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MARK 2:13-17

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
July 11, 1999

This morning - I’d like for a few minutes to think together about why we follow Jesus. I’d like to start by reading Mark 2:13,14. Jesus has come home to Capernaum - this town on the coast of the Sea of Galilee - and He’s involved in ministry there.

Mark 2:13,14: And He - Jesus - went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him, and He was teaching them. As He passed by, He saw Levi - who is also called Matthew - the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.

Matthew gets up and follows Jesus. Why? Why follow Jesus?

Matthew worked as a tax collector - apparently in a toll booth - on the road that ran from Damascus through Capernaum and out to the Mediterranean Sea. Since tax collectors were not paid salaries - Matthew’s main job was to extort money from people who traveled along this road - He lived off of what he could steal. Matthew worked under the government's authority and was a legal thief.

And we might imagine, he was really hated by the people. To them, Matthew was a traitor - a collaborator with the Roman Government - and a crook. But, Jesus saw something different in Matthew. He saw the hunger and emptiness in his heart. So, Jesus called Him, and said, “Follow Me!” And Matthew followed Jesus.

Why should we be followers of Jesus? What we’re asking is not: What is it “like” to follow Jesus. But, the reason why we follow Jesus.

Often when some says, we need to follow Jesus, they’re talking about the actions of someone who follows Jesus.

Jesus described what its like to follow Him in a number of ways. He said: “My sheep hear My voice....and they follow Me.” (John 10:27) - following Jesus is like sheep following a shepherd. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34) - following Jesus means self-denial and hardship. Jesus said: “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17) - evangelism. He said: “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me....” (John 12:26) - service.

These are actions. But, what made Matthew get up and go with Jesus? Why should we follow Jesus?

Following Jesus means realizing we need to follow Him - there is no other answer for us - when we look at our lives - we need to follow Jesus.

After Jesus called Matthew - Matthew had “Farewell Dinner” at his home. He was leaving town - following Jesus wherever Jesus would go. So he gave a going away party and invited all his friends.

Imagine what that must have been like. Sitting around one table - all the social outcasts - the tax collectors - those who refused to keep the Mosaic Law - the sinners - Matthew’s beer buddies and gambling partners. And in the middle of all this sits Jesus - not lecturing them about their sins. Just sitting - eating and drinking and sharing with them as their friend.

Reading on in Mark 2, there’s an account of how the Pharisees came and saw all this and were absolutely appalled by the way Jesus was behaving. They asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners? Doesn’t He know who those people are? How can He even let Himself be seen with people like that?”

Jesus hears them and answers them. Perhaps one of the most important statements in the whole book of Mark - the explanation of why we follow Jesus. Jesus said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

“You’re right, these are sick, hurting people - wounded - and damaged by their lifestyle. They don’t see life correctly. They’re sick men and they need a doctor. I’ve come to heal men. So this is where I need to be.”

“I came not to call the righteous; but sinners.”

There is such comfort in His answer. Jesus didn’t come looking for righteous people to be friends with. He came for wounded people - hurting people - people who have no place to turn - sinners desperate for a way out of their sins - He came for people like us. And He offers us healing if we will follow Him.

It doesn’t matter how deep the hole we’re in or how far we gone from God - all He asks is that we choose to follow Him and He will lead us to His perfect healing.

Last week I went to see my doctor. After the nurse checked my weight and everything - she showed me into one of those examination rooms. Finally my doctor came in and asked the usual question, “So, what brings you in today?”

I said, “Well, I really missed you and thought I’d come in and visit for a while.” Which is the truth. Because I really appreciate and like my doctor. In fact we ended up talking about my trip to Armenia and his coming trip to China - and other things. We spent most of the appointment just talking about personal things.

Of course I also had a physical reason - a medical need - to see my doctor - and he checked me out and gave me the prescription I needed.

So many people come to Jesus and want to talk about everything under the sun and they never look to Him for healing in their lives. Aside from people who have never heard the Gospel - statistically - the #1 reason why people do not follow Jesus is because they see no reason to follow. They believe that how they are living life works okay for them.

The Pharisees were not religiously ignorant. They were well studied, reasonably theologically sound, God fearing men - who cared deeply about their beliefs and the practice of their faith. But they were avoiding their own need for spiritual healing.

Jesus - as only He can - takes the question the Pharisee’s raised - “How can He eat with those kinds of people?” - and points it back at them. “I came for the sinners.”

Beyond their beliefs they were actually more needy than the social outcasts and “sinners” they looked down on. They were in deeper trouble than the tax collectors. Mark 3:15 says that while the Pharisees were caught up in their intellectual arguments and religious practices - while they were avoiding Jesus - the “sinners” realized the emptiness of their lives and were more than willing to follow Him.

We can be as religious as the Pharisees - attend church every Sunday - read the Bible from the index through the maps in the back - pledge - tithe - pray - and do everything correct - achieve all there is to achieve in life - be respected and loved - and still be empty - sick people.

Jack Higgens - the author of such successful novels as “The Eagle Has Landed” - was asked what he would like to have known as a boy - hindsight. His answer: “That when you get to the top, there's nothing there.”

That is so true spiritually. People who spend their entire lives living for Jesus - doing all the “actions” of following Jesus - being outwardly successful at the Christian life - but they’re empty inside. Because they’ve never come to admit their need to follow Jesus.

Why follow Jesus? Because we need Him. We are desperate without Him. We need His salvation - His healing - His restoration - His power and life in us.