Luke 5:27-35 – Preached @ Ebenezer Church on 31 Aug 2008
Today, I want to share with you 3 amazing things I see in this passage.
1) The amazing pride of the scribes and Pharisees
2) The amazing grace of God in choosing some unto salvation
3) The amazing patience of God in dealing with His children
Romans 12:3 – “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”
Man has a tendency to think highly of himself.
He thinks he has freedom.
He feels it is his right to exercise this freedom.
He thinks he is entitled to his opinion.
Sometimes, he even tries to impose upon His Creator what he thinks is right.
Here in Luke 5, we see the amazing pride of the Scribes and the Pharisees.
A tax collector by the name of Levi has just been converted. Praise the Lord!
He arranged for a lavish feast in his home.
In verse 29, we are told that he did this for Jesus.
He invited his tax collector friends for this feast.
Jesus’ disciples also came for this feast.
It was supposed to be a happy occasion.
It was an opportunity for Levi’s tax collector friends to get to know Jesus.
But there was a group of people who was not happy about this.
It was the scribes and the Pharisees.
Who are these scribes and Pharisees?
They are the ones who are supposed to be very religious.
The scribes are the ones responsible for copying the scriptures.
The Pharisees were the religious teachers in those days.
They were supposed to know the scriptures better than the common people.
As part of their job, the scribes & the Pharisees had to dress neatly and cleanly.
They fasted very often as part of their routine.
They had to wash themselves whenever the encountered anything that was unclean.
And they took pride in these rituals.
So, when they saw Jesus attending the feast of Levi, they were very unhappy.
They asked in verse 30, “Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?”
In other words, “why are you associating with unclean people”?
Jesus knew what was in the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees.
So He answered them saying in verses 31-32:
“Those who are sound do not need a physician, but those who are sick”.
“I did not come to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners.”
The scribes and Pharisees thought highly of themselves.
They regarded the tax collectors as sinners.
Jesus was actually agreeing with them that the tax collectors needed to repent.
Jesus came to help people who acknowledge their sin and their great need of a Saviour.
Now, the Scribes and Pharisees had regarded themselves as righteous people.
They will miss out on Jesus’ offer of salvation if they continued regarding themselves as righteous.
They are not “poor in spirit” but have a great sense of self-righteousness.
They probably did not understand the full implication of what Jesus said.
This usually happens to people who are too “full of themselves”.
They are usually inward-looking and care only about how good they look before men.
And instead of admitting their folly, the scribes and Pharisees quickly fired another question.
In verse 33, they said this to Jesus:
“Why do John’s disciples fast often and make prayers, and also the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink?”
Now this is not an innocent question where they genuinely want to know the answer.
The question actually highlights the fact that the Pharisees fast and pray often.
They think that their regular fasting levels them higher than others in faith
And they felt good about this and wanted to announce the fact to everyone.
They are making an accusation against Jesus’ disciples that they are not acting very spiritual.
Have you ever met such people in your life?
I have met many people who questioned the bible in a skeptical manner.
From their questions you can tell that they were not interested in knowing the truth.
They just want to tell you that they feel morally superior.
They just want to prove that you are wrong.
How should we deal with such people?
I went on a missionary trip to India in 1986.
My group went to a university in Madras (which is now called Chennai).
We met many academics and students.
They started to question the bible and my team leader engaged in a debate with them.
When I asked my team leader why he debated with them, he quoted 1 Pet 3:15
1 Peter 3:15 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who ask you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear”.
I want to tell you that 1 Pet 3:15 is not encouraging us to engage in religious debates.
The context of 1 Peter 3:15 is about living with a pure conscience in the face of accusations.
And the defense you are to make is about the “hope” of eternal glory in you.
It is about your testimony of what God has done in your life.
It is about your knowledge of sin and how God has given you a hope of salvation.
It is not about engaging in a religious debate to argue about who is right or wrong.
Obviously, the scribes and the Pharisees were wrong.
They are wrong because their minds are dead in sin.
How can they understand unless the Holy Spirit opens their eyes?
So, how can you win an argument with such people if their eyes are not opened by the Holy Spirit?
Listen to how Jesus answered this provoking question of the scribes and the Pharisees.
Luk 5:34 But He said to them, Can you make the sons of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them?
Luk 5:35 But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, & then they shall fast in those days.
Jesus is basically saying that they are not fasting now because He is with them.
They will fast when He is not with them any more.
From that statement, we also learn that fasting is about drawing near to Jesus.
It is not about feeling good and having a higher spiritual standing because you do it.
It is about putting aside even our body’s need for food to seek the spiritual presence of Jesus.
Jesus did not argue with the scribes and the Pharisees.
He simply spoke a parable and moved on with His mission on earth.
He did not even explain the parable to the Scribes & the Pharisees.
And they were usually too proud to acknowledge that they did not understand.
That is why the Pharisee Nicodemus (in John 3) had to seek Jesus at night to understand what he was teaching.
From this incident, we see the amazing pride of man.
The Pharisees represent men in general who were self-righteous.
Man prides himself in what he has achieved or is working towards achieving.
The bible tells us that our best works are but filthy rags before God.
Do not be over taken by self-righteousness.
Do not be so proud and not acknowledge your need of Jesus.
Do not end up like the Pharisees who believe that they are good and should be rewarded by God.
Instead, humble yourself to accept the fact that God is God and He reigns in heaven.
Friends, are you like the scribes and the Pharisees?
Or are you like Levi who responded quickly to Jesus’ call without hesitation?
It is amazing how man can be so proud of himself.
Yet, it is even more amazing that in spite of this, God would choose some unto salvation.
And that is our second heading for today.
Verse 27 tells us that Jesus saw Levi sitting at the tax-office.
A parallel record in Matt 9:9 tells us that Levi was also known as Matthew.
And Jesus said to him “Follow Me”.
And we are told in verse 28 that “Levi left all and followed Jesus”.
Now we have several questions to ask here.
Why, of all people, did Jesus choose to call a tax collector?
Tax collectors were known to be dishonest people.
Tax collectors were perceived as having betrayed their own race and serving the Romans.
Tax collectors were known to be bad company.
And, of all tax collectors, why did Jesus specifically choose Levi?
There were so many tax collectors around.
Was Levi taller than the rest?
Was he smarter, more capable or richer than the rest?
Why, of all times, did Jesus call Levi when he was seated at the tax-office?
Could He have called him when he was resting at home?
Could He have called him when he was at the temple?
Could He have called him when he was going home?
Well, friends, this is the mystery of God’s election and grace.
Eph 1:4 tells us that “..He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, ..”
He chose Levi “before the foundation of the world”.
We don’t know why; that’s God’s sovereignty and prerogative because He is God.
He decided to choose a tax collector.
He decided to choose Levi.
He decided to call him when he was seated at the tax-office.
It is not for us to question, but to accept the fact that God has decided.
We have to remember that God is the Creator and we are the Created.
Was Levi chosen because he was a good man?
No. Eph 2:8-9 tells us that it is “by grace that we are saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Levi was no better than any other tax collector.
It was entirely God’s grace that he was chosen.
It was entirely unconditional.
It was at a time that God appointed and not decided by man.
The Apostle Paul was called by God when he was on his way to Damascus.
The Ethiopian Eunuch was called when he was riding on a chariot in the desert.
Some peopled were called through a process of time where they experienced the Christian faith.
Sometimes, they just turn to God suddenly although they have been against Him all these while.
When I was in India, I met a young man who was very hostile towards the Christian faith.
But all of a sudden, his mind was changed and he was humbly seeking God.
The calling of Christians to the faith is an irresistible calling.
Levi literally dropped everything and immediately followed Jesus.
He did not tell his boss he was leaving his job.
He did not tell his family about it.
He just turned and followed Jesus.
And we could immediately see the change in his life.
He was not ashamed to be associated with Jesus.
He arranged a feast in his home for Jesus to meet other tax collectors.
Has God been working in your life?
Have you seen His hand working out situations in your life and speaking to you through them?
Just as He calls Levi to follow Him, Jesus calls you to follow Him.
Just as Levi dropped everything and immediately followed Jesus, I urge you to follow Jesus today.
Consider how gracious God has been to you.
Out of so many people in the world, He chose to let you hear the gospel and follow Him.
So, don’t delay in turning to Jesus because there may not be another chance.
Who knows whether God will continue to be gracious to you?
If you are a believer today, be thankful that, of all the people in the world, God called you.
And if He has called you, live for Him.
You must not serve your sinful ways anymore.
You may be discouraged by challenging situations in your life, but remember you are chosen by God.
And because you are chosen by God, He will lead you through life and bring you to heaven.
So be encouraged Christian friends and consider what a privilege it is to be Christians.
It is amazing how man can be so proud of himself.
It is amazing how God would choose some unto salvation.
It is even more amazing how God deals patiently with those He called into His kingdom.
This is the 3rd amazing thing we see in this passage.
Jesus used 2 parables in his response that stunned the scribes and Pharisees.
First, He spoke about having a new garment on an old one.
Then He talked about putting new wine in old wineskins.
Why did Jesus speak these parables?
Luke 8:10 “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.’”
Those who think highly of themselves and refuse to submit to God will continue to be spiritually blind.
Jesus used parables that only His people could understand and receive comfort.
Let us seek to understand and receive comfort from these 2 parables.
First, let’s understand about new garments and old garments.
Now, we know that some types of cloth shrink after their first wash.
If this cloth is used to make a shirt sized “large”, the shirt will be come size “medium” after washing it.
After many washes, it may even become size “small”.
Supposing, you discover a hole in this shirt that has shrunk to size “small”.
And you mend this hole with a new cloth that has not gone through the shrinking effect.
Then you wash this shirt.
The new cloth that was used to patch the shirt will shrink.
But the shirt that has already shrunk to size “small” will remain as it is.
And as the new cloth shrinks, it will tear because it is getting smaller than the hole you are patching.
Hence, it is not wise to use a new cloth to mend an old shirt.
If you do that, you will tear that cloth when you wash it.
What is Jesus teaching us here?
Our gracious God will place in our way trials that are proportional to our measure of faith.
Let me use the example of the time when God brought Israel out of Egypt to illustrate this.
We are told in Exodus that He did not bring them by the way of the Philistines although that was nearer.
Why is this the case?
In Ex 13:17, God says, “..lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.”
God, in His grace and mercy, called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
He will not have you (as a new believer) placed on an old shirt, and get torn by the rigours of the washing.
Instead, He will place in your way trials that are proportional to your progress in spiritual faith.
The disciples of Jesus were young in their faith.
They had time with Jesus, dining with Him, seeing His miracles and being instructed in doctrines.
They had the physical presence of Jesus with them.
Through that experience, they will grow in the faith.
The time will come when Jesus will not be with them physically.
But by then, they would have progressed in their faith.
That is the time when they will fast toseek the spiritual presence of Jesus.
Consider how gracious and merciful our Lord is to us.
To reinforce this point further, Jesus told another parable about wine.
He says that new wine should be placed in new wineskins.
And those who have been drinking old wine will not desire new wine suddenly.
Why? Because they will feel that the old wine tastes better than the new.
Now, I am not a wine drinker and I am an expert in wine tasting.
And I want to also tell you that Jesus is not advocating wine drinking here.
The point is about God’s patience in dealing with His children.
The scribes and the Pharisees pride themselves in strict religious disciplines.
Jesus is telling them that He will not impose these upon His disciples at this stage of their spiritual life.
The time will come when they will desire to do these themselves because they seek His presence.
If God places them in such situations so early in their spiritual life, they would be discouraged and perceive that their old life was better.
The scribes and the Pharisees can never understand the special care that God has for His people.
They probably never understood what these parables meant at all.
But friends, what do these parables mean to you?
1 Cor 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
If you are a Christian today, be encouraged that God knows your measure of faith.
And He has designed your trials and temptations according to what He knows you can take.
And when you have overcome them, you will become stronger.
So be encouraged, persevere and do not lose heart.
Jesus said this to Peter in Luk 22:31-32 when Peter was about to be tested.
“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired you, that he may sift you as wheat.
But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not. And when you have overcome, strengthen your brothers.”
Peter actually succumbed to his weakness and betrayed Jesus.
But He was restored and he became stronger.
And he was greatly used to establish the early Church in Jerusalem.
I urge you to heed the words of Jesus.
Strengthen your brothers with your experience after overcoming your trials & tempations.
Let us quickly recap what we have covered today.
We saw the amazing pride of man in the scribes and the Pharisees.
Do not be like them but submit yourselves to the Lord Jesus.
We saw the amazing grace of God in choosing Levi out of all the tax collectors at that time.
Is God speaking to you and calling you into His Kingdom?
If so, do not resist His calling.
Turn to Him and live as Christians that show that you are grateful for His calling.
We saw the amazing patience of God in dealing with His children.
Be encouraged that God knows you better than you know yourself.
He knows exactly what He is bringing you through.
So be strong, be thankful and look to Him in faith.
Let us pray.