The Lord Calls Sinners

A young teenager was abducted from his family and thrown onto a slave ship. He was in bondage for 6 years before he finally escaped and was able to return to his family.  Instead of becoming angry and bitter at his situation, this young man came to know Jesus Christ. Through his sufferings and trials he became aware of his sin and his need for a Savior.  He was a sinner that was called by God and trusted in Jesus Christ as His Savior for the forgiveness of his sins. This young man is known for writing this poem called the Breastplate, "Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger." His name was Patrick and he would bring this Christ to a lost and broken people a little island called Ireland.  Before Patrick became Saint Patrick, he was a sinner that was called by God to his service.  This Saint Patrick day, we are going to study from Luke’s Gospel how the Lord calls sinners.  First, Jesus is willing to make sinners clean.

I. The Lord is willing make you clean

Luke points out one particular story of a man full of leprosy. Leprosy was a disease of the skin. The disease made lepers ceremonial unclean which causes them to be excluded from Jewish worship.  They were also social outcasts because leprosy was contagious and needed to be separate from the rest of society. They were not able to feel the warmth of a hug from family or friends for if anyone touched a leper then they would be unclean.  It was a disease that affects one’s entire life: Physically, socially, and religiously.  So understand the emotion behind this passage.  V. 12, “While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” This man was desperate. But when he saw Jesus, something changed.  In his desperation, he was given hope.  Seeing Jesus changes everything. This man was not presumptive.  He did not demand that Jesus heal him.  He was humble and poor in spirit.

And verse 13, “And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.” Notice Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him while saying, “I will, be clean.” The Law said in Leviticus touching the leper would have made him unclean. But Jesus wanted to show his deep care and compassion for this man. It also is a picture of the cross.  This man was unclean and the only way for this to be reversed was for another to become unclean on his behalf.  It is a great picture of what happened to Jesus on the cross.  He willfully became unclean. He willfully became our sin so we could be healed. By his wounds we our healed.

Then Jesus charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for you cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” Jesus wanted this man to follow the law and be declared clean by the priest before he told anyone else.  Obviously, people would realize very quickly that this man would have been healed. And word would have spread and so it did. Verse 15, “But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.”  He could have capitalized on his new fame.  He could have signed a deal for a made for T.V. movie and a new book deal, but instead he withdrew to desolate places to pray.  There are many reasons for this, but I think one of them is that he cared more about pleasing the Father then having a strong worldly reputation. He did not seek to fan his popularity, but to retreat into the presence of his Father.

Do you ever think that God doesn’t want you? I have talked with a lot of teenagers that have been abandoned by their parents.  Kelly’s parents were awful.  They were absence and abusive. They chose drugs, alcohol or relationships over her.  They would say things to her that she was not going to amount to anything.  Kelly responded by making horrible decisions with school and boys.  She was filled with anger and rage. After a life full of neglect, abuse, and anger, Kelly felt unwanted. She felt unloved. She was desperate like a leper; outcast from a normal life only to live a life of loneliness and pain.  Have you ever felt like Kelly? Unwanted? Unloved? Unclean? But Kelly is not unwanted. She is not unloved.  She IS unclean. But Jesus is willing to make her clean. He is willing to reach out and touch her. All she has to do is look to Jesus for he is willing. Jesus died and rose again for her. But not only is Jesus willing, he is able.

II. The Lord is able to forgive your sins

It is not enough to be willing.  Willingness goes along way, but it does not finish the job. I could be willing to dunk a basketball, but my willingness does not make me able to dunk a basketball.  Willingness is important, but not enough.  Our Lord is both willing and able.  Verse 17, “One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

That is very bold claim; Forgiving someone’s sins against God.  Jesus reputation was staring to attract some attention.  For the religious elite, the Pharisees and Scribes had come to listen to his teaching.  He was being investigated by the top scholars of the day.  And after watching this scene, they were skeptical.  Honestly, the Pharisees probably had come to expose something false in Jesus.  They did not come down with an open mind. They came down to prove that their opinion was right.  You know anyone like that?  They look for things to support their own opinion and views rather than looking for the truth. These religious elite were not sure of Jesus. Verse 21, “the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” They were half right.  Who can forgive sins, but God alone?  No one, only God can forgive sins. And that is the whole point of the scene.  Jesus was revealing himself to the crowd, but these religious people refused to see it.  Jesus Christ can forgive sins.

Verse 22, “Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk?  But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Jesus is about to prove a point.  He gives himself the title Son of Man which is a reference to the Messianic figure from the book of Daniel.  But Jesus did make an empty claim.  He was not only willing, but he is able.  He has the authority on earth to forgiven sins.

 So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”  Now, what was more remarkable a paralyzed man getting up and walking home or that his sins were forgiven?  The most remarkable thing that happened in this story is that this sinner was forgiven by God.  The miracle of his healing was only to demonstrate that Jesus Christ has authority to forgive sins on earth.

Christopher Reeve, best known as Superman, became paralyzed on May 27, 1995 after being thrown from a horse during a competition. His paralysis was permanent.  He always believed and insisted that one day he would walk again, but he never would.  He wanted something that only God could give.  Only God could make Christopher Reeve walk again. He was willing and able, but Christopher Reeve never trusted in Jesus as his Savior. Towards the end of his life, Reeve joined the Unitarian Church. He was asked why in an interview with Readers Digest. He replied this way:

It gives me a moral compass. I often refer to Abe Lincoln, who said, "When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. And that is my religion." I think we all have a little voice inside us that will guide us. It may be God, I don't know. But I think that if we shut out all the noise and clutter from our lives and listen to that voice, it will tell us the right thing to do. The Unitarian believes that God is good, and believes that God believes that man is good. Inherently. The Unitarian God is not a God of vengeance. And that is something I can appreciate.

Reeve, felt like most Americans, that man is basically good.  Humans are not perfect, but God is not vengeful which basically means that God would never punish good people in Hell. The problem is that man is not good.  Reeves, like all humans, are sinners and need forgiveness.  God is not vengeful in the way Reeves portrays him, but he is just.  A just God must punish sin.  Jesus Christ was willing and able to make Reeves walk again. Jesus was willing and able to give Reeves a new body, a glorified, resurrected body. Jesus was willing and able to allow Reeves to run and explore the New Heavens and the New Earth, but Reeves never looked to Jesus Christ. So although Jesus was willing and able, Reeves never walked again.

Reeve was physically paralyzed, but we are all spiritual paralyzed without Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 2:1-3, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” That paints a much different picture than all of us being basically good. Then the conversation changes with those two glorious words, BUT GOD. Verse 4, “4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” We were all dead; spiritually paralyzed unable to move towards God. But God came down to us. Because He is rich in mercy, he gave his one and only son so that whoever would believe in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.  We can live because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.  He promised forgiveness and resurrection to all who turn to him in faith.

Have you been forgiven?  God is willing and able.  All you have to do is turn from your sin and look to Him as your Savior and Lord.  You can be clean today. You can be forgiven today. For Jesus is calling you to repentance.

III. The Lord is calling sinners to repentance

Verse 27, “27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him,28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. 29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Jesus mission was not to heal the healthy, but the sick and not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.  Jesus came to call not those that inherently good, but those who are evil. We should not be afraid to call ourselves sinful and unrighteous, for that is whom Jesus is coming for.  We try so hard to make ourselves look better than we are, when only wants us to admit our sin and turn to Him.  He came to call you to himself.

Richard Grimes shares this story, “A Native American and a white man were deeply moved by the same sermon. That very night the Native American received Jesus as his Savior, but for days the white man refused to accept Christ. At last he, too, repented and enjoyed the sweet peace of having his sins forgiven. Later he asked his Native American friend, “Why did it take me so long, while you responded right away?”

“My brother,” he replied, “I can best explain it by this little story: At one time a rich prince wished to give each of us a new coat. You shook your head and replied, ‘I don’t think so; mine looks good enough.’ When he made the same offer to me, I looked at my old blanket and said, ‘This is good for nothing,’ and gratefully accepted the beautiful garment. You wouldn’t give up your own righteousness. But knowing I had no goodness of my own, I immediately received the Lord Jesus Christ and His righteousness.”
Dear friend, give up your own righteousness it is a shabby old blanket and good for nothing.  Turn to Jesus and accept his beautiful righteous robes of Mercy. Jesus is calling you to repentance, but he is also calling you to his mission.

I. The Lord is calling sinners on mission

Jesus has not called us just to save us, but he has called us so that we would help save others.  Seeing Jesus changes everything.  Once you see Jesus, you want others to see him as well. Look again at verse 18, “Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.” This paralyzed man could not walk and get to Jesus. He needed help.  His friends who believed that the power of the Lord was with Jesus brought him to the feet of Jesus.  These friends were determined for their friend to see Jesus.  Even when they got there and could not get through the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat into the middle of the crowd right in front of Jesus.  Now notice verse 20, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”  This man was healed and forgiven because of the faith of some men in the Lord Jesus.

Do you have the faith of these men?  Do you have friends or family in your life that are spiritualized paralyzed? Those who are unable to walk to Jesus?   Beloved, we must carry our friends to the feet of Jesus.  We must carry them in prayer.  Like Jesus parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18 that was finally granted justice because of her persistent pleas day and night, we must cry out to the Lord day and night for the salvation of the lost.  We must tell them the good news of Jesus Christ.  We must bring them here to the gathering that they may hear the Word from God.  Jesus has called you to himself to participate in his mission; so are you on mission for King Jesus? Are you a solider in his army?

Look at verse 27, “After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.” Jesus called a sinner Levi. Jesus was willing and able and Levi answered the call.  So what is the first thing Levi did? He had a party so his friends could meet Jesus.  Now in verse 29, “Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.” Levi knows his friends need Jesus for Jesus has not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Beloved, one of my greatest fears as your pastor is that we will not be like the men carrying their paralyzed friend to Jesus or like Levi who threw a party for his friends to meet Jesus. My fear is that we will be like the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Complaining diverts the mission of the church.  Instead of the church focusing on saving lost souls that are under condemnation, we have to worry about pleasing those of you who are complaining. Complaining hurts God’s mission. It makes us lose our primary focus of bringing the lost to the feet of Jesus through the proclamation of the gospel. Philippians 2:14, “Do everything without arguing and complaining so that we may be pure and blameless children of God in this crooked and depraved generation as we shine like stars of the universe as we hold out the word of life.”

So which best describes you?  Are you like Levi and the faithful men carrying their friend to Jesus or are you like the Pharisees who start complaining when sinners are hanging around?

By God’s grace, Saint Patrick was like the former.  One night he had a dream.  In the dream, a man came from Ireland carrying letters. He opened one of the letters that said “the Voice of the Irish” He heard a voice calling out from the letter, “Holy boy, please return to us. We need you.” A great struggle began in his soul.  How could he return to help those who enslaved him?  He knew that God calls sinners on mission. So he boarded a small ship armed with the good news of Jesus Christ and turned Ireland ablaze with the gospel.  Patrick’s ministry lasted over 29 years. He baptized over 120,000 Irishmen and planted 300 churches.
There are many ways to celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. But this St. Patrick’s Day, let us honor his life by joining him on mission.  Jesus calls sinners.  He was and is willing and able to forgive. Let’s pray.