Who’s More Important?

And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31,32 NASB)

One of most difficult things for me is to go to the doctor.  I hate it.  Not because they make me uncomfortable, but because most of the time, in our discussion, there’s nothing really that can be done for my cold, flu or whatever, and we agree that I just need to tough out the cold, the flu, or whatever.  But what happens when something really is wrong?  Having that resistance to going to the doctor isn’t helpful, only I don’t know it at the time.

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Old and New, Good and Bad

“And He was also telling them a parable: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined.  But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.  And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.'” (Luke 5:36-39 NASB)

Luke’s version of this parable is different than either Matthew or Mark. Those two match almost word-for-word. That Luke does not might mean he made an editorial choice to bring out a particular meaning. If that’s the case, then this meaning would be kind of important. The basic differences are 1) the reason for not using a new patch on old cloth is that they don’t match, and 2) the additional phrase of preference of old wine over new. Together these two differences may help us understand how Luke (and perhaps Paul) understood this parable.

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Growing Upward

“And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them.  The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?”  And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. ” (Luke 5:29-32 NASB)

This is one of my favorite accounts of Jesus. I love the whole scene as Levi responds in joy over his new life, Jesus enters into that joy with him, the Pharisees are offended, and Jesus calls them on it. But as I read more closely, it now seems to me Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees is that they should have been doing this all along.  But I find plenty of growth areas for me as well.

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Calling The Traitors and Thieves!

 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named  Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.”    And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. (Luke 5:27,28 NASB)

In my field of employment all my customers are tax and accounting professionals.  These people come from all walks of life, have different personalities (seriously, they do), and go through more moods than a teenager.  One thing we all agree on though, is that we dislike the IRS, agents, auditors, customer service, and website.  We hate all of it, lock, stock, and barrel.  It seems to be historically ingrained in people from every culture and time, we reserve our highest form of dislike for the revenue agent.  Except for Jesus.

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Using The Power of The Lord?

 One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing.    And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him.    But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus.    Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5:17-20 NASB)

The power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing.  This is a difficult thing to render in English from Greek because of some Greek grammatical constructions that make little sense in English.  Greek can use infinitives in much more creative ways than we can.  We have to create the sense of what they mean in English without the grammatical constructions.  So the meaning isn’t lost in English, it just sounds really weird.

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Healing Inside And Out

 While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”    And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately the leprosy left him. (Luke 5:12,13 NASB)

This is one of my favorite accounts of Jesus healing.  There are simply very small details just in these two verses that shout out Jesus’ love for people.  We read about His love in John 3:16, where God loves the whole world.  We know at some level that this includes us as individuals, but even so, this love had to do with Jesus dying and rising for the whole world.  We suspect that to wonder or want the individual assurance or attention is selfish, but we simply cannot face our loneliness without it.  We wonder, and hope, and consider what it would be like; but we stop there, shrinking back from the appearance of self-centered living.

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Netting Disciples: Third, Provide Perspective

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”    Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.”    When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break;    so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. (Luke 5:4-7 NASB)

Once Jesus had brought the party to Simon, once He had Simon captive in the boat, Jesus then deals with what seems to have captivated Simon’s mind and heart.  The sound of a tired man can almost be detected in Simon’s response to Jesus’ request to put out and fish.  The driven ambitious fisherman doesn’t have to be told twice to fish, it’s what he does.  He realizes the only thing he has to lose is sleep.  He won’t have fewer fish to sell, that’s for sure.  He obviously won’t make less money.  But he is tired, and you can sort of hear it in his word choice.

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Netting Disciples: Second, Capture Their Attention

And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. (Luke 5:3 NASB)

Simon was someone people followed.  They didn’t follow because he was perfect or kind or smart.  They followed him because he led, even if it was to nowhere, it at least had a direction.  He was driven, relentless, ambitious, and tough.  Those qualities may have made him difficult to follow, but the fact that he had a direction to go and seemed to know how to get there made up for it.  He may have been wrong, but never seemed aimless.  People like that sort of certainty, it’s comforting.  So Jesus knew that to ‘net’ the others, He had to first net Simon.

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Netting Disciples: First Bring The ‘Fun’ To Them

 Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. (Luke 5:1,2 NASB)

One of the problems with following Jesus is how His requests are so unrealistic.  For instance, Simon (soon to become Peter) had heard Jesus teach, had invited Him into his home, Jesus healed his mother-in-law, and his house became the scene of many miracles performed throughout the night.  Then Jesus disappears to go about to other villages to do the same thing.  This is essentially how Luke 4 ends.  But now Jesus is back.  The crowds are following Him around, He leads them down to the Sea of Galilee, and to the boats of Simon and Zebedee.  The fishermen are tired, dejected, and busy washing nets.

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