You may notice how I unusually had Hotspot 4: Unlimited written prior to this and that Hotspot 1 and 2 have not existed (yet). To address that thought, the point of these ‘related’ postings is to have our Small Group members who were unable to attend previous meetings get a glimpse of the message that transpired (and I feel worth sharing :)).
If you have not read Part 4, here is how I opened which gives a slight idea where it’s going:
Before I proceed further, just to give readers a background, the Church I go to (Victory) do topical services and in the previous series, it was coined Hotspot – 3 topics were discussed: Source, Sync, and Share and this series was aimed to cover principles about discipleship.
The study verse for this topic is:
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.”
Approximately 3 months ago, a Pastor who is also a father of 3 of the Members of the same Small Group (who meets us monthly) mentioned in his lecture that ‘repetition of words and phrases’ in the Bible is a symbol of emphasis.
What quickly got into me reading the first part of these set of verses was the phrase “Follow me,” which also appeared when we did Hotspot 2: Sync (if time permits, I hope to cover this in the blog sooner).
Very literally, the words itself imply “come after me”, sounds easy enough? But take into context how the same message was used in several other passages on the same book:
Mat 4:19 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Also the study verse from Hotspot 2: Sync).
Mat 8:22 22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Mat 16:24 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
Mat 19:21 21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
With enough reference, following Jesus meant more than simply walking after Him, to quote its accompanying phrases He say’s
“and I will send you out”, you have to be prepared to be sent, to receive-and-act on a command; “and let the dead bury their own dead”, may require to give your old self up; “must deny themselves and take up their cross”, may not be easy – be willing for a renewed commitment; “sell your possessions and give to the poor”, and give up whatever hinders you from truly following Him.
Going back to verse 9, its say’s there: he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. — At this point in Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees already have their eyes on Him and had actually accused Him of Blasphemy as He uttered forgiveness to a paralyzed man in the previous verses. And here, Jesus looked at Matthew (a Tax Collector), from where, in their culture was branded worst than sinners to be called His disciple.
Let us look at how John put it in his Gospel:
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Examine the last part: “full of grace and truth”. It is not one or the other. There was no trick there why in spite of how Society (or the Pharisees and the people at that time) seemed to condemn sinners, see, Jesus came as embodiment of full on grace and truth. And while we get the point, sometimes ourselves, we want grace when it speaks of us and pushing truth when we speak of other people don’t we?
You see, while truth will say you’re accountable, grace come in and say you’re forgiven. Here truth say’s your responsible, grace comes in and say I love you anyway. Listen: there is nothing else you can do to make God love you less. I’ll say it again; there is nothing – absolutely nothing – you can do to make Jesus love you, any less.
Then later in verse 9, Jesus invited Matthew “Follow me”, and what was his response? What will be your response? It says “Matthew got up and followed him”. NO ifs, NO buts, NO I’m not ready Lord, NO let me think about it first, NO what if – see, what comes after the invitation is ACTION, he got up, in other words, get on your feet – cause what’s about to happen is a journey. When God call to you, what will you do? You need to, just get up, and follow him.
Verse 10: “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.” – Counter culture; imagine if you were one of the first disciples before Matthew, you might have even reacted – say “Lord, I know I am sinner when you called me, but this guy, this guy Matthew, he is a Tax Collector. Get it, Lord? Tax Collector… we’re only sinners!” – Well, this is a made up, but how would you have reacted yourself?
But wait, there is more (I delivered this like I was selling in Home TV Shopping) – “we are going to party with the entire gang tonight!” 🙂
John said “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.”
Verse 11: When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” – look who refused to join the party 🙂
And as you read through this, you have probably heard/read the story of the prodigal son at least more than once in your lifetime, but this could remind you of the older brother… I will not get through it here, but every time you read it, reveals you something new doesn’t it? You could even say with Jesus, being God, an all knowing being, have intended to tell the story right when all of them where gathered in that place (Luke 15).
Point is, don’t come clean and say: You’ve been obedient all your life. Jesus should have reserved His precious time for you. Don’t be jealous and angry when you feel Jesus was showing love and compassion to others when you feel you deserved more. And I will say it again, differently this time: “There is nothing more you can do to make God love you more”. You know why? Open up to one of your favorite verses 🙂 : Romans 5:8 – isn’t that proof that He already loves you the most?
Verse 12 and 13: 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.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
It’s interesting that Jesus commanded them to find out what “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” meant. And if you try the Old Testament, the text in Hosea 6:6 with the same words reveals the entire verse as “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Surely, the Pharisees have kept traditions and their obsession to keeping the law that they forget what it was about. That sacrifices are worthless without the sacrificial heart. Like the older brother who failed to share compassion for the lost son and didn’t want to participate in embracing him back.
To close: Jesus said in John 13:34-35 –
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
“A new command”, He said. Forget about the commandments – in fact, forget about all of 630+ truths… but by this “Love one another”, how easy-or-hard could it be? What about those who wronged you, or those who fights you still, what about that guy who stole your girlfriend, or what about that guy who never pays his debt to you… well, guess what, He even added “As I have loved you.”
Well, how did Jesus showed it to his disciples? Peter, as he recognized Jesus after they had so much catch in their boat said “Lord, get away from me for I am a sinner”, Jesus took him as a follower. Take Nathaniel when Philip called to Him informing about Jesus, he said “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”, he insulted the Lord yet Jesus took him as a disciple, and of course, we come back to Matthew who were branded traitor of the nation for collecting taxes, how did Jesus respond to him?
My prayer for all of us, is that whatever our circumstances are, whatever we’ve done in the past, what matters now is how we’d respond to Jesus’ call “Follow me”.