Early in his ministry Jesus claims to have authority to forgive sin and calls himself the Lord of the Sabbath. This sounds like blasphemy unless Jesus is actually God.
Thank you for sending Jesus to us who experienced what we experience and went through what we go through. He gives us a way to truly relate to God.
We thank you also that while here on earth he exercised divine authority. In doing so he shows us that he truly is God as well as a perfect man.
Help us to be more like him in desiring to see sinners saved. Help us to never consider ourselves too good for someone else. Help us to never see ourselves as better than those around us. Help us to serve them well in order to better serve you.
Let us remain flexible, eager to grow and change for the better so that we can continuously be used by you. If you should decide to do something new and exciting, we want to be a part of it.
Help us to recognize when you are working in our lives. We need and truly want to be effective in our service to you and your kingdom. We ask you to mold our hearts, our attitudes, our character and our desires.
Conform us to the image of Christ,
13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus is still eating with sinners. The church is full of them. On any given Sunday, in the midst of any given Christian congregation, you will find them. Jesus is comfortable there and intends to make these people his friends.
One reason I say this has to do with our perception of hypocrisy. The true hypocrites in this story were the scribes of the Pharisees who thought eating with certain people was beneath them. Who were they to feel so self-righteous? In reality they needed Jesus too.
The church that we see is often a lot like the crowd here at Levi’s banquet. Jesus is surely present and so are his disciples. The disciples, as we know from the Gospels and Acts, were themselves in a state of continuous spiritual growth. They were imperfect on their very best days. And then there are those who are generic followers. They may not even be believers just yet. Or maybe they are very new to the faith and each day brings them a major lesson. Or they may just be friends of Levi who came to the banquet, who just heard of Jesus that day, and have no desire to repent of anything at this time.
Let’s expect a lot of ourselves as far as holiness and spiritual growth. Let’s also be gracious with others. You’re going to find yourself sitting next to some sinner, tax collector or present day equivalent next time you attend any church gathering. This isn’t the wrong crowd, but the right one, if you are looking for Jesus.
We understand that when Jesus came as a sinless Savior entering a sinful world, all of history changed. We benefit from his example and incomparable service to us.
Help us to appreciate how much he identifies with us by enduring temptations, caring for our needs and ultimately dying so that we might receive eternal life.
Help us to be willing to serve him as our God and Savior, being willing to leave anything and everything behind that stands in the way of complete devotion to our Lord.
Help us also to be willing to serve him right where we are, if that is your will for us.
Give us supernatural insight so as to always be aware of the spiritual battle that is raging around us. We want to continue to further your kingdom and see your word go out to everyone everywhere.
And help us to be devoted to the proclamation of the gospel message, the message that tells us that Jesus Christ our Lord has come. We need to repent and believe in him.
In Christ’s name we pray,
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The gospel message, euangelion or “good news,” begins with Jesus Christ. It is the message about him and his coming and about his work. Mark’s book gives us the story of his life, death and resurrection. Unlike the quotation that allegedly comes from St. Francis of Assisi, it is full of words from beginning to end.
You may know the little saying that I am talking about, the one that says,
Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.
With respect to this saying, a little debunking is in order. First of all, it is not likely that Francis ever said it. Second, he did gobs of verbal preaching, so he evidently thought using words was necessary pretty much all the time.
How on earth can news, bad or good, be faithfully and continuously communicated without words anyway? This is no criticism of good deeds. It is simply stating the obvious that deeds and words are different things and the gospel is something that takes words. That is no doubt why Francis preached so much verbally, out loud and in public. It is also why Mark wrote a book with words rather than a coloring book or a comic book without captions.
Mark Galli wrote a little biography of St. Francis, which is short and readable enough to enjoy by almost anyone. It is presently available on Amazon for more money than you want to spend on it. When I bought it, the price was way lower. If you want, I might cut you a deal on my own copy, and I’d send it to you for much less than that current high price (and still make a handsome profit). Then again, even the first few paragraphs of his article on Christianity Today will give you enough information to back up my point about the quotation. The title alone will help. It is “Speak the Gospel: Use Deeds When Necessary.”
For the next few months at our church we will be going through Mark’s Gospel and reading every word, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. Every week we will look at one more portion of Christ’s life and ministry. We just finished Matthew and the plan is to go through Luke and John after we finish Mark. This will be lots of gospel, lots of words and lots of Jesus. It will also give us lots of good news.