07 Feb 2010

Jesus Draws Fire and Retaliates

Blog, By Scripture, Matthew, Resources 1 Comment

Matthew Series | Matthew 9:9-17 | Pastor Duane Smets

This week is an exegetical sermon looking at Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ attack on him for eating with the wrong people and the disciples of John’s attack on Jesus for eating at the wrong times. His response fills out the message, mission and methods of the gospel. This sermon was originally preached on February 7th, 2010 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.



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The Resolved Church
Pastor Duane Smets
February 7th, 2010

“Jesus Draws Fire and Retaliates”
Series: The Gospel of Matthew
Matthew 9:9-17

I. His Message Gets Attacked (v.9-13)
    A. Eating With The Wrong People: Misfit Matthew and His Friends
    B. On A Mission Of Mercy: Dr. Jesus and His Healing
II. His Method Gets Attacked (v.14-17)
    A. Eating At The Wrong Times: Not Fasting Like Others
    B. On Earth For A Wedding: Old Clothes & Wineskins Cramp Jesus’ Style


Good morning. So we’re studying through the book of Matthew here together at The Resolved. We’re still in the fairly early stages of Jesus’ ministry. He preached his famous first sermon, The Sermon on the Mount and after that he busted out some healings and other miracles. So there’s a lot of hype about him and people are trying to decide what to do with Jesus. Do they follow him and become one of his disciples, do they reject him, or do they keep waiting to try and decide what to do with him?

Last week we looked at a scenario where a couple of dudes said they were going to follow him but Jesus showed them how they really weren’t ready and so he moves on to demonstrate, with three pretty hefty miracles, why everyone really ought to follow him unconditionally.

This week, we’ll see Jesus turn things up a notch by hand selecting a guy to be one of his disciples who is probably the biggest criminal in town. That starts this chain reaction of events where two different groups of people end up moving in to attack him. They come at him and basically call him and his message and methods faulty and fraudulous.

Jesus responds, maybe that’s better than “retaliates”? I titled this sermon, “Jesus Draws Fire and Retaliates.” That’s mostly because I just like this Jesus here. It might just be me but a lot of times it seems like Jesus gets cast as a panzy. He wears a dress, has flowing hair, talks in flowers, always turns the other cheek and never judges anyone, right? A panzy. But not here. Jesus didn’t always just suck it up. Sometimes he talked back. And here, when he does, he says some of the clearest things in all of his life about his message, his mission and his methods.

So let’s check it out and read it and I’ll pray and ask for God to help us get it.

I. His Message Gets Attacked (v.9-13)
    A. Eating With The Wrong People: Misfit Matthew and His Friends

Okay, so here’s what’s going on. Jesus is back in Capernaum. That’s where he ended up after his Sermon on the Mount, where he healed a leper, a solider commander, and a bunch of other people. In Capernaum there was a tax booth because it was a sort of border crossing between the Herod and Philip Antipas’s regions that they ruled over. And Matthew was the guy who worked the tax booth in Capernaum.

Here’s how it worked. When a person would get selected to be a tax collector, they were usually selected by one of the army commanders. For this tax booth, the job entailed collecting taxes for crossing the Lake, fishing in the Lake, and if you left town or came into town. One of the huge perks about the job is that you got to collect more than the expected tax amount and that’s how you got paid, it was your commission.

So tax collectors made a lot of money…basically because they would gouge people and rip them off, taking whatever they could get. Tax collectors were bullies, like gangsters and the soldiers were their cronies. I’m sure more than one occasion they had the soldiers beat it out of people to get their money.

Sort of like how it is in Mexico sometimes. We used to take a lot of surf trips down to Baja and multiple times we have had to pay off a cop or a solider who stopped us in our car. My cousin one time even had an officer take him to an ATM machine and make him withdraw as much money as he could from his bank account before he’d let him go. That’s why we started keeping all our cash in our socks when we’d go down there and leave our cards at home. But that’s small time stuff compared to what we got here.

To give you an idea of how much money we’re talking about with Matthew, Josephus a historian employed by the Romans at the time, he says that the tax revenue from the region of Galilee was about 200 talents a year. That’s the equivalent of about $5 million US dollars a year. And that’s just what Herod ended up with.

So being a tax collector was a very lucrative job, you made a lot of money. Matthew was rich. But it wasn’t a respectable job. I mean, I think when we hear “tax collector” we think of a dude with glasses dressed in slacks, a white shirt and a tie that works for the IRS. Not these tax collectors. These guys are much more like Tony Soprano. They’ve got a lot of money but it’s all dirty money.

Now obviously, if you’re a guy like that, most regular people don’t like you. You’re not too popular right? So who do you think tax collectors hung out with? Usually the soldiers, the strippers, and the other down and outers that hung around hoping for a hand out.

Okay. So Jesus has been in town. Capernaum’s not a huge city and there’s been so much commotion about Jesus, there’s no way Matthew hadn’t been hearing about him and maybe even listening in and seeing some of the Jesus action going down. Jesus is this wise, kind, popular, powerful, holy man. If Matthew hadn’t had any conversations with Jesus, he at least knew of him.

Jesus rolls up to Matthew’s tax booth and says two words, “Follow me.” And verse 9 says, he rose and followed him. Matthew is being modest there. Remember, Matthew is the one writing these words, long after he has become a Christian…he’s been extremely humbled and given his life away to the gospel. In the end he was slain with an axe for his faith in Jesus.

So Matthew’s being modest. In Luke’s version, he tells us that Matthew left everything. He gave up his job and all its money when Jesus called him (Lk 5:28). And it wasn’t a job he could get back. Peter and Andrew were fishermen, they could always go back to being fishermen. Matthew could never go back once he followed.

What happens next is just comedy. What’s Matthew do? He’s so stoked he throws a party at his house in Jesus’ honor and invites all his friends. Who are Matthew’s friends? Other tax collectors, his solider friends, and some prostitutes as Matthew says later (Mt. 21:31-32). Here, he just lumps them all together as “sinners.”

I mean you have to imagine this. Other tax collectors would have had to travel to get there. So this probably took a few days to plan. He’s rich so he’s got a big house and he just throws a rager. I mean this is Tony Soprano or the Godfather we’re talking about. He doesn’t know any better. What’s he going to do? He orders a couple kegs, has all his drinking buddies come over, along with all the strippers and any other scum he’s used to hanging with and has them all over for this big meal in honor of Jesus, because the unthinkable has happened. He and Jesus are friends now, Jesus wants him!

I mean the awkwardness of this scene blows my mind. You got words clashing here…the disciples are there and Jesus is there and all these thugs and porn stars are there. The whole town hears about it. So the next day they go after Jesus.

I mean you try and put yourself in this story. I can just imagine it. There’s this huge party at over at San Diego State. I’m there. Everyone’s getting plastered…drinking, smoking weed, doing lines, hooking up in the bathroom. The party gets busted. The cops show up. And the next day there’s a picture of me in the paper…”Pastor found at the biggest party of the year.”

So here come the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day…They’re the pastors who have been around awhile and who have set the tone in the city. They come up to Jesus’ disciples and here’s what they say, it’s not really even a question so much as it is an accusation. Verse 11, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus is in hot water. He has drawn fire. People are not happy with him. Even if my contextualizing of the story is an exaggeration, then in the very least, Jesus has violated the Jewish Halakoth and made himself ceremonially defiled for eating with such people. He’s identified himself with them, which in the eyes of others says he condones of their behavior.

Jesus hears this attack directed at his disciples and so he steps in and fires back. And he fires clean and hard…straight to the heart.

    B. On A Mission Of Mercy: Dr. Jesus and His Healing

Some of the clearest statements from Jesus of his message and his mission. Three sentences. Each powerful, clear, and table turning.

One, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” What’s his point? People are lost in life, turning to all kinds of things that cannot heal or help…they are sick, spiritually sick and they need help. Someone must go to them. And the good news, Jesus is the doctor. He heals people’s bodies but more than that he heals their souls.

Jesus sees himself as the physician and he sees us for what we really are at our core, sick and in need of healing and forgiveness and grace. It’s what compelled Matthew so much. Matthew thought there was no way that someone like Jesus would care about him or want fellowship with him. He was too racked with guilt and considered himself too stained by all the things he had done. But Jesus saw the real need and longing of his heart.

Second statement Jesus makes, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’” This is gnarly. Go and learn. He talks down to them. Many of the Pharisees were probably older than him but he treats them like they’re young stupid pupils. Go learn this because you’re not getting it, you’re way confused and way off.

And what does he say to go learn, he quotes Hosea…”I desire mercy and not sacrifice” is from the book of Hosea (Hosea 6:6). Anybody know what the book of Hosea is about? What it is Jesus wants us to learn? Hosea is about a whore. God tells Hosea to go marry a whore named and tells Hosea that after he marries her she is going to cheat on him, not once, not twice but several times. And God tells Hosea that every time, he wants him to take her back. And the reason he wants him to do this, is so that God’s people will know what his love for us is like…that we are like the whore that he keeps taking back.

The verse he directs them to…I desire mercy not sacrifice is so pointed. The word mercy there in the Hebrew in Hosea is “chesed” which means God’s covenant love. So Jesus point is, you think you’re good because you keep up all the outward rules, the sacrifices but you do not do it out of love. You’ve broken the covenant because you do not love. You don’t really love God and you don’t really love his people.

So what you go to church, read the Bible, don’t get drunk and hang out with prostitutes like Matthew and his misfit friends…your self-righteousness and pride has stripped away any genuine love from your heart.

Jesus is on the offensive big time. And he takes it one step further with his third statement, “For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus completely flips the tables. “I came”, that’s a reference to his Messiahship. The Pharisees wanted a Messiah to come and judge sinners, to wipe them out. Jesus here says, he came not to destroy them but to deliver them.

Most of all what is huge about this last statement is what Jesus says about himself, his message, it’s only for sinners. So if you don’t think you’re a sinner, Jesus is of no value to you. The only way you get the goodness that Jesus has to offer is to recognize that you’re sick and a sinner deep down. If you think you’re well and righteous then Jesus cannot help you.

One Bible commentator put it this way, “The church is the only fellowship in the world where the one requirement for membership is the unworthiness of the candidate.”

We are a church that is on a mission to reach out to sinners like Jesus. We don’t want to grow just by other people who are already Christians coming over to our church because they like it better. We want to see people meet Jesus like Matthew did and be changed.

I want to quote Craig Blomberg, the New Testament scholar, because I don’t think I could say it better than him. He says this, “Many of us try our best to ignore the outcasts of society…homeless, addicts, pushers, gays and lesbians, AIDS victims, single parents, elderly, alcoholics…we dare not join in with sinners in sinning but we may well have to go places with them and encounter the world’s wickedness in ways that the contemporary Pharisees in our churches will decry.”

I want you to hear it from me. I pray that in these seats there is always room for the homeless man, or the sex offender, or the girl with the short skirt and the low top, or the gay man and his lover, or the guy who smells like alcohol because he drank too much last night. I pray that in our community groups there is always room and a meal for those who are hungry or those who have been rejected.

Jesus’ message is not get all cleaned up before you come in the front door. It is simply come. Let us get to know you and love you and care for you and introduce you to Jesus and let you see what he’s like. Then, we’ll let Jesus do his changing in his time. We changing too and we’ll change together.

We dare not call Jesus our Lord and be unwilling to go to the places Jesus’ went.

Rather than going to Prop 9 political rallies we ought to be going to the gay pride festival, where my wife worked a booth last year. Rather than not being caught dead at places where there is alcohol, we ought to be willing to be there, getting to know people and telling them about Jesus. Rather than giving a bum a dollar so we don’t have to spend time with him, we ought to be building relationships and hearing their stories and helping them see how Jesus is what they need.

And I’m so glad and so proud to be a part of a church that really does live out this stuff. I just never want us to lose sight of our mission. I don’t want to lose sight of the mission of mercy. The church is not meant to be fancy restaurant we all get dressed up and go to, it’s meant to be a hospital where the broken and beat up have place to run to and find help.

Jesus response here really does just draw a line in the sand. You’re either a sinner like Matthew or you’re a Pharisee and think you’re better than others. Which are you today?

Are you like Matthew and hearing Jesus’ words makes your heart cry out, Jesus have mercy on me, I need help, I’m so proud, so trapped in my sin, so lost, so hurt, so messed up! Or are you like the Pharisees and you hear Jesus’ words and you start to argue with them in you’re mind and find some way around them because you despise being called a “sinner”? If we admit we’re like Matthew Jesus receives us. But if we’re not like him, Jesus calls us to repent.

May God humble us and help to be like Matthew.

II. His Method Gets Attacked (v.14-17)
    A. Eating At The Wrong Times: Not Fasting Like Others

Well, I think we could pretty much stop right there if we wanted to but for extra measure Matthew grouped these two stories together to let it really sink in for us I guess. In the first story, in the encounter with the Pharisees, Jesus really focuses on his message. Here in this second story, Jesus really focuses on his methods.

In the first story he gets himself in trouble because of who he’s eating with. Now he gets himself in trouble because he’s eating period. Isn’t it funny how much something so simple and basic like food can cause such deep divisions among people? It shouldn’t.

So here’s what happens in this second story. John’s disciples come attack Jesus this time. John the Baptist was the crazy guy who lived out in the desert and just ate locusts and honey and preached a lot and baptized people in the Jordon River. Basically he did that until Jesus showed up on the scene and then he told all his followers to go follow Jesus now because Jesus was the Messiah, not him…he said he wasn’t even worthy to untie Jesus’ sandal.

Now John got arrested right about the same time Jesus’ started his ministry, after he was tempted in the desert (Mt 4:12). John said Jesus’ must increase and he must decrease. But apparently, not all John’s disciples listened to John and became Jesus’ disciples because here they are still outsiders and questioning Jesus’ way of discipleship.

Here’s what they say, verse 14, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast but your disciples do not fast?”

    B. On Earth For A Wedding: Old Clothes & Wineskins Cramp Jesus’ Style

Jesus responds three different ways…he says some stuff about a wedding, some old clothes and some wineskins. So let me break each of those things down for us real quick.

First the wedding. When John the Baptist told his followers to become Jesus’ disciples he used a wedding analogy and basically said that he himself was the best man for Jesus, who was the groom. I’ll read it for you. It’s John 3:29 “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.”

Jesus is the bridegroom and the people he came to save is his bride, the church.

Now, there’s about four main reasons to fast: in preparation for a difficult trial coming, in mourning after a tragedy, in a time of personal or national crisis, or as part of an annual ritual. Weddings don’t fit any of those categories. John the Baptist and his disciples were fasting because they were preparing for the coming of Jesus, but now that he’s here it’s happy time. Weddings are fun, joyous occasions…not sad, mournful, crisis.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there, at their misunderstanding of who he is…he takes it as step further. Fasting is just a method or form used to help one follow God, but the fasting in and of itself is of no value. So what Jesus’ points out is that ministry methods have to change and adapt depending on the time and place you are in and he uses two real practical everyday life examples to illustrate this.

One is a patch. I’ve had this happen to me because I get addicted to a certain pair of jeans that become my favorite and then I just wear them out until they start to get holes in them. If you try and patch up those holes with newer material something happens the first time you wash them. The new material shrinks, but the old material doesn’t, it’s already shrunk as much as it’s going to. So then when you go to put the jeans on the material just starts pulling away at the seams.

Jesus says, no one does that unless you’re dumb…I didn’t know. But his point is both John’s disciples and the Pharisees, their whole way of going about things has to change. It can’t just be patched up. There is not just little things here and there that need to be fixed. They need to have a whole paradigm change and realize that it isn’t what you do and how you do it…that’s not what it’s about, it who you know and why you’re doing it. If you know who Jesus is and if living for him is your motivation or not.

That’s the patch. The wineskins example addresses the same thing.

Back then they used animal skins to store wine in instead of bottles like we do now. Here’s what Jesus says, if you put new wine into an old wineskin that’s been used before then what’s going to happen when the wine starts to ferment, it starts to bubble and that oxygen is going to try and get out. In a new skin, the skin will just stretch and everything will be fine. In an old skin, it will already by stretched out to the max and so instead it just bursts. That’s what happens. Go try it at home, it’ll work.

Jesus’ point is that he is the new wine and the religious traditions expectations of the day couldn’t contain him. He is bigger than all of it. He came to usher in something totally new and he wasn’t going to work within the walls of the traditions that had been built up on top of Scripture. Jesus refused to be confined to small thinking. Constantly he’s pressing the boundaries, doing the unexpected, and all the while honoring God and showing the hypocrisy of those who don’t.

Jesus was making it clear that he wasn’t bringing just a revised or updated Judaism, he was bringing in something all together different. The wineskins of ritual purity, temple sacrifice, dietary laws, and a host of others things would be fulfilled and done away with forevermore once Jesus offered up his life on the cross as the last sacrifice.

What Jesus is really talking about is contextualization or adaptation…where we consider our culture or the person or persons we’re reaching out to, the context and allowing the wine of the gospel to be poured out in a way that’s it’s going to be received. Old wineskins today are anything that hinders the message of the gospel to be heard and received.

So let me give you some examples. Things like dress, language, music, art…we need to be able to adapt and adjust. Just the other week, it was Sunday evening and our new round of theology classes were starting up. Because of some miscommunication, we didn’t know that the space we’ve used the last couple years at the church up the street had been sold.

So I have keys and know the alarm code and just walked in like I usually do. It seemed like there were a lot more people there than normal and right away this dude dressed in a full suit comes up to me and asks me what I’m doing there. I told him I was a pastor and we used the building for our classes and he said he didn’t know anything about it. And then he did something interesting. He looked me up and down twice. Very obviously. I happened to have this huge Systematic Theology book and a Greek New Testament in my hand so I tried to like show him to say, no I really am a pastor…but I did pretty much look like a bum when he met me…I think I had jeans with holes in them on and was wearing a hoodie or something.

I talked to the pastor of the church who sold their property to this new church and he said that the suit pastor had called him about me and didn’t believe I was a pastor. Turns out that they are super old school. They only read the King James Version of the Bible, they don’t dance, don’t watch TV or movies, don’t go outside and don’t eat. :)

Anyway here’s my point. I’m not saying King James suit isn’t a Christian. And I pray their church does well and reaches a people maybe we can’t. But I tell you what, there’s no way that a suit and tie and a stuffed up attitude like that will ever reach my neighbor. Jesus’ church has got to adapt and contextualize to its surroundings.

Let me quote Craig Blomberg again, he’s good on this too. He says, “The message of the gospel remains unchanged. But the methods of evangelism, preaching, church growth, music and worship once effective in different circumstances, can turn counterproductive and need to be replaced by new methods that will more effectively win and minister to the current generation.”

The point is simple. If I stood up here in a robe, and sandals and spoke in Koine Greek you would all think I was crazy and none of you would be here. If Sean just got up here and led us in song by singing a cappella Latin, we would all run. You see the message stays the same, but the wineskins it’s delivered in must adapt.

We have to be able to separate between message and method, between what can’t be compromised and what can change, between theology and methodology.

Jesus, the groom is here and if we love him and serve him and follow him all the secondary stuff doesn’t matter. We can have grace for each other because there is a lot of room for all of our differences in the body of Christ.

It’s a wedding. A time of joy. The gospel is good news. That is the flavor of our faith. Not competition and criticism, but love, grace and joy…because Jesus is with us and for us.


Okay, let’s wrap this up. Here’s how I want to pull all this in and conclude.

Real simple.

First, I think if we’re honest we find ourselves being more like the Pharisees and John’s disciples than we would like to admit. I think we tend not like thinking of ourselves as sinners and because deep down we know we are, we try to make ourselves feel better by looking down on others. We need to hear Jesus call that he did not come for the righteous but for sinners and to run to him and say heal me Jesus, change me. Dr. Jesus do heart surgery on me. I need you.

Second, I think we tend to try and fix things and force things far more than we would like to admit. We try to make up for our failures just by putting a patch over it. We try to come and get refilled up but we just take the gospel and pour it into our old, dry, worn and stretched out wineskin. I think we probably get far more hung up on our way of doing things as being the right way or the only way, instead putting our focus on Jesus and worshipping him and enjoying him, our bridegroom.

So let’s just receive today. Let’s hear the message of the gospel that Jesus knows this about us, but he loves us and accepts us and forgives us. He invites us to his party, the marriage supper of the lamb, where we drink new wine and rejoice in all that he is and all that he has done for us.

If you know you’ve been on the wrong side of things and you’ve just feel like you’ve got a bunch of baggage. Come here today and just leave it on the table with Jesus and receive him. He is good and his love endures forever.

Let’s pray.

One Response to “Jesus Draws Fire and Retaliates”

  1. The Gospel According to Matthew | The Resolved Church, San Diego, CA says:

    [...]   8:18-9:8 –  Jesus Says to Follow and Shows Why  Listen     Read    9:9-17 –  Jesus Draws Fire and Retaliates  Listen    [...]

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