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The Authentic Jesus | Party Thrower
February 5, 2023
27After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
29And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
33And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” 34And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”
To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst
To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships
To participate in God’s mission to the world
Everliving God, whose will it is that all should come to you through your Son Jesus Christ: Inspire our witness to him, that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Responsive Prayer—Psalm 103:1-12
1Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
2Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3Who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4Who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5Who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6The LORD works righteousness and justice
for all who are oppressed.
7He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12As far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
Summary and Connection
For the past few weeks at Central we have been looking at select New Testament passages to discover The Authentic Jesus. So far in our discovery, we have seen Jesus as the scandalizer, the myth buster, the announcer of the good news, and the community builder.
In his sermon titled “Community Builder,” Jason focused on three essential elements of thriving Christian community—worship, fellowship, and mission. Jason pointed us to the essence of true worship—a worship characterized by awe and transcendency and intimacy and grace. Furthermore, Jason talked about how it is impossible for us to follow Jesus on our own. Jason asserted that there is no participation in Jesus without the participation in Jesus’ community and mission. The three classification of church environment—foyer, living room, and kitchen—helps us to introspect where we are, and challenges us to move from being mere consumers to active promoters of God’s love and grace in the lives of others. Finally, the real substance of the Christian life lies in our participation in the mission of Christ—Jesus draws us in worship, draws us into fellowship, and sends us out into mission. Jason ended his sermon with a personal appeal, challenging us to introspect where we are individually in terms of worship, fellowship, and mission.
This week’s study is based on Luke 5:27-35. In this passage we see the radical, and the upside down nature of the Christian community. Luke presents Jesus as the party thrower—the one who invites and feasts with the tax collectors, outcasts, and sinners. In chapter 5, Luke highlights the pattern of Jesus’ ministry. In 5:12-26, we see Jesus reaching out to those on the outer margins of the society—the leper and the paralyzed man—by ending their suffering and restoring them physically. In this section, we once again see Jesus reaching out to the scandalized—tax collectors and the social outcasts—by calling them into his community and celebrating their inclusion by a great feast. This passage highlights the radically inclusive nature of the Christian faith—anyone, absolutely anyone, who responds to the call of Jesus can receive the blessing of Jesus’ fellowship, and can partake in the community of Jesus, his church.
Furthermore, in this passage, Luke contrasts the ministry of Jesus with the ministry of the Pharisees and the Scribes. Jesus, as the great physician, moves towards the physically and spiritually sick people. He offers healing, forgiveness by physical restoration, and spiritual reconciliation of the relationship between God the Father and his people. In sheer contrast, the Pharisees promote spiritual and social separatism by their religious austerity and ritual and moral cleanliness standards. For the Pharisees, Jesus sharing the meal with tax collectors and sinners meant that he was ritually and morally unclean by way of association, and therefore was unfit to be a Rabbi. For the Scribes—the social elites of the day—Jesus breached the boundaries of social class, and thereby discredited himself as an authority figure. In this passage, Luke categorically shows us that Jesus the great physician healed and welcomed the ones who were aware of their sickness, but the ones who claimed to be healthy were in fact the sickest, and therefore could never participate in the community of Jesus.
1. Looking at the Bible
What does the text say? What according to you is the theme of this passage?
- In this passage Luke highlights the distinct pattern of Jesus’ ministry. What is the pattern of Jesus’ ministry, and how is it distinct from the ministry of the Pharisees?
- In verse 29 Luke talks about a great feast, and specifically mentions the identities of the ones invited to the feast. What is the social, and spiritual significance of this feast? What can we learn about the Christian community from this feast?
2. Looking at Jesus
At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.
- What can we learn about the character of Jesus from this passage?
- In verse 34 Jesus responds to the Pharisees by posing a question: “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” What does it mean to relate to Jesus as the bridegroom?
3. Looking at Our Hearts
- Where do you see yourself with respect to your relationship with the bridegroom—in a season of fasting, or a season of feasting? What are the practical ways to grow in spiritual feasting?
- In his sermon “The Community Builder,” Jason talks about the three classifications of a church environment—foyer, living room, and kitchen. How would you describe each environment? Where do you see yourself right now in your church life, and what practical measures do you need to employ to move to the next level?
4. Looking at Our World
- How does this passage both challenge us to examine our hearts, and give us hope and confidence to be God’s instruments of grace in this city?
God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.
View Study Guide Notes
Question 1: In this passage Luke highlights the distinct pattern of Jesus’ ministry. Luke contrasts Jesus’ kingdom plan with the Pharisees kingdom plan. The Pharisees were the religious teachers who were highly regarded by the Jewish people. The Pharisees were known for the strict observance of Torah, and for their austere religious practices. For instance, the Pharisees only consumed the food that were ritually clean and only communed with the people who were morally clean. In other words, by their strict moral and ritual purity practices, the Pharisees promoted a social and spiritual separatism. According to the Pharisees, the tax collectors—Jews who worked for the Roman empire—were morally and spiritually impure as they were stigmatized by the Jewish society as outcasts and pimps.
Jesus’ kingdom plan involved seeking and restoring the lost, the sick, and the sinners. Jesus proclaimed the gospel of repentance and reconciliation. The distinct pattern of Jesus’ ministry is seen in his approach towards the people. The Pharisees siloed themselves from the people through their elaborate purity standards. In contrast, Jesus reached out to sinners, marginalized, and the outcasts, by calling them to repentance, and inviting them into his community. Jesus does not discriminate based on external ritual or moral purity standards. Jesus neither demands the sinners to cleanse themselves before they approach him, nor does he wait for the sick and the sinners to come to him. Jesus reaches out to the sick, the sinners, and the social outcasts, breaching the religious and societal boundaries, offering them forgiveness, healing and restoration.
In this passage Luke records an incident involving the call of Levi. Jesus calls Levi, commanding him to follow him. In response, Levi leaves behind everything and follows Jesus. We see clear evidence of Levi’s repentance and conversion in verse 29. Levi invites Jesus to a feast at his house. Incidentally the invitees to Levi’s feast included his friends—fellow tax collectors, and others who are referred to as ‘sinners’ by the Pharisees in verse 30.
In the ancient near eastern culture, food had a strong biological and social component attached to it. In Jesus’ day, a shared meal indicated shared lives. In other words, to share a meal with someone meant to share familial intimacy, kinship, and unity with the person. By participating in Levi’s feast, Jesus identified himself as a friend of sinners, and social outcasts. Furthermore, Levi’s feast had a deeper spiritual significance. Although it was Levi who had hosted the feast, spiritually speaking, it was Jesus who had thrown the great party to Levi. By calling Levi to repentance and faith, Jesus had welcomed Levi into his community. Levi—the one who was socially and spiritually marginalized—now found a seat at the great banquet of the Son of God himself.
This passage reveals to us the nature of the Christian community—Jesus came to seek and save the ones who are sick, and lost. Jesus reaches out to sinners, the ones who are aware of their sickness, and their need for the savior. Anyone, absolutely anyone, who responds to the call of Jesus can receive the blessing of Jesus’ fellowship, and can partake with the community of Jesus in the great feast. Furthermore, the table meal in this passage acts as a representation of the Christian community formed by Jesus, and around Jesus. As Christians we too participate in the feast when we partake in the Lord’s Supper with the community of believers formed by Jesus, and around Jesus. We also anticipate the great marriage banquet of the Lamb (Revelations 19:6-9) in the new heavens and the new earth.
Question 2: We learn about the distinct pattern of Jesus’ calling and ministry from this passage. In the previous section, we see the compassionate heart of Jesus in his healing of the leper (verses 12-16). Lepers were regarded as ritually and morally unclean people, and they were not allowed to come in contact with the Pharisees, or to enter the synagogues. We see Jesus—the very Son of God—touch and heal the leper, thereby restoring him physically and spiritually. In verses 17-26, Jesus honors the faith of the friends of the paralyzed man and heals him by ending his suffering and restoring him physically.
Jesus reaches out to the people on the outer margins of the society—the outcasts like Levi the tax collector— by calling them into his community and celebrating their inclusion by a great feast. This passage highlights the radically inclusive nature of Jesus—anyone, absolutely anyone, who responds to the call of Jesus can receive the blessing of Jesus’ fellowship, and can partake in the community of Jesus, his church. As mentioned in the previous section, Jesus does not discriminate based on external ritual or moral purity standards. We also learn that Jesus neither demands the sinners to cleanse themselves before they approach him, nor does he wait for the sick and the sinners to come to him. Jesus in his love seeks out sinners, and Jesus in his compassion heals and restores sinners.
The Pharisees and their scribes were offended by the fact that Jesus—a Jewish Rabbi, was morally and ritually defiling himself by feasting with the tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees, aware of Jesus’ respect for John the Baptist, make an accusatory statement as seen in verse 33. Jesus responds to their accusation by asking them a question: “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?”
In order to understand the significance of Jesus’ statement, we need to understand the concept of fasting in the Bible. We see the people of God fasting throughout the Bible. Fasting, in the Old Testament in particular, signifies lamenting a great loss. Fasting also serves as a deep expression of hope and waiting— particularly the hope of the Messiah. Jesus, by declaring himself as the bridegroom, is indicating that he is the anticipated messiah. Since he is in their midst as the bridegroom, there is no need for his disciples or followers to fast. The presence of the bridegroom and the wedding feast is indicative of the coming new age, festive joy, and abundance. The last thing you would do at a wedding is abstain from food or drink. As Christians we partake in the wedding feast in the Lord’s Supper where our bridegroom invites us to his table. It is the celebration of the resurrection life in Jesus. To relate to Jesus as the bridegroom also means to anticipate the great wedding banquet of the Lamb where we behold Jesus in all his glory as he invites his people from all tribes, tongues, and nations.
Question 3: It is vital for us to understand that Christians do go through seasons of spiritual fasting—commonly known as spiritual depression. The Psalms vividly describe seasons of spiritual fasting expressed in lament for the loss and a deep sense of longing to experience the love of God, and the joy of salvation. Christians could also experience seasons of spiritual fasting when living in unrepentant sins. We sense God’s displeasure when we harden our hearts in unrepentant sins. We see this in Psalm 32 where David describes his spiritual state when he hid his sins from God.
Encourage your group to use the means of grace God has given us to be spiritually enriched—the Word, prayer, and the sacrament—Lord’s Supper. In regular reading of the Bible, prayer—both personal and corporate, and participation in the Lord’s Supper with the community of Jesus, we experience the season of feasting. As Christians living in this side of eternity, we feast on the Word of God as the community of God to be spiritually enriched.
In his sermon Jason classified the church environment into three levels—foyer, living room, and kitchen. The foyer is a place where you welcome friends and guests. It is the first step inside the door. However, just showing up on Sunday is not going to change you. You need to get involved. The living room is the place where you would invite people to have a seat. It is a place where interaction begins, where friendship is fostered, and where vulnerability is encouraged, and where change happens. The best way to have the living room experience is by getting involved in the Community Groups, Bible study, by volunteering in Children’s Ministry, or Youth Ministry. The kitchen is where the magic happens. The closer you are to someone the more you invite them to be involved in preparing a meal, side by side. The only way to grow in faith is by getting involved, and by moving from being a consumer to provider of God’s love. Remember, there is no participation in Jesus without the participation in Jesus’ mission.
Question 4: This passage challenges us to examine our hearts: Are we like Jesus in this passage—seeking and welcoming the people on the outer margins of our society into the community? Or are we like the Pharisees—focusing on external religiosity and false standards of purity? Do we have the tendency to only seek and welcome the people who are similar to us? Do we tend to isolate ourselves from the people who we deem to be beyond the scope of salvation?
This passage also gives us hope and confidence to be the instruments of grace in New York City. As Tim Keller says, the beauty of the gospel is, “we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” Jesus sought us and saved us—the outcasts—by welcoming us into his glorious community, and throwing us a great party in celebration. Those whom he welcomes, Jesus also sends out in mission to be his instruments of grace to seek and welcome the social outcasts to his great party.