You’re Not Far, Part 2: What Does It Mean To Have Faith? // Andy Stanley

– Today we are actually in
part two of Your Not Far. And this is the story that
should have never left Rome, it’s the story that should have
died in Rome but it didn’t. It’s the story of
Jesus of Nazareth as told by Simon Peter. Peter, His most famous apostle and it’s dictated to
and edited by John Mark, Peter’s traveling companion. Now here’s something
that’s kind of cool, sometimes when people
start reading the Bible we think, “Oh the B-I-B-L-E.” But today we’re not
reading the Bible and I’ll explain what I mean
by that in just a second. For 30 years, over 30 years, but for 30-something years Peter, Jesus’s apostle
traveled around and told his story
over and over and over. And now he’s in his 50s,
he’s imprisoned in Rome and he doesn’t know it but he is not gonna
leave that city alive, he’s been arrested
in Nero’s Rome, no friend of Nero’s, no
friend of Christians, right? And he’s either in a prison cell or maybe under house
arrest, we don’t know. But Mark who has
traveled with him and heard him tell these
stories a thousand times or a hundred times is with him and Mark who is
a Greek Christian
essentially says to Peter “Look, look, I’ve
heard these stories, “I’ve taken some notes “but I need to hear
it one more time, “we need to document this, “your story not just
for this generation. “This is a story that
needs to be documented “for every “generation. “Not for the people in the room “but for the one
person in the room, “to John Mark for the
generations that would follow.” And what Peter tells Mark comes to us as the
Gospel of Mark; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This is where the Gospel
of Mark comes from, Mark got it from Peter. Now this 1st century
document well, you know, this is in the 1st century, Peter died somewhere
around ’65 or ’66, I’m ’80. We’re not really sure but he
died during the life of Nero we know that. This 1st century document
would eventually be collected with some of the
Apostle Paul’s letters and then the other Gospels
that would be written and then the Old Testament
and would be put together and it would ultimately
become the Bible. So here’s why I say all that, for the next few minutes
and for the next few weeks please don’t hear me
reading from the Bible and the reason that’s important, because for some of you the
Bible is just a non-starter, assume somebody says,
“Well, the Bible says “you wanna raise
your hand and say, “let me tell you what
else the Bible says.” Right? That maybe some of your
conflicts with faith, I completely get that. So for the next few minutes I’m not reading the Bible because Mark wasn’t
writing the Bible. Mark in the 1st
century was documenting Peter’s experience with Jesus. He is sitting with a man
and he’s traveled with a man who spent years with Jesus and after the crucifixion
Peter continued to believe that his rabbi, is we’re
gonna see in just a minute, was somebody extremely special. Then here’s what happened, we know this from church history that Mark takes this document, Peter’s account of the life
of Jesus and he smuggles it, if he actually
had to smuggle it. But he leaves Rome with it,
he goes to Alexandria, Egypt and copies are made and
they begin to distribute this account of
the life of Jesus from the lips of the Apostle
Peter who was an eyewitness. Then again it was collected
with the Apostle Paul’s letters and then in the 4th century
like almost 300 years later it’s collected with the Old
Testament, the Jewish Scriptures and then it’s given a name, the Bible. But for now let’s not think
about the Bible, let’s imagine the Apostle Peter, who’s in his 50s, he’s about to be executed, he’s sitting with
his friend John Mark and he’s just downloading
the story and Marks like, “Okay, just give it to me. “Give me everything
you got Peter “because you are an
eyewitness of all the events “and conversations of
Jesus, the teaching of Jesus “and your story “is so important.” And here’s how Peter begins, Mark writing it down. It’s like he doesn’t want
us to miss the big picture, he says, “The beginning,” this is the very beginning
of the Gospel of Mark. “The beginning “of the good news,” as we
said last week if Christianity isn’t good news to you, perhaps you’ve never
heard Peter’s version. “The beginning of the good
news about Jesus the Messiah,” and then this is amazing,
“the Son of God,” and we talked about this
last time we were together. The Son of God, in
other words, get this, 30 something years after
the crucifixion of Jesus Peter is still convinced
that his rabbi, his friend, was the actual, living, breathing Son of God. We do not believe Jesus
was the Son of God because the Bible tells us so. We believe Jesus was the Son
of God because of what He did and what He taught
in the eyewitnesses that risked their life
to document it for us. Then he jumps into the
story he says this, “Jesus went into
Galilee proclaiming
the good news of God,” to which we would
say, “Well, Peter, “what is the good news of God? “Because most of us
were raised to believe “the good news of God is
Jesus died for your sins, “you go to heaven when you die “if you put your
faith in Jesus.” Peter’s like, “No, no,
that’s one way later,” that he wasn’t talking
about any of that, none of that had happened. “Let me tell you what Jesus
message was everywhere we went. “Everywhere we went
he had one theme “and everything He talked about “was associated with this theme. “And the theme was simply
this, Jesus would say, “‘The time “‘has come.'” The time has come, the waiting is over, something’s been missing but
what’s been missing is now here and everything that came
before in the pagan world and everything that came
before in the Jewish world was all preparation for
what God is doing in history in this moment. The Kingdom, the time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. The Kingdom of God, the best
way to understand that is God’s Kingship, God’s rule, God’s authority. The Kingship of God is near
because the King is in town. And then Jesus would say
in the appropriate response to the fact that
the time has come and God is doing something new. The appropriate
response is to repent and believe this good news. And to repent in
this context meant turn your life in the
direction of this, face it and embrace it because I’m introducing
a new way of living not simply a new way of
dying, a new way of living, a new way of relating. I want you to understand
the way God sees you, the way God sees the world and God wanted you
to know so much that He sent me as
His representative. The Kingdom of God has
come because the King is in town. So repent, face it and
embrace this new way of living to which we might say, “Well,
Peter I’m not ready for that.” And Peter would say, “Well,
I’m just getting started, “hang on. “You shouldn’t repent “and you shouldn’t believe “until you hear
the whole story.” Now the 1st century response
to this was amazing. In fact in the book
of Mark the word crowd appears in every single
chapter I think except two. Peter says, “As
we began to teach “and as Jesus began to teach, “the people were
amazed at His teaching “because He taught them
as one who had authority “not as the teachers “of the law. “and news about
Him spread quickly “and the whole, “throughout the whole
region of Galilee.” So we introduced
this map last time, we’re gonna come back to this
throughout our time together. Because the way the Apostle
Peter tells us the story, it has everything to
do with Geography. So the region of Galilee is
this whole region up here, Jerusalem’s down here, this is the Jordan River, this is the Dead
Sea, Sea of Galilee. And so Jesus begins
His public ministry in the vicinity of Galilee
and Peter was a Galilean and He said throughout the
whole region of Galilee, word spread that something
fantastic and amazing has come. So picking up where
we left off last time. Peter immediately introduces
us or confronts us with these three very
disturbing and paradigm-shifting narratives and when you piece them
together it becomes very clear Peter wants us to know how
disruptive Jesus’s ministry was and how disruptive
Jesus’s teaching was. Disruptive in the
sense that everybody kind of had a worldview;
there was a pagan worldview, a Roman worldview, a Greek
worldview, a Jewish worldview. And Jesus steps onto
the pages of history and He introduces a
new way of thinking just about everything. So very quickly at the
beginning of His gospel account, He gives us these three
narratives that just give us a glimpse of just how different
this kingdom was gonna be. And I’m gonna give
you the summary of each of these
stories real quick. The first thing we
discover is that Jesus would ignore certain
religious protocol. Secondly He’s gonna claim to
have the power to forgive sin and then third and where
were gonna end today is that Peter
recognizes that Jesus was uncomfortably comfortable
with unrepentant sinners. In other words what
Jesus did right up front and Peter saw this was that
Jesus came along and removed three obstacles to God, three obstacles to God. And then the strangest
thing happened, a few 100 years later, the church unfortunately, took these three obstacles
that Jesus had removed and put them back
into the equation. In fact, one of these
three may be your obstacle to God. Perhaps the reason you
got bumped out of a church with some kind of really
ridiculous religious thing that you thought yourself, “That doesn’t have anything
to do with anything, “that’s certainly not something “I could ever make
myself believe. “They want me to act a certain
way or dress a certain way “or date a certain way or
not marry a certain way.” I don’t know what
your thing was. But there was just something
that was just purely religious and you thought to yourself
if God is that small and that petty I don’t want to
have anything to do with it. So maybe the reason you
have walked away from faith or never even thought about
addressing faith to begin with was just certain
religious protocol that doesn’t make any
difference and Peter would say, “Hang with me, you’re not
gonna believe what He did.” Or maybe your challenge is this; perhaps you just can’t come
to grips with the fact that your sin could actually be forgiven. That God would actually
forgive your sin and you believe He might
forgive everybody else’s sin but if people knew what you’ve done or haven’t done or what you promised to do
and never followed through on, whatever your thing is, it may be impossible
for you to say, “Look, I kind of
believe the story “but I’m just telling you, “I don’t know that I could
ever have actual peace “with God.” Peter would say, “I’m so
glad you read my story.” And the third thing,
this whole being uncomfortably comfortable. See, one of the things
maybe you thought is that you know what? I think it’s interesting and I think it’s good
for everybody else but as a friend of mine
said years ago, he said, “Andy, I would stand
in the back of church “and think of myself, “I’m not as disciplined
as these people.” “I’ll never be that good.” “I mean, if I’m ever
gonna be a church person “I’m ever gonna be
a Jesus follower “which is really the issue then
I’ve got to clean up my act “because I will never ever, ever “live up to the standard
these people are living with. “So before I ever
decide to follow Jesus “I have some work to do.” And Peter’s like, “I am so glad you’re
following me on my journey “because we were stunned, “we were shocked at how
comfortable Jesus was “not just with sinners
but with people “who hadn’t even
left their sin.” His point was Jesus had come
to reverse the order of things, that Jesus was the King who came to reverse
the order of things. So we continued and he said,
“So here’s what happened, “so He traveled throughout “Galilee preaching
in their synagogues “and driving out demons and a
man with leprosy came to Him.” Now, in those days,
in ancient times, leprosy wasn’t something
that was diagnosed the way we diagnose it. So almost any kind of
skin rash or skin disease scared people to death and
they immediately just put him in the category of
you have leprosy, you have to go over there
and live with those people until you’re clean. People with leprosy
in this day and age, there was a sense
in which they hung. Imagine this, they hung between heaven and earth. In fact, some of you would say this is how you feel
about your life right now. They were unable to die but they were unable
to participate in life, they were unable to die and they were unable
to participate in life. They watched the world
go on around them and they couldn’t participate, they watched their
children grow up from afar, they watched their
husband or their wife become their ex-husband
or their ex-wife and raised their kids and
raised other people’s kids, they watched people prosper, they watched the world change
but they couldn’t participate. They hung between heaven
and earth, they were shunned and no one ever touched them. And this leper comes to Jesus
and he drops to his knees and he begs Him and he says
this and this is so important. He says to Jesus,
“If you are willing, “you can make me clean.” If you are willing
you can make me clean. And in spite of what you
may have heard about faith and Christianity or faith
and religion in the past, you need to know this; that kind of faith that
this gentleman expressed is perfect faith. Perfect faith is this; confident Jesus can, hoping Jesus will. Confident Jesus can, hopeful that He will. He said, “I believe you can
cleanse me of my leprosy “I don’t know if you will,”
that’s perfect faith. And Jesus reaction to
this man was shocking. In fact, it was so shocking
that later on scribes would actually change
a word in Mark’s text to try to protect
Jesus reputation because what Peter told Mark, Mark’s like, “Were you sure?” Peter’s like,
“Yeah, I was there.” The word he used was so
shocking that later scribes tried to change it but in
our oldest manuscripts, our oldest Greek manuscripts,
here’s what Jesus said. In fact in your
English translation you may have a translation
that says this, the text says that,
“Jesus was indignant.” That this man falls to his
knees and begged Him says, “If you’re willing I know
you can make me clean.” And Jesus was indignant. In fact there was all this
emotion, almost this anger but He wasn’t
angry at the leper, He was angry at the situation. Neither the disease… He was angry that the fact
that neither the disease nor the social taboo
associated with this disease should exist, this
just shouldn’t be. And the text says and Peter says that, “Jesus “reached out his hand and…” I’m just reading Peter’s mind
for you within that context and Peter was thinking,
“Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, “don’t don’t touch him. “If you touch him Jesus, you
become ceremonially unclean. “Jesus, if you become
ceremonial uncleaned, “you know what we have to do? “We have to make a six
or seven day journey “all the way to the temple
and get you all cleaned up “before we can come back. “So look, if you’re gonna
do something for this guy “just say something
but don’t touch him.” And “He reached out his hand.” Peter said, “I’ll
never forget this. “And He touched the man,” because this is so big. Because Jesus was not
constrained by the purity laws. Peter would never forget this, Jesus chose to meet needs while ignoring ritual and political correctness because in that culture,
ritual, religious, political it all blended together and Jesus ignores political
and ritual correctness and He touches this leper
which was dangerous. But I bet Peter smiled
and he said to Mark but it was so refreshing. And Jesus said to him, “‘I “‘am “‘willing. “‘Be clean!’ “And immediately the leprosy
left him and he was cleansed. “And then Jesus sent
him away at once “with a strong warning,” there’s a lot of emotion
in this Greek term, a strong warning. “See that you don’t
tell anyone about this, “don’t tell anyone about this.” And the leper went out and
told everyone about this, (congregation laughing) every single one of them, right? But that was later. Here’s what I do want you to do, “I want you to go,
I want you to go.” Now here is the tension we
find throughout Jesus ministry and Peter’s gonna highlight
this over and over but he wants us to
see it up front. Peter doesn’t want us
to miss this He says, “I want you to go and I
want you to show yourself “to the priest and offer the
sacrifices that Moses commanded “for your cleansing as
a testimony to them,” because according to what
we call the Old Testament or the Jewish people would
call the law and the prophets, Moses commanded that if
somebody who had leprosy wanted to reintroduce to society
they had to make this long trip if they lived in this
area of the world to Jerusalem to the temple to find a priest, the priest would check them
out declare them cleansed and clean and in some cases
give them a bill of health and say, “Hey, you can take
this back to your community. “You have permission
to reenter society.” And they had to make a
gratitude offering to God at the temple. But that same passage also
says anyone who touches somebody who’s unclean also
has to make that journey and give a sin-offering because
they’ve been contaminated by something they
should not have touched. So Jesus breaks with Moses, because He doesn’t
go to the temple, He sends this other
fella to the temple and Peter’s like, “Will never forget
this, it’s like, “Wait a minute,
you’re telling him “he has to keep the law of Moses “and yet according
to law of Moses, “Leviticus five “you have touched
something unclean Jesus, “we should go with him.” And Jesus said,
“We’re not going.” Because this, don’t miss this, this was a time of transition. This was a time of transition,
the old was slowly, this is why reading the Gospels can be so confusing at times, things were slowly changing, the old was passing away, the Kingdom of God had
come because the King had arrived. And when word spread
about this healing so many people showed up
that Jesus and His guys, at this point it’s just
Peter, Andrew, James and John, the five of them, they
couldn’t even enter the towns or the villages
and yet Peter says, “I’ll never forget it. “Everywhere we went the
people still came to us “from everywhere.” And then Peter moves us
along to the next part of the journey. He says, “Jesus, eventually
we ran out of supplies.” He didn’t say that, I’m thinking that why
they had to go to town, they just ran out of
groceries it’s like, “We got to go to town, yeah, “but there’s all those people,
yeah but we can’t starve.” They eventually go back to
the major city of Capernaum probably for supplies and
people here that He’s in town and again they just
begin to surround Jesus and Jesus goes into a large home and He begins to teach
the people in Capernaum. And Peter says, “They gathered
from all over the place “in such large numbers
that there was no room left “in the house on even outside
the door and He preached “the Word to them.” And what did He preach? Here’s what He preached, “The time has come, “the time has come my
Jewish brothers and sisters. “This is what you’ve
been waiting for, “this is what your ancestors
have been waiting for. “The time has come, the
Kingdom of God has come near. “Now repent.” That is, face it and embrace
it, face it and embrace it. Embrace this new
way of thinking, this new way of living, this new way of prioritizing, this new way of seeing yourself,
of seeing God your Father and seeing the people around you. And while He was preaching
and teaching in this house, you may remember this
story from childhood if you grew up in church, “Some men came bringing
to Him a paralyzed man “carried by the four of them,” since they got this cot,
they got each one each corner and they’re outside the crowd and everybody’s
going, “Shh, shh” ’cause they’re trying to
listen through the walls and the doors to
hear Jesus teach and they’re thinking
what do we do? And you remember what they did? They went home, no. Remember what they did? This is like a
famous story Peter. Peter was there for
this, Peter said, “We couldn’t believe it. “Jesus is teaching and preaching
and teaching and preaching “you could hear a pin drop “and then we heard
something else drop “and then we looked up
there were stuff dropping “from the ceiling and then
there’s all this noise “and Jesus finally had to stop “because since the textiles…” Peter says, “Since they could
not get him in to see Jesus “because of the crowd they
made an opening in the roof “above Jesus by digging through
and then lowered the mat “the man was lying on.” Now I really wish Peter
had given us more detail, like number one; was
the homeowner there? Okay, that’s what I
always wanna know, okay? Like, “Get off my
roof,” but you’re a kid you’re throwing beer cans at
him or something I don’t know. I mean this is
like a mess, okay? This was an expensive home. One of the gospel says
it was a tile roof, they’re pulling off
the tiles and digging through all the
support for the tile, so I’d like to know that. I wanna know how
long it took him and was Jesus like getting
stuff in His hair and worse and then there’s these
little ray is of light, you know, you can just
picture this took a while. But Peter doesn’t
give us the detail, Peter’s like, I don’t want you to miss
the point of the story. So they dig this hole,
I mean through the roof, it’s a big hole and
they let this guy down, ceilings weren’t so high,
you know, in those days. He’s laying there beside Jesus and you know the sun’s
in everybody’s eyes ’cause they’ve been in this
dark part of this house. And Peter says, “When Jesus saw “their faith,” this is so important, how do you see faith? “When Jesus saw their
faith,” how do you see faith? It’s the same thing that
we saw with the leper, they were confident Jesus can, they were confident Jesus can, they’re hoping Jesus will. They’re confident Jesus can,
they’re hoping Jesus will. They’re confident Jesus can,
they’re hoping Jesus will. That’s the difference
between faith and hope. Christian faith is confident
God can, hoping that God will. And he’s laying there
and there’s, you know, you could hear a pin drop now and there’s guys
looking down, you know. And Peter says, “I’ll
never forget this. “And He said to
the paralyzed man,” Peter’s like we’re ready
for another healing, right? But Peter chose this account
because there’s a twist. “He said to the
paralyzed man, ‘Child, “‘your sins “‘are forgiven.'” And the crowd groans
because mere mortals can’t forgive sin. And the paralyzed man groans because that’s not exactly
what he dropped in for, is it? (congregation laughing) He’s looking at
Jesus like, “Well, “that’s great my
sins are forgiven, “that’s not really
why we’re here.” Right? The implications
of what Jesus said were not lost on His
audience, this was stunning. “Forgiveness? “Wait, wait, you’re announcing
this man’s sins are forgiven “and there’s no sacrifice
that’s been made? “You’re announcing this
man’s sins are forgiven “and there’s no priest involved? “You’re announcing this
man’s sins are forgiven “and there’s no
trip to the temple? “You’re announcing, in fact,
oh my goodness, Jesus, okay, “do you think you’re
greater than the temple? “Do you think you
can just walk in here “and replace hundreds
of years of tradition? “Do you think?” Look, you know, they didn’t
have apps for anything. but we got a whole
system for forgiveness. “I mean we got a way
that you’re forgiving “and you think with just a
word you can counter man, “with just a word
you can contradict, “with just a word you can
replace everything Moses “put in place in
terms of how we know “we have peace with God?” And we know that’s
what they were thinking because of what Peter tells us happened next. Some of the men in the
room, the religious leaders, “Teachers of the law
were sitting there “and they’re thinking
to themselves,” they didn’t say it out loud. “They’re thinking to
themselves, “Why does this man “talk like that? “He’s blaspheming,
He’s blaspheming. “Who can forgive sins but God?” I mean, they’d have no
category for this, Peter had no category for this, none of the guys had
a category for this. And then it’s silent again. Peter’s like,
“I’ll never forget. “Jesus just looked right at him “and He said, ‘Why are you
thinking these things?'” And Peter doesn’t say this,
so I’m filling in the gaps but I bet I know what
Peter was thinking then, “Note to self: “He can heal lepers,
He can cast out demons “and He can read minds, “we need to be very
careful around this guy.” (congregation laughing) Jesus smiles and He says, “Which is easier to say,” this is such a big deal. “Which is easier to say “to this paralyzed man,
‘Your sins are forgiven,’ which He’d already said or “Get up and take
your mat and walk?’ “This is not a trick question, “this isn’t even a
difficult question “but you guys have to answer
it which is easier to say, “‘Your sins are forgiven,’
which bothers you, “you feel like I’m blaspheming
or is it easier to say, “‘Pick up your mat and
walk out of this room?’ “Which is easier to say?” Now this is really important
for what’s going on here, it’s a little background. In ancient times, in pagan
cultures and in Jewish cultures. In ancient times there was an
assumption about a correlation between sickness and behavior or sickness as the
Jews would call it and Christians would
call it sickness and sin. That if a person was sick or
sick a long time or born blind or born with some
kind of ailment that clearly in their way
of thinking someone had sin, that sin always
results in sickness. Even in pagan times, if you had an illness or you
had a child that had a problem it’s because you had
not pleased the gods, you had not offered enough
sacrifices to the gods. So there was this
correlation and many assumed that sickness was a direct
consequence of personal sin, that there was a
one-to-one correlation. In other words,
something’s wrong with you because you did something wrong, this is the way they thought. Now Jesus, so you know,
completely rejects that view. In fact He addresses it in the Gospels He
addressed he says, “No, I don’t think people “are sick because somebody
said or they sinned.” But He held to the Genesis
view, this is so important. The Genesis view was
that on the heels of sin, sickness and death entered
the human experience. That sin opened the door
for sickness and death. So there is a relationship but it’s not a
one-to-one correlation. This is why sometimes
the wicked prosper and sometimes why the
righteous get sick and die. It doesn’t make any sense to us and we can’t make, you know,
rhyme or reason out of it because when sin
entered the world, right on the tail of sin
came sickness and death and Jesus understands that
which means what He says next. The implications of what
He says next for Peter and this guys, this was
like a point of no return. Here’s what Jesus said according
to Peter, recorded by Mark. “But I want you to
know,” because I’ve heard that He’s asked this question,
which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven or you know, pick up
your mat and walk? “But I want you to
know with certainty “that the Son of Man,” and
this is a messianic term. Now he’s adopted a
messianic term for Himself which is equally as offensive. “But I want you to
know the Son of Man “has authority on
earth to forgive sins.” But how could anyone
substantiate the claim to be able to forgive sin? There’s only one way, by physically reversing
the consequence of sin, by putting sin back in the box. So He smiles I think and He says to the
man, “I tell you, “get up and take your mat “and go home.” And again you can
hear a pin drop because if He could reverse the
consequences of sin with a word then perhaps He could
forgive sin with a word as well. And sure enough, the man picked up his mat and he walked out
and Peter says, “Mark, make sure
you get this right. “In full view of them all.” This is Peter’s way of
saying fact, check me. I was not the only person
who saw this with my own eyes and the crowds response,
“We have never, “we have never seen anything “like this.” Now we’ll get back to
the story in a minute but I want to ask
you a question. We talked about this about
four or five minutes ago, do you ever wonder if God can or would forgive you? And here’s what I mean by that. Do you think it’s possible
that God could be able to look at you if you
believe in a personal God? By the way Peter believed
in a personal God and you may struggle with
that idea which I get, a personal God that
like knows your name and knows the
details of your life, that’s hard to
believe sometimes. Peter would say, “I’m in,” but he had a unique
experience, right? But here’s the question, do you wonder sometime, if
God really could or what? I mean, He’s, you know, Jesus died for all the
sins of the mankind, okay, I got that. There’s sort of this
categorical, you know, forgiveness. But do you ever wonder
if if God really could and would forgive you? And I mean by that, that
when God looks at you, if God looks at you, when
God hears your prayers, is it possible that
God could look at you and not look at you through
the filter of what you’ve done or what you haven’t done or what you promised
to do and didn’t do or what you promised
you’d never did and you did it over
and over and over? Is it possible that God could actually forgive
and remove your sin so it’s no longer
in the equation? Is it possible that you
could have actual peace with God? Peter who knew Jesus would say, “Yes,” “And why are you so sure Peter?” Peter would say, “Because I
heard it a thousand times, “the time has come.” “Once upon a time, “we didn’t know if we
could have peace with God. “Once upon a time, “we just kept killing animals
over and over and over “and something in the
back of our mind told us, “I don’t think this is how
you have peace with God. “I think this is just
how you kill animals. “And I know we got to
go through a routine “and and we feel better when
we make our way to the temple “or when we go to synagogue
and kind of do our thing “but could this really
have anything to do “with changing the
way that God sees us?” And Jesus says, “The time has come “for you to be able to know. “The Kingdom of
God has come near. “Repent.” That is, turn in my direction
and accept what I say about you and accept
what I say about your sin. Repent and believe this good news. For some of you the best news you could
possibly get from here to here is that Jesus because
of His love for you and because of the
Father’s love for you has forgiven and
erased your sin. And when He sees you,
He doesn’t see that and you may struggle for
the rest of your life forgiving yourself, that’s
a whole another thing. But the first step
to forgiving yourself is to recognize
and accept the fact that your Heavenly Father
no longer holds your sin against you and at some point you’ll come to the point where
you realize you know what? If God who created me doesn’t
hold my sin against me who am I to hold
my sin against my self? With this account, Peter
does something else, he sets up the ongoing
conflict that we’re gonna see between Jesus and
religious leaders. When He claimed to be
able to forgive sin and when He basically replaced
the entire temple institution this made Him an enemy and word would reach
Jerusalem in no time. And in a further, in a further
episode of a future episode we’re gonna find some of
the leaders from Jerusalem making their way to Galilee
to hear what in the world is this guy teaching but that’s later. Now Peter rushes us to
this third narrative, they’re up in the
area of Capernaum, there’s all these little
fishing villages along here. One of the fishing villages
is where Peter, Andrew, James and John are from but
this is where they have to go, you know, to Costco and the
grocery store and the drugstore, okay that’s kind of the big city but it wasn’t even
that large of a city. So in this next incident
they’re actually within walking distance from their own
home and they’re walking along the lake where they
have fished for years. And these are small villages
everybody knows everybody and everybody knows
everybody’s business and nobody travels more than
maybe 25 miles from home and that’s on occasion
when they go to Jerusalem or go maybe to the Mediterranean Sea
if they’re fishermen and they decide to do
something different. But most people never travel
more than about 20 to 25 miles from home, these are his people. And he says what happened next and I’m sure just Peter
just looked up with Mark and said, “I know Mark
you’ve heard me teach “this so many times but
this, oh my goodness!” “We were walking along
the edge of the sea “and we saw, we walked up on
Levi, the son of Alphaeus,” now let me stop and say
something really interesting about this. How in the world would Mark know the name of Levi’s father? Levi the son of Alphaeus. I mean Mark’s like Greek there
in Rome, how’d he know that? Because Peter told him
and how would Peter know? Well, these this
is my community, these are my people,
everybody knows everybody. By the way the name Levi is
one of the most popular names in 1st and 2nd and
3rd century Judaism. In fact even going
back earlier than that so you can’t just say
Levi because it’s like which Levi? “Oh yeah, Levi son of Alphaeus. “Go ahead and put
that in there Mark “because after all when
my people who read this “they’re gonna know exactly
who I’m talking about “because these
things really happen, “these are actual people
with actual relationships.” “He saw Levi son of Alphaeus
sitting at the tax collectors “booth.” The tax collector
was a customs officer up there in this
major city on the lake and as you know if
you grew up in church these folks were
basically crooks, they work for the
government and they could collect really as
much tax as they could get. And as long as the government,
the local government in this case could
got their share, it didn’t really matter,
there was no fixed amount and there was really no way
to keep up with what they did or what they kept
for themselves. So consequently any Jewish man who dropped into this
role in life was despised by the people in the community and despised even in some
cases by their own family. And to make it worse,
Levi in this case, is working for a very
unpopular governor, the governor was Herod Antipas. Herod Antipas just recently had had John the
Baptist executed and people love
John the Baptist, he was like a folk
hero to the people. So they hate the governor and they hate anybody that
works for the governor and they certainly
hate a Jewish man that’s working for the
governor that everybody hates. So Levi is not in a good
standing with his community and Peter knows him. In fact it’s very likely that
Peter had haggled with Levi over customs dues and over
transit fees before in the past because it’s a small community. And now Peter is no
longer just a fisherman, Peter is a disciple of
a very popular rabbi and remember the whole
region, the whole region now has heard of Jesus and
knows what He’s up to and Peter is one of His
guys; Peter, Andrew, James and John. And they’re walking
by and they see Levi, we know him as Matthew. And Jesus stops and stares and Peter thinks,
“Yeah, I know really. “Oh! “Really it’s just disgusting, “it’s embarrassing. “I know his dad, his
dad’s such a great guy “but we don’t know what
happened to Levi, you know.” And to finish out this
trilogy of disruption Peter said, “We
couldn’t believe it. “Jesus walks over to him “and says, “‘Follow me.'” To which filling in a few
gaps I think Peter would say, “Wait, wait, before
you answer Jesus. “Come, listen, we really
got to talk about this. “Okay, look. “Okay, you know the paralyzed
guy that you healed? “Okay, remember you said,
‘Your sins are forgiven,’ okay? “No offense to paralyzed
people but how much sin “can a paralyzed man commit? “I mean, let’s just
be honest, okay? “And you forgave him of his sin “but we don’t even
know what he’d done. “Everybody knows
what Levi has done, “he does it every
single day in public. “Okay, remember you
touched the leper? “Fine touching a leper
give that what gave us well cringed you know,
but we got through that. “Rubbing shoulders with a
tax collector I’m telling you “this will cause irreversible
damage to your reputation “and irreversible
damage to our movement. “This is gonna offend the
patriotic sensibilities “of the working class
and it’s gonna offend “the religious sensibilities
of the religious class. “Jesus, I know you’re Jesus
but this is a lose-lose “if he follows us, okay? “Besides, all right? “Besides, “we already have like
the perfect small group.” (congregation laughing) “Okay, Jesus, “everybody in our little
small group is just like me “and they like me “and you know what? “And I like all of them
but nobody likes Levi, “so why would we invite
him into our group?” And then maybe he thought this,
I’m making all this part up, maybe he thought,
“Wait a minute, “this is probably
just a trick or a trap “or this is just a test because “there’s no way he’s gonna leave
this job to come follow us. “I mean, he’s making bank. “I mean, he’s like, “I mean he’s already
ruined his reputation, “what does he have to
lose by staying here? “He’s not gonna follow us I
bet this is some kind of test.” And then to our utter amazement and disgust Levi got right up
and followed Him. It’s interesting, I don’t know if this is
significant I think it is that in the rest of
the Gospel of Mark, Peter’s account of
the life of Jesus, he doesn’t record anybody else being singly called to be a
disciple or of an apostle. The only ones he’s
called by name are Peter, Andrew,
James and John and Levi in terms of the story. I don’t think he wants
us to miss the contrast and the contrast is this and maybe for some of you
this is why you’re here, maybe this is why you’re
watching or listening today. The Kingdom of God had come near. And everybody, everybody had been invited to participate in it. Even folks like Levi who had betrayed their people out of greed and Peter will confess later, “And yeah even people like me.” Peter, who betrayed his Savior out of fear. And even people like me, people like me, I’m
the preacher’s kid,
you know that means? Before I committed sins I had
already memorized the verses about those sins. (congregation laughing) I mean, I knew and know the
Bible backwards and forwards. If anybody is without excuse you were looking at the
guy who is without excuse. And the fact that I would sin, the fact that I would betray, the fact that I would lie, the fact that I would walk away, the fact that I would know
better and then do it anyway, the fact that I
wouldn’t do it I knew, the fact that I would
sin, I’m telling you, I am without excuse. So Peter, Andrew,
James and John, Levi and me and people like you, people like you, people like you, people like you, people like you
who dot, dot, dot. You know your story, don’t you? And Peter stood there that day
and Andrew and James and John and they just don’t have
a category for this, is everybody invited
to participate in this brand-new kingdom, like this brand-new King? Is so unsettling. So new, this is new way, this Jesus way would continue
to collide with Peter’s way. But as we’re gonna see
throughout this story, Peter’s way was passing away, why? Because the time has come, the time has come. The Kingdom of God, a new way of viewing ourselves
and viewing the world is near and this new way would continue
to collide with Peter’s way, Peter’s fear, Peter’s insecurity
and Peter’s prejudice and it continues to collide
with my fear and my insecurities and my prejudice and when you decide
to follow Jesus it will collide with your fear and your insecurities and your prejudice but
it is the better way, it is the way forward. So, Peter, Andrew, James and
John have a decision to make, “Do we walk away, “save our reputation? “Let them start a new group? “There goes Jesus
and Levi, see ya.” (congregation laughing) “Or “do “we “repent “and believe “this good news?” This good news that
God accepts sinners and invites them into His
brand-new kind of Kingdom. And what happened next? Whoa! What happens next? Peter must have laughed
and laughed and laughed and Mark already knew this story but he’s just getting it done. They must have laughed together when they thought about
what happened next. And we’re gonna pick
up what happened next, next week in part three of You’re Not Far, so don’t miss it.

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