A Time to Party


Big Idea: Jesus has called sinners, and only sinners, to follow Him.
Even the worst of the worst can be saved
Salvation calls for Celebration
Righteous people don’t need saving
The beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ should be evident this morning in our text as we see the event of Jesus calling Levi, AKA Matthew, the tax collector and the fancy part Levi threw for Jesus.
The previous two weeks were stories of healings, a leper and a paralytic, and in those messages we looked at the power of Jesus to heal, and how it really points to the much more important work of Christ, the power to save, the power to remove sin, the power to turn the wrath of God aside from sinners who repent in His name. Jesus displayed his power in those healings, but so much more important than physical healing is the cleansing of sin, which Jesus is pleased to do for those who call on His name in faith.
Prior to those two sermons, we had looked at how Jesus called some fishermen to faith, and this morning we will see that he also calls a tax collector, who in that day, even more so than today, was a very hated person in the eyes of almost every Jew.
Luke 5:27–32 ESV
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And 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. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Why is it that tax collectors were so hated in those days? Well, no one likes to give their hard-earned money to taxes, at least not most people. Their may be some strange people that actually love to pay their tax, but I would guess the survey would say that overwhelmingly, people are not happy to see their money go to taxes. Now, to be certain, God himself established taxes, but they were nothing like what we have today. I thought about listing a bunch of our taxes, but it would just make us all sad, and the point of this sermon is not to bring us to tears, but to make us rejoice that Jesus saves sinners, among whom I am the worst one here.
Let us note, however, that the Jews hated the tax collectors in those days almost worse than they would hate a murderer, because tax collectors were not only cheats and extortionists, who bled people dry, usually charging more taxes than they needed to, but they were traitors. Who were they collecting taxes for? The Romans. The Jews hated being under Roman rule, and to have a person in the community go and work for them as a tax collector was considered a horrific betrayal of one’s own people.
Tax collectors then were for hire, or contract tax collectors. Rome would tell them how much they needed to collect, and if they collected more than Rome demanded, they kept the rest, and could become very wealthy. But they were considered to be traitors, and as you can imagine, in a system like this, cheating was normalized. Rome really didn’t care how nasty these tax collectors were so long as they collected and gave Rome their share. And it wasn’t anything like today, where you can go online or see a tax professional who will help you pay the least possible within the law, but at that time, you didn’t know what you were supposed to pay. There was no fee schedule, just whatever the collector said you had to pay, you better pay, or he would alert the Roman soldiers to have you arrested.
And if you couldn’t pay? Well, this generous tax collector would gladly loan you the money to pay him, with exorbitant rates of interest. So not only were they dirty tax collectors, they were dirty bankers as well. God had told his people not to exact interest on fellow brothers, but the tax collector did not care about that. To him, the Roman way was more important than God’s way.
Luke 5:27 ESV
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.”
Remember that Levi is Matthew. In the gospel of Matthew, he refers to himself as Matthew. Matthew, by the way, means “gift of God”. So many mothers find their children to be gifts from God, and this name literally means that. Some have assumed that because we find two names used, Levi and Matthew, that this is a case like some others in scripture, where God changed the name of someone He was calling into service. Scripture says nothing about this, so I think we are best to sweep that idea out of our minds, if it is there. It is not impossible, but we must be careful not to go beyond what scripture actually says. Let it be enough for us that just as throughout human history, many people have had more than one name they used.
So Jesus sees this man, this vile and hated man, and calls him to follow him. And just as we said with the fishermen, we need not assume that these means he just irresponsibly walked away from his obligations, but he most likely set his things in order and quickly followed Jesus.
Luke 5:28 ESV
And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
Jesus gave him a command. And this command came with the power of God for Levi to obey. You see, many are called, but few are chosen. This man was most certainly chosen by Jesus. Jesus had Levi in mind to call Him, because His effective call was based on the fact that every person who believes is known to him before the foundations of the earth was laid, and the reason he knows beforehand of who will respond to His call is because He determined this to happen. He predestined all who would believe.
Romans 8:28–30 ESV
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
This is called the golden chain. Those he foreknew he predestined. Those who he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he justified and those whom he justified he also glorified. The bible is so ultimately clear on this point. He called Levi, knowing that the response would be faith. Levi was one of those predestined ones who would believe unto salvation. In our men’s sutdyu yesterday, we were talking about Paula and how frustrated some of our grammar teachers may have been with him at times, because something I find very exciting when reading Paul is that he gets so energized thinking about the grace of God to save, that he gushes.
What I mean by that is that Paul will at times seem to be getting ready to put things very logically and orderly, but then he gets carried away in the thrill of contemplating the greatness of God’s love towards the elect. In Ephesians chapter 1, for example, we find what in the Greek is one of the longest run-on sentences you will ever encounter. For the sake of making it easier for us to read, our English translations have put in sentence breaks and commas and such, but Paul wrote what for us is many verses all as one long run-on sentence. And what is it that is getting Paul so excited?
The idea that God had planned this salvation, and knew who he was saving, from before time began! And so Paul writes to the church at Ephesus, and I am going to read it, if not all in one breath, at least in a sense of the way I think Paul may have been motivated as this was written:
Ephesians 1:3–14 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Now that is all of the run-on sentence, but Paul continues: Eph1.15-23
Ephesians 1:15–23 ESV
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
I don’t think 6 months ever go by where I don;t include this section of Ephesians in a sermon. You know why? It gets me excited. And I need to get excited, and so do you. Contemplating with Paul the incredible, majestic God, who put into place this great salvation, ought to get you excited, too.
Big Idea: Jesus has called sinners, and only sinners, to follow Him.
Even the worst of the worst can be saved
Salvation calls for Celebration
Righteous people don’t need saving
What got Paul so excited? That God blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing, that he chose us in him before the foundation of the world. That he predestined us for adoption to himself, that in Christ we have redemption through his blood, forgiveness or our trespasses, that in the richness of his grace that he lavished on us, and made known to us the mystery of his will. That this happened at the exact right time in history, the fullness of time, likewise Paul wrote to the Galatian church as well, Gal4.4
Galatians 4:4 ESV
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
You see, that God did this at the exact right time. Jesus was born at the exact right time. He died on the cross at the exact right time, he rose from the dead at the exact right time, he called Levi at the exact right time, and if you are saved, then he saved you at the exact right time. He caused for you to hear his gospel, the good news of the cross. He has you in that seat right now, at the exact right time for you to hear this message: That you, if you put faith in Christ, were loved by God from before He even made this earth, and were predestined to believe in Him.
And there is only one qualification to need his salvation. You must be a sinner. Yes, we all have sinned. Rom3.23
Romans 3:23 ESV
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
So every person meets the category of those who need saving. Every human that has ever lived was born into sin, born with the sin nature of our federal head, Adam, who sinned the one time and that was enough to convict the entire race of humans, and yet, not only were we born into sin, we willingly sin as well. Yes, we, every one, is fully qualified to be in need of his salvation.
And every person will be responsible for his or her choice to follow Christ, Every one. All are called to believe. It is a command for every person, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, to repent of their sins, and rest in the salvation of the cross, and yet not all respond to that call. Many are called, Matt22.14
Matthew 22:14 ESV
For many are called, but few are chosen.”
When Matthew wrote that, didn’t he know, as much as anyone, that when he was sitting in that tax booth, and Jesus called on him to follow, that he not only was called, but chosen? This wretch, this cheat, this despised man, who betrayed his people by his deceitful practices, was personally called and chosen by Jesus, and that proves our first point, that Jesus is quite capable of saving the worst of the worst. Bring into this building the wretched sinners, and see if when they hear the gospel, they may turn out to be among those called and chosen, because He delights in saving the most wretched.
And such were almost all of the most significant figures of faith in the Bible. They were adulterers, and murderers, and cheats, and lazy people, and all kinds of wretches that God called to himself, who were chosen in Christ before the beginning. Levi, or Matthew, was one. Are you? Should not the modern church want to see the same sorts of people saved? How I rejoice when I think of a man who my whole family loves, who I would trust any day of the week to watch my children, because he is one the kindest and gentlest people I have known, and solid in the scriptures, and an elder of the church I used to pastor, and yet, as a young man, he was nothing like that! He killed a man in a fight! He went to prison, and then, as it turned out, he met a pretty young lady who brought him to a Bible study, and he heard the gospel.
And one day, a mentor of His asked Him, “What are you going to do with Jesus?”. What a profound Question! And I ask you the same! What will you do with Jesus? That same man, who had such a rough upbringing, had a brother. And let me tell you, this man was a meth addict! And addiction counselors will tell you Meth addiction is one of the toughest to beat. But this man, at age 54, when many may have given up on him, submitted himself to Jesus Christ, and went into a Christ-centered program and came out free, because whom the Son sets free, is free indeed!
Now, what about these other disciples? What did they think about Jesus bringing along a tax collector? I can imagine that even those men may have not been too happy. They were only recently saved, you see. They were not fully sanctified yet. Certainly they had concerns about Levi. It is likely he had taxed their fishing vessels. They probably felt he was the wrong type to come along. Yet, Jesus called him! Jesus chose him. Jesus saved him, and Jesus made him into a disciple. This tax collector was exactly the sort that Jesus loves to save.
How wretched are you? Do you think you are beyond saving? You aren’t! You have many sins, do you? Good, because God will be all the more glorified when Christ saves you. He only saves sinners anyway. He saves the worst of the worst. I can testify on my own behalf, I have wretched things in my past that I wish I could forget, I have done shameful things, even having been raised in the church. As much as I would like to put a sliding scale on my sin and compare it to yours, I cannot forget that even the smallest of sins made me a traitor to God, as RC Sproul often said, we are all guilty of cosmic treason, and yet some of us He saves, and willingly, and gladly, he saved the wretched, and what do you think church? Would you be happy to have a really awful person come in the door, someone with a terrible reputation, someone we all would be ashamed to be seen with?
Yet think how glorious it is when a sinner comes to repent! When a sinner, vile and ugly, is cleansed and made pure in Christ. Yes, if heaven rejoices in that, my friends, then we ought to as well. And we ought to call them to come and follow Christ. Heaven rejoices when a sinner repents, and so does the repentant sinner rejoice as well.
Luke 5:29 ESV
And 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.
What a time this must have been! What motivated Levi to want to have this great party? Was it his own sense of release from sin, the burden dropping? Was it that he loved Jesus for saving Him and calling Him and Choosing him? Was it because he wanted all his fellow sinners to have an encounter with Jesus? Yes! Yes! Yes! And this is a proper response. When you are set free from the dread of hell, when Christ has turned away the wrath of God from you, the sinner who deserves that wrath, and takes it on himself, He is worthy of celebrating! And when you receive the gift of eternal life, that is worth celebrating! And when you are wrapped in the righteousness of Christ, that is worth celebrating! When you have felt the love of God in the person of Jesus, that is worth celebrating!
Big Idea: Jesus has called sinners, and only sinners, to follow Him.
Even the worst of the worst can be saved
Salvation calls for Celebration
Righteous people don’t need saving
So Levi has this great party! He fully committed to Jesus, he fully was ready to follow him with all of his heart, and He fully understood that those he had formerly been like, desperately needed this salvation as well. So he has a great party. But what happens next? Every party has a pooper, thats why we invited the Pharisees.
Luke 5:30 ESV
And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
These guys again! Remember from last week, our warning, that when you are very zealous to do good and honor God, you can become like this, where you are so prim and proper you cannot imagine that you should have anything to do with these sinners. The Pharisees actually practiced what they believed, which was that separation from worldly people would be some merit for them. These Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at the disciples of Jesus. Perhaps they thought they could shame them into leaving Jesus.
“why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” The Pharisees here are practicing guilt by association. Certainly, it is not advised that we intentionally spend a lot of time with people bent on sin, but the Pharisees are completely ignorant of the mission of Jesus. Do you know that this attitude has, throughout church history, infected almost every denomination at some point? They may have started out with the wretched, but it only takes a few generations before they are like this. And we don’t want any body oder in our building, and we don’t want anyone who immodestly dressed, we don’t want someone guilty of murder or an adulterer to darken our doors, and yet, Jesus delights to save exactly those types. Jesus is ready and willing and has even already chosen and called some people who you and I would likely run from if we were not thinking biblically. But let’s think biblically, why don’t we? Who is the gospel for? Sinners. Who is the church for? Sinners who are forgiven. What is the church’s mission? To make disciples, to go and share the gospel with every creature. Go grow in grace together. We gather to hear the Word of God, to encourage each other, to walk beside one another, but we also must not ever stop looking outside the doors of the church. Do you lack energy or drive to see new people come into the faith? Then confess that sin! Repent of it! And as for God to give you his heart for the lost.
And if God so graces us to bring in more Levi’s, or some murderers, or a prostitute, or someone who knows nothing more than the basic gospel, but if God were to bring one of them to himself, and deposit them here at Oasis Church, will we be ready? Will we be willing to take them in? Will we remember but for the grace of God, there we would be as well? Will we be patient with them as the struggle to have the mind of Christ, when they were raised in this crooked world?
Will we stick with them when they don’t mature in the faith as quickly as we would like them to? Will we bear with them when their questions about the faith seem so basic, and we are so beyond the basics? Will we have patience with them as they share their struggles as a new believer, because their friends and family have abandoned them, or mocked them, for coming to Jesus?
Big Idea: Jesus has called sinners, and only sinners, to follow Him.
Even the worst of the worst can be saved
Salvation calls for Celebration
Righteous people don’t need saving
You see, these Pharisees may very well have started out with a true desire for holiness, but along the way, they began to see themselves as outside the need for grace, and Jesus then tells them that if they see themselves as so pure to not be in need of his ministry, then that is just evidence that they are not going attain this salvation.
Luke 5:31–32 ESV
And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus only saves sinners, because no righteous people need him at all. While these Pharisees see themselves as righteous, they do not realize that their righteousness is as filthy rags. I’m so glad the Lord allowed me to know of my own wretchedness! I am so glad he caused me to see the truth of the Word of God, that tells me who I am and who He is! I’m so glad that God in his grace has saved me, because I have received the most uneven exchange, as many of you well know and understand.
The most uneven exchange in all the world is this: A sinner, the vile, lying, greedy, lazy, murderous, angry at the world, cheating, sneering sinner who comes to Christ, has all of his sin put on Christ. It was my sin that held him there! And yes, He takes all of it, all of our sins, the sins of our past, the sins we just committed today, the sins we will commit tomorrow, Christ takes everyone of those sins upon himself.
He becomes the scapegoat of God, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He takes all of it. That is what he takes. But what He gives in its place is His own righteousness. You see, because of Jesus, we who have faith in Him are justified. Before the face of God, the one in Christ stands, sinless, though he has sinned. Why? Because Jesus took that sin away, and in exchange we receive his righteousness. A couple weeks ago I mentioned that great illustration from the book of Zechariah. He takes that sin away from us, and it is represented in that passage as the High Priest, Joshua, having his dirty clothes taken off and replaced by pure vestments, Josh3.3-5
Joshua 3:3–5 ESV
and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”
What an exchange! Some of you may have worked somewhere at sometime where they had a uniform service. These are companies that come around and take your dirty stuff and replace it with clean. Or the housekeeper at a hotel, who removes the dirty sheets and towels and remakes the room. Or the guys who power wash your house when it has all that green and black filth on it, and after it looks so nice. Jesus has cleansed us! He has taken away the filth, and he has replaced it with his own purity and righteousness, so that I can stand with complete confidence, despite all of the boneheaded mistakes of my life, past present and future, that because Christ called me, and chose me, and granted me faith to believe, that I have already received his righteousness, at least in God’s eyes. The healthy don’t need a physician, but the sick. The righteous don’t need cleaning, but the filthy.
Oh, and of course we know that there are none righteous, no not one, so we are back where we started. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All will be judged, and many will be condemned for an eternal conscious torment, as God’s wrath is continually poured out on them through all eternity. But those who he called and chose, they will be saved, forgiven, and granted eternal life. If there had been any righteous people, they would not need saving, and if you are among the righteous who have put faith in him, then you do not need to be saved again.
Some preach that you can lose your salvation. That is not what the Bible teaches. Remember Ephesians, “you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit”. If you are in Christ, you will never be out of Christ. He does not lose any that the Father has given him. In my life, I have had those times where I questioned whether I was saved. You cannot lose salvation if you truly have it. 2Cor1.21-22
2 Corinthians 1:21–22 ESV
And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
Ephesians 4:30 ESV
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Ok, tell me know, you who think you were saved and lost it. Are you more powerful than the Holy Spirit of God? Can you yourself unseal what He has sealed? Can Satan, the demons, or any other person unseal the salvation you have sealed by the Holy Spirit?
So it is that if you truly believed, you are one of Christ’s and if you are one of His, you will always be.
Big Idea: Jesus has called sinners, and only sinners, to follow Him.
Even the worst of the worst can be saved
Salvation calls for Celebration
Righteous people don’t need saving
Can we now celebrate together? How great is this salvation? So what must we do? This is the question asked by those who the Holy Spirit is confirming this word of truth to. They cried out on the Day of Pentecost, those the Holy Spirit was convincing of this truth, they wanted to know You see, Peter presented the gospel message to them, and some of them were cut to the heart, and I pray that someone will be cut to their heart this morning. I will close with this, how Peter closed his sermon on that day, and how the people responded, and what Peter told them:
Acts 2:36–41 ESV
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
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