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Follow me

Mark 2:1-17

Key verse Mark 2:14

As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

          Good evening! Thank you for coming 2009 New Jersey Summer Bible Conference. Thank God for leading us today to the beautiful and spiritual place. Today’s title is “Follow me”. The passage is Mark 2:1-17. The Key verse is Mark 2:14. Let us read today’s key verse. Thank God for knowing us that the Hope of God is each one of us here. Do you believe that? Today’s passages are talking about Jesus’ holy calling, “Follow me.” I believe that God wants us to know His another hope upon us tonight. Though we are familiar with today’s passages, I pray we may deeply realize what Jesus’ hope is. I pray we may accept Jesus’ holy calling and live with full of life and joy in Jesus Christ. Amen.    

First -  Jesus healed a Paralytic

          Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan. After that, Jesus overcame Satan’s temptation and then preached the good news of repentance throughout Galilee. His heavenly authority and divine power were powerful enough to drive out many kinds of evil spirits here and there. Wherever Jesus might go, there were wonderful works of God and many diseased people were healed. Soon, His name became so famous all around Capernaum that many came to him.

          Look at verses 1&2. “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.” A few days later, Jesus again entered Capernaum. Soon, people brought to Jesus all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed. In a short time, there was no room left, not even outside the door. The house was nearly bursting with the patients. There, what did Jesus do? Jesus might have set up a medical office and cured all of them immediately, but he preached the word to them. Jesus’ mission was first to preach the good news of the kingdom of God no matter where he was. Jesus filled their empty and hungry hearts with the gospel of the Kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”(Mt 5:3-4) “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”(Revelation 21:5) “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5) Jesus’ every word touched their hearts with divine comfort and true hope. All of them were moved by Jesus’ graceful words falling like rain. Jesus’ words really gave new life to the souls who were oppressed by the power of death. Their hearts became filled with the hope of God’s kingdom. In this way Jesus’ lectures were getting warmer and warmer.   

          However, in the time when his words were working, what incident happened? Look at verses 3 & 4. “Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.” All of a sudden, there was a big noise, as four people made an opening in the roof of the house. They dug through it and lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. They were the paralytic’s friends.  Have you ever seen a paralytic? Paralysis is the complete loss of muscle function for one or more muscle groups. It can cause loss of feeling or mobility in the affected area. It is most often caused by damage to the nervous system, especially the spinal cord. In other words, the paralytic could not walk well and move freely. He could not swim on the beach or play tennis, soccer, and basketball like us or even he could not marry though he wanted to get a chubby child. Anyway, these friends made a terrible commotion. They interrupted the Bible teacher! They cut in front of all the other people who had waited patiently for many hours. They should be arrested!

          Even so, when they brought the paralytic to Jesus, what did Jesus say? Look at verse 5. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Firstly, Jesus saw their faith. When we review faith of four friends, we can figure out their zeal was almost crazy. Their faith was like sinking or swimming. They could be accused of illegal breaking and entering. Above all, they hindered Jesus’ graceful group bible study. Yet, Jesus saw their faith. Instead of rebuking them, Jesus saw their eagerness and enthusiasm towards their friend. They had a scorching and burning shepherd hearts towards the paralyzed friend. Do you have such heart towards friends who are sick physically and spiritually? How about JBF? How about college students? As a matter of fact, their faith was so simple. They believed that as long as they brought him to Jesus, he would be saved. It looks like nothing. But when they had faith in God, Jesus was pleased and showed the work of forgiveness of sin. We can figure out that the most important thing that can please Jesus is our simple faith. God our Savior wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (Ti 2:4) Jesus blessed four friends’ faith and recognized them as hope carriers for the paralytic to be saved. Likewise, I believe Jesus hopes for each one of us to carry sin-sick campus students to Jesus. I believe God’s hope is many wandering souls at Rutgers Campus may be saved and it may be used as a missionary sending campus to the whole world. God’s hope is that the season of Christ Jesus returns to Princeton campus again. God’s hope is all the campuses in New Jersey may be pioneered and changed by the living word of God. I pray we may be used by Jesus as precious hope carriers who bring spiritually paralyzed young people to Jesus with simple faith and burning shepherd hearts. 

          Look at verse 5b from he said… he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Secondly, Jesus was eager to forgive the paralytic’s sins. Here, sins were indicated in the plural. It means his sins were a lot. In fact, outwardly, it seems that he was just lying on the mat. Yet, inwardly, his sins were a lot. His sins might have comprised a deep dependent spirit, fatalism, comparison, complaints, meaningless, enervation and so on. When we look at ourselves, it seems like we are cool. Yet, we cannot count how many bad things we have in our hearts. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”(Mt15:19) In fact, his inner sin problems made him more miserable than his paralysis. Because of these inner sins, God’s images in his heart might be broken and ugly. Above all, he might not give thanks to God. Every single day might have been like a hell because of complaining that God made him so miserable and hopeless. Such inner sins should be forgiven firstly before his physical body was cured.

          Around us it seems there are a lot of urgent problems that should be solved right away. For example, a rise in gas prices, unusual weather, employment, and so on. We are usually interested in our own life problems and school study and our career. Yet, Jesus is interested in solving our inner disease problems. To Jesus, it is the most urgent problem to be treated right away more than any other. It is because the wages of sin is death. Moreover, after that, there is God’s second judgment. Revelation 21:8 says, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” After committing a sin, though there is no immediate punishment, we do taste the bitterness that comes out of our transgressions. They haunt us with feelings like stomachache or a heavy load of trespass throughout the life.

Second - Jesus has authority to forgive sins.

          Look at verses 6 & 7, “Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”” Teachers of the law were sitting there. They didn’t come to Jesus to be healed. They were not aware of Jesus who came to the world as the lamb of God to save our souls. To them, Jesus was just one among many bible teachers. As a matter of fact, they were jealous because Jesus’ popularity was skyrocketing. Jesus’ fame might have been superior to Cristiano Ronald whose 80,000 fans gathered to welcome him when he was crowned the Real Madrid player. They should be happy, too! But they didn’t know Jesus was God Almighty. Because of jealousy and hatred, they could not have pity on the sick sheep who was in need. Rather, they aroused public opinion to somehow accuse Jesus. Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?” “Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk? That a paralytic gets up and walks is impossible based on our common sense and imaginations. Yet, it was so easy to Jesus. Jesus could heal him without saying anything, but Jesus wanted them to know He had authority to forgive sins through this amazing thing.

          Look at verses 10 & 11. “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” “He said to the paralytic. “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”” When Jesus declared the forgiveness of sins to the paralytic, he got up and walked home. If so, why does Jesus has authority to forgive sins? In the Old Testament era, priests offered the blood of animals to God for people’s sins to be forgiven. Sinners needed sacrifice to make atonement for the wages of sins. “For the life of a creature is in the blood. And the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” (Le17:11) So, they offered the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. However, those could never take away sins. (Heb10:11) As God promised to us, He sent his one and only Son Jesus Christ to take away all sinners’ sins eternally on the cross. Hebrews 10:10 says “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” The prophet Isaiah foretold why Jesus was suffered, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) Jesus died for our past, present, and future sins on the cross so that He made a new and living way opened for us to enter the Most Holy Place.(Heb 10:19,20)

          Jesus had a pity on the paralytic and wanted to forgive his inner sins to help him live in freedom, peace and joy. Sins make our souls filthy, corrupted, miserable, hopeless, and useless. Yet, whoever listens to Jesus’ voice of forgiveness of sin can be free from sins and eternal condemnation. Romans 8:1-2 say, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Now, Jesus is declaring, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Let us open our ears and listen to his voice. “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Through this case, Jesus really wanted the crowd to know who He was and why He came to earth. However, unfortunately, the crowd was not interested in who Jesus was and his power of forgiving sins. Rather, they just focused on the miraculous and amazing things because they just said “We have never seen anything like this!” Jesus revealed his authority to forgive the paralytic’s sins through making him to get up and walk. Yet, only the paralytic and four friends experienced the grace of forgiveness of sin among them. This time, let us pray to Jesus to be forgiven by His power of forgiving sins. Jesus gave everyone a reason to believe He was truly the Son of God, and He could do whatever God could do. Let us read verse 10 again “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Amen.

Third – Follow me

          Look at verse 13. “Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.” After seeing a miraculous thing from Jesus, a large number of people began to follow Jesus everywhere. In fact, they seem to hunger for shepherd’s love and God’s words. Though serving people really needs too much energy and struggle, Jesus didn’t neglect them. Jesus had pity on them, so He held Beach Bible Conference at once with a title “The Hope of God!”

          After that, whom did Jesus call out on the road? Look at verse 14a, “As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. Toward the time of eating lunch, Jesus and disciples began to come back to Peter’s house. At that time, Jesus saw Levi sitting at the tax collector’s booth. How do you think the reason why he was sitting on the booth? It seems he was fretting his gizzard. It seems he was not satisfied with his life. In fact, he earned a lot of money collecting tax for the Roman Government though a tax collector was treated as a recognized sinner in those days. However, no matter who talked behind his back, he was a professional in his job. To be a tax collector, he studied so hard. He didn’t look aside and even lend his text book to others. He went to the library at dawn and came back under the moonlight. Sometimes, when he met some Asian people who said, “Are you interested in studying the Bible?” in the campus, he said, “Stop wasting my time you losers.” After 6 years’ hard study, he graduated first in MBA course at Rutgers. Moreover, following up a victory, he aced the tax examination. After being a tax collector, he focused on his work intensively. He collected every tax severely regardless of people’s situation. Even he took a child’s pocket money. Nobody could escape from his nose which smelled money exactly. Moreover, he drove on without a stop, so he became the top among all other tax collectors. Finally, he became rich enough to run 10 branches of Dunkin donuts in Newbrunswick. The book, “Follow Levi, Money follows”, he wrote has already reached the New York Times’ bestseller list. He earned enough money to support his retirement. Nevertheless, one day, he felt emptiness and loneliness deep down inside. In fact, there was no one who felt like talking with him frankly. Even, he dreamed a nightmare someone strangled his neck based on his guilty conscience. Outwardly, he was cool, yet, inwardly, his heart became empty, miserable, and lonely. Because of these problems, Levi began to drink alcohol, for example, beer, brandy, cocktail, gin, highball, whisky, vodka, wine and so on. In addition, he indulged in the wild dance party every Friday night. He drove a nice and cool Porsche sports car with a foxy girl in Route 1, shouting, “I am rich”, yet his inner person said to himself, “I am empty and lonely.” He thought that he would be happy with stable and well paid job and much money. Yet, he could not satisfy himself no matter what. He needed someone who could fill his empty heart. He didn’t know what to do and where to go.

          Look at verse 14b. From “Follow me.” “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. Jesus knew that Levi’s soul was suffering for his sins. Levi was dying under the sin of selfishness. Jesus had pity on him and told him, “Follow me.” If so, what does “Follow me” mean?

          Firstly, Jesus gave him new life direction with hope. When we see people who are so selfish, we usually judge them and do not reach out to them. We close our hearts toward them and regard them as the hopeless with clacking our tongues. “What a smelly sinner!” Yet, Jesus’ point of view is different from ours. Jesus saw him with mercy and compassion. Jesus saw him with hope that as long as his sin of selfishness could be treated, he would be a hopeful and great man of God. Jesus wanted him to throw away all his sinful life and follow him.

          If so, what are we following now? How about JBF? What are you guys following? Are you following Jesus? Or trend of worldly entertainment? I read one article in which one English woman has tried to follow Britney spears’ appearance, gesture, voice, thought, and even her agony for the last 8 years. Have you ever done like this before? How about college students? Are you follow ing Jesus? or a professor? Are we following the worldly trivial knowledge, a life of a brilliant career, petty entertainment news, MBL broadcasting, real estate information and the guide book how to earn a lot of money and enjoy ourselves? Or, are we following our selfishness, reputation, popularity, and recognition from other co-workers? Actually, following Jesus is not easy because it is like entering through the narrow and small gate which only a few find. Yet it leads to life. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” (Mt7:13,14) Let us think about what we are following now. I believe when we follow Jesus who is the Lord of life, we can be filled with life and peace to overcome the sinful pattern of this world.

          Secondly, it is a calling to anoint him as a disciple. Let us lead verse 14b From “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. When Jesus invited Levi, he got up and followed him. He did not deserve to be called Jesus’ disciple. He was a recognized sinner. Even he was a sinner who could not forgive. Other disciples might have refused to accept him in their disciple community. Nevertheless, Jesus accepted him with hope. When we think about ourselves, we cannot but sigh thinking of our weaknesses, our selfish nature, never changing rebellious personality, lack of love, and so on. So, sometimes, we cannot look at ourselves with any hope. Yet, Jesus has a hope for us and raises us up as his disciples no matter how sinful and unworthy we are. God’s hope is for us to live a fruitful, meaningful, and valuable life through following Jesus. On listening to Jesus’ calling, Levi was filled with the hope of God! He got up from the booth which had led him to the bitterness of sins and meaningless of life. Levi found out the true meaning and purpose of his life in Jesus. It was not to follow his selfish lifestyle any more but to learn about Jesus and live for the Lord and gospel. His decision was a great decision that made him to be Saint Matthew who wrote down the book of Matthew in the Bible. Tough he suffered for losing everything in the world through this decision, he got the most precious thing. It was Jesus Christ in his life. In the past, he was lost because of his selfishness and sinful life, yet he was found in Jesus as a new creature and true hopeful man of God.

Fourth – A spiritual doctor, Jesus (15-17)

          Look at verse 15. “While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.” Levi’s sins were forgiven by Jesus’ authority and he became a child of God. He was full of joy and peace from the bottom of his heart. He could not control his welling up joy, so he prepared a wonderful dinner for Jesus. Moreover, Levi invited many tax collectors and “sinners” so that they might meet Jesus like him. The feast of the Kingdom of God was taking place in Levi’s house. Many other tax collectors and “sinners” saw the hope of salvation from Jesus. Jesus embraced them and had fellowship with sinners.  

          If so, who is Jesus who ate a meal with sinners? Jesus is in very nature God, yet he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. He was found in appearance as a man. He loved and saved sinners with full of understanding and compassion. He became a paralytic to understand him. He became a tax collector, a recognized sinner to rescue him. Many other tax collectors and “sinners” were moved by such Jesus’ unconditional love. Some cried and could rarely eat their meal due to being choked up when they thought of Jesus’ love. Jesus wiped their tears and embraced them with the heavenly father’s love. 

          However, the teachers of the law who were Pharisees rebuked Jesus and his disciples. They could not understand Jesus’ unconditional love based on their legalistic point of view. So Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus introduced himself as a spiritual doctor. In the Pharisees’ point of view, those who committed a sin looked hopeless. Yet, Jesus saw a sinner with God’s hope thinking, if only his sin problems would be treated, he would be fine. Doctors don’t send back patients though they are sick and smelly. They do their best to save patients somehow. Levi was like a bruised reed and a smoldering wick. He was hopeless and smelly, yet Jesus didn’t cut him off, rather Jesus invited him and healed him with his holy calling. “Follow me” Jesus’ word is like tweezers which pick up the cancer cell of sin exactly. Jesus is armed with full of instruments for healing patients as a spiritual doctor because he himself is the word. And our shepherds, missionaries, RURP, JBF are like faithful and skillful spiritual nurses beside Dr. Jesus. Thank God that we have a spiritual and Almighty doctor Jesus who is full of mercy and love upon sinners like us. Let us praise Jesus who embraces smelly and selfish sinner as his disciple with unchanging hope. Let us accept Jesus’ holy calling, “follow me” and expose our inner scars and sins to him by faith. If Jesus is not capable of healing us perfectly, He never calls us to follow him. The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. Jesus called our growing bible students as his shepherd candidates. Actually, it is an unremarkable honor from God in heaven that sinners cannot receive. Jesus called you as the most valuable worker in the world as a hope carrier and disciple who brings sin-sick people to Jesus. Let us make a decision to entrust Jesus as our spiritual doctor and live a fruitful, meaningful and valuable life in Jesus our Lord. Amen.  

          Jesus called this sinner who was like a bruised reed and a smoldering wick. I was lying on the mat of fatalism, meaningless, lust and low self esteem. I complained about the world which looked unfair and cursed my fate. I was lying without any clear purpose of life. I didn’t know what to do and why I had to live in the world. Yet, one day, when I entered college, Jesus called me with one verse, Genesis 1:31 “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” I regarded myself as the hopeless. Yet, in God’s point of view, I was God’s hopeful and wonderful creature. At the same time, God called me as a source of blessing in my household and campus with Genesis 12:2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” I found out that leading one sin-sick soul to Jesus is the most valuable and meaningful in the world. God has blessed my life to be fruitful and increased in number so far. Though I am unworthy sinner, God called this sinner as a missionary. Though I am unworthy, God has helped me to start nursing study from fall semester on in the U.S. God showed His mercy upon our house church through the new baby. I pray God may our ministry and our humble house church in saving wandering souls in the campus with the words of God and prayer. Amen.

          In conclusion, Jesus showed he had authority on earth to forgive sins and called Levi, a smelly and hopeless sinner. Though he was not hopeful, when Jesus called him, he became a great and hopeful man of God. Jesus does not break a bruised reed and snuff out a smoldering wick. Jesus embraced all tax collectors and sinners with his unsearchable love and mercy. Because of this mercy, Levi became a light of the world rather than a smoldering wick. Moreover, he became a great mentor of human history. In Jesus, we too are hopeful and worthy. Let us accept Jesus’ holy calling, “follow me” and live a meaningful and fruitful life in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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