the weight of that truth in your own being.
And so it was a sign of grief as well. Fasting was a way of acknowledging sadness, and your penitence at your sin; “I’ve done the wrong thing, I’ve made dumb decisions.” These days people express that with a “woe is me” Facebook post!
But in the olden days you fasted!
And so because of that it was a right and proper thing to do.
So why didn’t Jesus’ disciples do it?
Jesus’ ministry is reason to celebrate (v 33 – 25)
Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
There’s something about Jesus’ presence with his disciples, that can be compared to a wedding reception, and as we all know, a wedding reception is not the time for the friends of the bridegroom, that is, the groomsmen, to go without food!
So Anton and Liv here, I, MC’d their wedding reception, what, just over 6 years ago.
And the job of the MC is to welcome people,
Introduce the bridal party,
And to say my favourite words, “Dinner will now be served.”
But imagine we were all at their reception, and I say, “Dinner will now be served, but not the groomsmen. Anton’s mates are going to go without!”
And they’d be like, “We’re only here for the food!”
A wedding reception is not the time to fast!
So what’s Jesus saying?
He’s not at a wedding.
What’s he talking about?
Well, we’ve come back to the idea that being connected to Jesus is something worth celebrating.
The image of a wedding is one used in the Bible a number of times to picture the relationship between God and his people,
And in this particular snapshot, Jesus is the bridegroom, and his disciples are the friends of the bridegroom.
Imagine them fasting, while everyone else is eating! It just doesn’t make sense.
But think about the things we saw last week if you were with us;,
Jesus demonstrating that he’s is God’s king, the Messiah.
The signs that Jesus brought God’s own presence to his people.
Jesus’ ministry means people are no longer looking forward to the time of God dealing with sin,
That’s the present!
Jesus thinks that the characteristic mood of his ministry, is one of joy.
Now, when I meet brand new Christians, this is exactly what they’re like!
They’re so excited about Jesus,
They want all their friends and family to have an opportunity to respond to Jesus just like they did.
I know a number of people, mainly from non-Aussie cultures actually, who do exactly what Levi does here.
They literally get their friends and family together, to explain to them what the Christian message is, and why it’s such great news.
Now some of us are not over the top, in our demonstration of emotion.
We are Adelaide people!
We are reserved and dignified free settlers!
Celebration doesn’t mean being who you’re not!
But how do you celebrate?
How do people know that you’re happy?
Is it because you don’t stop talking? There’s people in my family like that! When they’re happy, you can’t shut them up!
Maybe that’s you!
How your great joy at Jesus’ ministry manifests itself?
Jesus thinks his ministry is reason for great joy and celebration.
But there will come a time for mourning at sin (v 35)
But again, like last week, here’s Jesus speaking with a but. Now is the time of celebration, but a time to fast is coming.
You might remember that a couple of years ago a groom in Adelaide was arrested at his own wedding, carted off by the police.
He had arrived at the ceremony drunk, and so the minister said he wouldn’t be able to proceed with the ceremony,
The groom got violent, and the police were called.
What a terrible situation for a groom to be ripped away from his own wedding!
Which is exactly what Jesus pictures here, minus the bit where it was his own stupid fault.
There will come a time of mourning,
There will be a time when the horror of sin becomes so apparent that fasting and repentance will be the only reasonable response.
And of course Jesus is speaking of the cross. He is going to be taken away, and at that time, it will be entirely appropriate for his followers to mourn.
Not because something terrible is happening to them at that moment, because in fact the greatest possible thing happens to Jesus’ disciples through his suffering and death,
But the cross is terrible because it presents us with the full horror of our sin.
We see the lengths that God had to go to, in order to atone for our sin, to deal with our sin appropriately and justly, but have it no longer count against us.
At the cross we see an innocent man, willingly take on a punishment that he didn’t serve, so we could have the blessing that was his,
If fasting in the Old Testament was all about mourning, and acknowledging sin, and repenting, then when Jesus is taken from his disciples to the cross, it’s entirely appropriate to fast.
What’s the contrast here between the different religious or spiritual practices that are pictured?
If this was an essay question, you know, compare and contrast. What’s the contrast?
Well, it’s all about Jesus’ presence, isn’t it?
What matters more than anything else is Jesus.
Do you have Jesus?
It doesn’t matter whether you like having parties,
Or whether you find going without food a really helpful way of And committing yourself to holiness,
It doesn’t really matter whether you think other people should fast also,
Or whether you pray more than other people, or less than other people,
It doesn’t matter how demonstrative you are in your joy and celebration,
What matters is, do you have Jesus?
Do you know Jesus’ presence?
What’s important is the bridegroom.
And Jesus is saying that’s him!
In Simply Christianity, which we’re running again next month, come along if you’ve got questions about Christian things or you know people who do, but one of the things we say there, is that Christianity could be defined as “responding appropriately to Jesus.”
See what makes the difference between it’s right to mourn at your sin or celebrate, is Jesus.
With Jesus, everything changes.
What Jesus offers is completely different (v 36 – 38)
And that’s the point of the 2 little parables that Jesus tells at the end.
Let’s look at the first one, verse 36, “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.
Already, some of us are not quite sure what’s going on, because most of us don’t sew patches on our garments! We live in an age where if something gets a hole in, we’re encouraged to throw it out and buy a new one.
And just to complicate matters further, I once bought a pair of jeans, brand new, but with holes deliberately worn in them, and patches sewn on! All in the factory!
So we know that we’re somewhat removed from this culturally!
But it’s not too hard to figure out what Jesus is saying, is it?
The new, is incompatible with the old.
These days Jesus would have to say something like, “No one prises apart their iPod, to try and get the music out so they can play it on their cassette deck!
The way of Jesus, is completely different to everything that’s come before.
Say you’ve got a pair of jeans, you’ve worn a hole in the knee, through, constant praying! Let’s say that.
So you decide to patch them.
You go into Just Jeans, with your old pair, with the, the prayer hole in them, and you say to the shop assistant, “I’m looking
for some jeans.”
They say, “Sure, what’s your size?”
And you say, “I don’t care about the size, I just want a pair that I can cut a patch out of to fix these old ones.”
They’re going to give you a strange look and back away slowly, aren’t they?!
Taking the new, and just trying to force it to go with the old,
For one thing it’s not going to match.
But the bigger problem is that you’ve just cut a hole out of a brand new and perfectly good pair of jeans!
You’d have been better off cutting the old ones off and turning them into a pair of shorts like we all used to do in the 80s!
And it’s just as ridiculous, to think that the message of Jesus,
The kingdom of God,
The forgiveness and blessing that he brings,
That we could just take a small part of that, cut it out, and tack it onto, whatever other religious expression,
Or philosophical approach that we’ve already adopted.
By the time that Jesus turns up, breaking into the world as the King of God’s kingdom, the religion of Old Testament Judaism has become an old worn out garment with holes in the knees.
Of course, it was fit for purpose once,
It was brand new once,
It did what it was supposed to do,
But now it’s old, and doesn’t do what people need it to do.
Now, of course there is a continuity between how God offered relationship with himself in the past, and how he offers it in Jesus. No doubt about that.
But what God offers in Jesus is a new way of relating,
A new basis for relationship,
A new reason for confidence before God.
A good, God-fearing Israelite couldn’t just tack on a few bits of Jesus onto his existing way of relating to God.
He couldn’t just memorise a few of the pithy sayings he heard from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, and add them into his Jewish prayers every day.
What Jesus brings is new, and God’s people Israel needed to embrace Jesus completely, if they were to benefit from what he offered.
And if that’s what the Old Testament pattern of relating to God is like in comparison to Jesus, and that was the pattern that God himself had established, then how much more is that going to be true, if the old garment is something completely man made?
You can’t take just a part of Jesus teaching, and stick it on top of a materialistic worldview.
You can’t have a life committed to getting the best of everything, and say, “well I want the best religion, too, so I’ll add a smattering of Jesus.”
It’s impossible to add just a few of Jesus’ words, a few clever quotations on your computer screen, or stuck on your wall, you can’t just add just some of Jesus’ teaching into your life, but carry on with the other 90 percent, how you’ve always wanted to live.
To take just one part of Jesus message, is to spoil the whole thing.
To say “I like this about who Jesus is, who he claims to be, but I certainly don’t like what he says about that,
Or human sexuality,
Or whatever it is”, that is to deny Jesus and his identity, and in effect to destroy what he offers you.
Jesus can’t be tacked on.
What Jesus offers, is incompatible with every human religion or philosophy.
And not only is it newer, the implication is that it’s by far better.
Old ways of relating to God are unable contain the gospel of Jesus (v 37 – 39)
Which is what Jesus explains in the second little parable.
Verse 37, And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins;, the wine will run out, and the wineskins will be ruined.
38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.
Once again, notice, “no one does this! You know this isn’t how it works!”
I always had a little bit of difficulty getting my head around this parable. Growing up my immediate family didn’t drink alcohol at all,
My grandfather had been an alcoholic,
So this was always kind of foreign territory to me!
But no glass bottles of Grange or anything 2000 years ago. When you made some wine, you stored it sheep skins or goat skins, that had been cleaned and treated, and you sealed it up.
When the wine was new, and fermenting, the new, fresh skin, could flex and expand as necessary. But as the skins aged, they’d get brittle, and they couldn’t expand any further.
And so everybody knew you didn’t put new wine, into old wineskins.
They’d burst, and you’d lose your wineskins, and your wine, which is rapidly soaking into the ground.
You might remember back in 2015, a winemaker was charged after allegedly draining 25,000 litres of wine, from a competitor’s winery in the Barossa. Just open taps and $300,000 of wine goes down the drain. And I can see all our wine industry workers tearing up at the thought of it!
It’s no used crying over spilled milk, but it is right to cry over spilled wine! That’s the point of this little parable!
Skins ruined, and wine gone.
So jump with me from the illustration to the reality it’s trying to communicate;,
The gospel of Jesus cannot be contained within the religion of Judaism without destroying both of them.
If you try and do just absorb Jesus into Judaism, then what you’ve got left is neither Judaism nor Christianity.
OK, most of us are probably not at risk of trying to contain the gospel of Jesus within the outward forms of ancient Judaism,
But replace Judaism with some other approach to life,
Some other approach to God, and the point is the same.
If you try and contain the message of Jesus within a self-centred materialistic worldview, then your worldview is not going to have any semblance of internal coherence, and you’re certainly not going to have the true message of Jesus.
If you try and fit Jesus into a perspective on life that says my family are number one, my kids need to have every opportunity, and to experience everything I missed out on, try and contain Jesus within that, and you’ll neither please your family, nor honour Jesus.
If your approach to relating to God is through religious obedience, if your confidence before God comes from your good works and rule keeping, being able to point to all the good things you’ve done, try to insert the free grace of the gospel of Jesus within that approach, try to relate to God from both of those angles, and you’ll have no confidence, no assurance,
Do not make the mistake of thinking that Jesus can be contained, in some other approach to life.
If you try, you’ll find you have neither.
Some who love the old, will reject the new (v 39)
Of course Jesus’ final statement And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’ ” can seem a little tricky, even me, total non-drinker, knows that the old stuff is better.
The dustier the wine bottle the more expensive it is, right?!
I’m sure it’s more nuanced than that, but that’s the general idea!
So how can the new thing Jesus offers be good?
Well, remember Jesus’ point is not about wine.
He’s talking about ways of relating to God,
He’s talking about how you can have confidence before God.
And even though the new way is much better,
What Jesus offers is what God intended all along,
Still some people will say, “the old is better”
Some people will never accept the message that Jesus brings,
We shouldn’t be surprised that many of Jesus’ contemporaries refused what he offered.
We shouldn’t be surprised that people who we love and care about, will go on with their lives, thinking they can rely on their legalistic religious rule keeping or whatever it is, to get them into relationship with God.
“the old is better” they say,
“I’m too old to change,
I’m not interested in listening to someone critique my world view,
“the old is better”
Sometimes wineskins need to be broken
Of course, sometimes, in God’s kindness, the old wineskin, that old approach to God, and life, and the world, sometimes it does get broken,
Maybe we’ve tried just simply incorporate a few bits of Jesus’ teaching into our existing moral framework,
Maybe we’ve tried to walk the religious rule-keeping line, as a means of keeping God happy with us, but we just remind ourselves every now and then, “Well, it doesn’t matter if I fail, I’m saved by grace after all!
Maybe we tried to tack a little bit of Jesus into a life lived for self,
Or for family,
Or for career, or whatever it is,
And maybe the gospel of Jesus has broken our wineskin, shattered our worldview, shown us that we can’t keep trying to relate to God in that old way, but that we can only come through Jesus.
Maybe the really, really good news of Jesus, is kind of leaking out through the gaps in your worldview,
And if that’s been becoming more and more obvious, then maybe today’s the day to do something about it.
If you know that you need to make a break with how you have been living, how you have been trying to please God, and take hold of the free gift of relationship that Jesus offers,
If you know that you can’t live with yourself as king, but you need to live with Jesus as king,
If you’ve come to see that your sin and rebellion against God separates you from him, and that only Jesus can bring you near,
Then grab that Communication Card you received on your way in, or any scrap of paper you can find,
Put your name on it, and write on “I need the new life that Jesus offers”, or something like that.
Drop that in the collection bag during the last song, and we’ll get in touch in the next 24 hours, to work out how we can be helpful to you, as you take hold of the utterly new and different life that Jesus offers you.
Because this is reason to party!