Title: The Covenant Authority of the King
Text: Matthew 9:9-17; Mk 2:14-22; Lk 5:27-39
FCF: We often struggle understanding the depth of our wickedness and the inability of right living to change it.
Prop: Because we are wicked and no outward action can change that, we must have our hearts changed, not just our actions.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew chapter 9. You can also write down the two other gospel accounts where these historical episodes are found; Mark 2:14-22 and Luke 5:27-39. Last week, Matthew attempted to convey to us the authority of King Jesus, to both be the judge of the quality of men’s faith, and have the right to determine if that faith was worthy of forgiveness. He is ultimately the judge of mankind’s spiritual condition. Today, continuing the theme of the spiritual condition of man, Matthew desires to show us how Jesus has the authority to update the covenant of God with His people. He has the authority to modify or fulfill this covenant because He and the Father are one. In two separate instances we will see today how Jesus rejects the principles of what Judaism had become – emphasizing the ceremonial and ritualistic elements of the Mosaic Covenant and abandoning the moral and even internally applied law of God. He instead shows the true reason for the Old Covenant, its purpose and plan, and what He is offering will not patch work this old covenant, but will instead fulfill and replace it. A message of great hope but also of great difficulty. I am in chapter 9, I’ll start reading in verse 9 from the Christian Standard Bible, but follow along in whatever version you prefer.
[Slide 2] For the sake of time, let’s jump right to it. It is the plague of man to struggle comprehending both the depth of our wickedness and subsequently we also struggle comprehending our inability to live rightly enough to change the depth of our wickedness. What the Old Covenant was supposed to have taught the Jew and what it still teaches us today, is that God’s righteous standard is unreachable. And without sacrifice and rigorous ceremonial adherence, they would have no way to make uneasy peace with God for their failure to keep His law. But what the blessed New Covenant teaches, is that those covenant obligations have been fulfilled positionally in Christ and will be fulfilled practically in Christ as we are clothed in Him. What that means is that we can be forgiven of our sin and changed to be law-keepers and actually keep the law. Not in our own effort, but by the marvelous grace of our loving Lord. In the New Covenant the Ceremonial aspects of the Old are completed and shown to be beautiful prophesy concerning how we might be washed clean, once and for all. These two concepts relating to the Old and New Covenant are the subject of Matthew’s next 9 verses. First we see that for most Jews under the Old Covenant, they failed to see their wickedness next to God’s righteous standard. [Slide 3] For it is only those who see their own spiritual depravity that can be healed of it. Look with me.
I.) Those who are humbled to see their own spiritual depravity can be healed of it, so we must have our hearts changed, not just our actions. (9-13; Mk 2:13-17; Lk 5:27-32)
a. [Slide 4] 9 – As Jesus went on from there He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the toll booth
i. From both Luke and Mark we see this same account with a man known as Levi. Since the events are recorded almost identically, it is highly unlikely that this is another person. Therefore, it is most likely that Levi was the name of Matthew prior to his conversion.
ii. From Mark we also know that Jesus went to the lakeside and was walking and teaching while he went. So he didn’t just walk by Matthew’s tax booth, he was teaching too.
iii. Matthew was a publican. A publican was a Jew who bought a tax collection franchise from Rome. They would collect and over collect for the government. Rome wouldn’t have cared so long as the people did not revolt and they got their tax. Publicans would have been one of the most vile among Jews because not only were they stealing from the people, but they were traitors to Israel.
b. And He said to him, “Follow me,” and he got up and followed him
i. From Luke, a special emphasis is added that I think we need to take note of. Luke says that he left all, got up and followed Jesus.
ii. The other disciples could always go back to fishing because their job did not contradict scripture nor did it obligate them to a secular employer. But for Matthew, he could never return to collect taxes. He was changed forever and could never do this again. And even if his conversion was fake, the Roman government would not have allowed him back in.
iii. For Matthew, after hearing the teaching of Christ, and then being told to follow, it cost him everything.
c. [Slide 5] 10 – While he was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came to eat with Jesus and his disciples
i. From Matthew’ gospel it seems a bit unclear in English how we got to a house eating at a table all of a sudden.
ii. However, in Greek, it is clear that this is Matthew’s house – in fact Mark and Luke make that much clearer.
iii. We also see from Mark that many tax collectors and sinners came to eat, because that was the majority of the crowd Jesus was drawing.
d. [Slide 6] 11 – When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
i. Mark tells us that these were scribes that were Pharisees or scribes and Pharisees, in any case, the religious elite questioned Jesus’ choices here.
ii. If you are asking why would they do this again? – remember that this was before the Sermon on the Mount was preached. Keep that in mind. Matthew is trying to prove the authority of Jesus as King, and one of the ways he is doing that is proving that He has covenant authrity over the law of God. We are about to see the Old and New Covenant collide. Ready?
e. [Slide 7] 12-13 – Now when He heard this, he said, “It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous but sinners.”
i. We have an interpretational challenge here.
ii. IF we take what Jesus says at face value, we come away with the impression that the Pharisees were righteous and healthy people that Jesus didn’t want to spend time with because they didn’t need Him.
iii. From a linguistic perspective only, you could arrive at this conclusion. However, you would have to ignore the entire context of the New Testament, and more specifically, the context of the book of Matthew. And even more specifically, the context of the next few verses.
iv. So rather than seeing this as a statement of general fact, we should probably see this instead as a matter of perspective. What do I mean by that?
v. Jesus is saying that those who think they are sick, go find a doctor. But those who think they are well, have no need of a doctor. That doesn’t mean that the one who thinks they are healthy are actually healthy. It just means that they will not seek out a doctor, nor would a doctor come to them if they acted healthy.
vi. Jesus also includes a quote from Hosea 6:6 here which indicates that God desires the heart of a man to change and not just his actions. He is not concerned primarily that they offer ceremonial or ritualistic sacrifices, but that their lives would be full of loyal love toward others and toward God. Love that is faithful and forgiving. By saying “Go and Learn” it is a idiom to basically say – “you ought to know this, so before you step to me with your accusation, you better go back and review cause you are not prepared for this argument. You are gonna get destroyed”
vii. So to rephrase what He was saying with the illustration of a doctor, Jesus did not come to call those who considered themselves to already be righteous – because what is He saving them from? He came to call those who considered themselves sinners.
1. Now I had a question recently, and while I don’t want to get into Calvinism vs. Arminian debate today, the question did revolve around the concept of how depraved are we?
2. Certainly we see people do good things that are not Christians. Many in the Catholic Church are good and morally upright people. Mormons as well.
3. So how can we say that people are depraved totally? How can we say that people are wicked? How can we say that people are without any good in them? It seems counter to our experience with people.
4. Like so many things in this ancient debate, I believe it is simply a matter of perspective.
a. [Slide 8] From our perspective, walking through life, seeing the good and the bad that humanity offers, we see a balance. We see two opposing forces. This has been a concept of thinking for quite some time. The eastern symbol of the Yin-Yang that in all darkness there lies some light and in all light some darkness. Even a more western philosophy known as Zoroastrianism which compares two forces of good and evil which wage war against one another.
b. [Slide 9] However, from God’s perspective, as indicated in James 2:10, to fail in one chain link of the law of God, is to bring the whole law crashing down on you. From God’s perspective there are no shades of grey. You are wicked or you are righteous. Indeed, all our works of righteousness are like filthy rags to God Isaiah 64:6. And since none are righteous, all are wicked.
c. And purely from a scriptural perspective and not from experience, we see that God’s perspective and the bible’s perspective must be true, even if it disagrees with our experience.
d. So when people do good things, it is never enough to indicate that there is good in them or even that they are good people, because God is the one who defines who is good, and Jesus Himself said, that there is none good but God.
5. But why bring this up now?
6. [Slide 10] The word for sinner here is a word that elsewhere in scripture is translated depraved or detestable.
7. This is not a person who sees themselves as someone who has committed sins, but instead as a person who can only commit sins. Not a person who has missed the target, but a person who only had one arrow and missed the target. There is finality here. There is hopelessness here.
8. So a person who considered themselves helpless, sends for a doctor. Even the most stubborn of people, who avoid doctors like the plague, when they are in a situation that their life is at risk, they go to the hospital.
9. And Jesus did not come to call those who sit in their home and refuse to believe that they need Him… He came to help those who desperately need Him.
[Slide 11 (blank)] There is a phrase that has been floating around for a little while now. The phrase goes something like this…The Church is not a museum for the saints it is a hospital for sinners.
I whole heartedly agree with the first part. The church, the people of God, are not here to have empty faith that is dissected like a science project but yields no life change. However, I don’t think that the church is a hospital for the sick, but rather a Med School for Doctors. We come here to learn about our savior and King, and become more and more like Him every day. We then take that message, our life, to the rotting world that needs an transfusion of the life giving blood of Jesus. Which we should be a living example of. We are the church. Not this building. So the unsaved don’t come here to be healed. Doctors come here to be better doctors – Believers come here to be more like Christ the Great Physician.
But there is another application I want to draw from Jesus’ words here.
It goes back to Matthew 7:6 – Doctors cannot give the inoculation to those who are convinced that they are not diseased. When we preach the gospel we must focus our efforts on speaking condemnation to the proud and grace to the humble. Jesus preached condemnation to the Pharisees and grace to the Sinner. We should too.
As we leave the safety of the flock to administer the inoculation against sin (hows that for a mixed metaphor J) As we do this – we will encounter those who are convinced that they do not need the inoculation because they are not sick. Jesus’ only message to the religious and proud was condemnation. Why? Because they must be humbled to see their depravity before they can realize they need a savior from it. Jesus also encountered several who were at the end of their rope, they were humble and desperate. They were pagans. Tax Collectors. Thieves and adulterers. His message to them, was not condemnation, but grace. Not excusing the sin, but offering a solution for it. We must emulate our savior.
When we present the gospel we give condemnation to the proud and grace to the humble. The law to the arrogant and Jesus to the broken.
But so often we give Jesus to everyone and the law to no one.
Let us be like Jesus, even when and if we tell others about Him.
f. [Slide 12] The last item before we move on has to do with whether or not - To Repentance – In the text or no?
i. There is a textual variant that is included in some versions of verse 9, if you have a KJV or NKJV especially. It adds that Jesus is calling the sinners to repentance.
ii. In Luke’s account of this, there is no such discrepancy as to whether to repentance should be included. In Luke it is included even in the manuscripts that exclude it in Matthew
iii. So should it be in there? Who knows
iv. But let me just say this… if it is not obvious by now that the call of Jesus is to Repent and Believe then I have failed you as a pastor.
v. Regardless of whether the text includes it or not, it is true across the board that Jesus’ message was to repent and believe. And here it is obvious, whether you include it or not, that that is exactly what He means.
[Slide 13 (blank)] So we have seen that those who know they are sinful can be healed of their sin, while those who do not know or worse, think they are fine, are not ready. This was, as Paul tells us, the intent of the Old Covenant. To instruct, as a school teacher that we are all sinners. Yet, obviously for many, they failed to listen to the teacher. Now we will see our King hint at the New Covenant and its relationship to the Old. How it will perfect and replace, fulfill and update the old covenant and produce a people who actually love God and serve Him in Love as they are infused and indwelt with His Holy presence. But this revelation comes with a stern warning. [Slide 14] That those who staunchly cling to religious ritual, are missing the blessed hope of this new covenant. Look with me in verse 14.
II.) Those who staunchly cling to religious ritual have missed the blessedness of the new covenant, so we must have our hearts changed, not just our actions. (14-17; Mk 2:18-22; Lk 5:33-39)
a. [Slide 15] 14 – Then John’s disciples came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
i. John’s disciples are, of course, John the Baptist’s disciples. This was probably all taking place while John was in prison.
ii. A question that I had to ask myself was, why did disciples of John exist? Why wouldn’t they have become disciples of Jesus?
1. From all the sources I could find I acquired some basic and discouraging answers.
2. John the Baptist’s job was to be the last prophet of the Old Covenant. So until he dies, he continues to be the messenger in the wilderness preparing the way of the Lord.
3. Before Jesus shows up, he amasses quite the following. But after the baptism of Christ, his disciples were supposed to follow Christ, while he continued to tell others about the Messiah.
4. What we have here then, is a bunch of people that are the forerunners of the Judaizer. Essentially, they continued to follow John the Baptist, knowing the Messiah had come, but trying to adhere to the practices of Judaism at the same time.
5. No wonder they fit in so well with the Pharisees. They were still steeped in their legalism.
iii. Fasting in 1st century Judaism was a form of mourning for sin and of seeking connection to God.
iv. Of course to many Pharisees and scribes, it was also a way to gain spiritual honor from the people, to look at them and consider them to be pious.
v. Jesus never condemns the act of fasting, in fact, his disciples fasted many times after the resurrection and ascension. And in chapter 4, Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness while he endured the temptation of Satan. So fasting cannot be wrong, nor can it inherently woven to the old covenant.
vi. However, you’ll notice in the text the word often. You see the Pharisees and John’s disciples were fasting every week. What was intended to be a heartfelt and private activity to repent and recenter, had instead become a public ritual, perhaps to reconnect to God, but also to be seen of men.
vii. We might hope that John’s disciples were not doing it to be seen of men, nevertheless they had, at least to some degree transitioned it into an outward expression with little or no inward reality.
viii. In contrast, Jesus and His disciples did not mourn or fast and the reason is yet another testament to the great Covenant authority of the King of Kings – to update the agreement between God and Israel to a new and better agreement. Jesus answers John’s disciples by foreshadowing the great transition from old covenant to new through some illustrations.
b. [Slide 16] 15 – Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests be sad while the groom is with them? The time will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.
i. When a groom is with the wedding guests, everybody parties. When the wedding is over, everybody stops partying.
ii. So Jesus is indicating that there is absolutely no reason to feel sorrow or remorse right now. Why? Because God is among them. He is walking with them and His name means Yahweh Saves. He has come to break the chains of sin and free His people. So why mourn? Why grieve? Why try to reconnect with God? He is right there…
iii. But there will be a time when he will be taken away – crucified.
c. [Slide 17] 16 – No one patches an old garment with unshrunk cloth, because the patch pulls away from the garment and makes the tear worse.
i. What happens to brand new fabric after being worn and washed? It shrinks.
ii. So if you get a hole in an old pair of pants and you take a patch of perfectly fitting material from a pair of new pants, and you sew that into the hole of the old fabric, what will happen after you wear and wash it? It will shrink. And the threads holding it to the old jeans will cause the shrinking cloth to tear away from the old cloth.
iii. Jesus is saying that the Old Covenant had not accomplished the purpose that God intended it to, because of the hardness of the hearts of the people. And rather than try to smoosh the new covenant into the old and have them work together somehow… instead we need a full replacement.
iv. We don’t need Windows service pack 1,879 – just give us a new Windows
d. [Slide 18] 17 – And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. No, they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.
i. Ok, so being good Baptists we know absolutely nothing about wine right? Right. So let’s skip this verse… NO!!!!
ii. In case you didn’t know, grapes go into fermentation quite quickly. Yeast, mold and bacteria naturally grow on the outsides of the grape. When the exterior of the grape is mingled with the interior the yeast and bacteria begin to absorb the sugar of the grape. The byproduct is alcohol and carbon dioxide.
iii. So new wine is wine that has just begun its fermentation process. Now if you are thinking that New wine means it was grape juice, you are mistaken. New wine is not grape juice. It is wine, but wine with a low alcohol content. It would have been sweeter – not sweet like juice, but sweeter than old wine. However, the longer that the wine was kept without drinking it, and as long as it wasn’t exposed to extreme temperature, it would continue the process of consuming the sugar and producing a higher alcohol content and releasing more carbon dioxide.
iv. So how are you going to transport large quantities of new wine? In a day when there were no refrigerated vehicles and no pasteurization process. In the days when a trip to the city could take you a day or two round trip… you had to make beverages transportable.
v. So the tanned skin of an animal would be used to transport fluids since they would not easily be broken and are easier to strap to you rather than jars.
vi. But the release of carbon dioxide is inevitable. And with it the wine skins would be stretched.
vii. Early in the life of the wineskin, this wouldn’t be a problem. But after the leather became older and hard, the stretching would take its toll and eventually the wineskin would break open.
viii. You could store the old wine in the old wine skins to preserve it.
ix. But where do you store new wine? New wine skins. You don’t risk putting new wine into a well used wine skin. It will only lead to disaster.
x. And the Lord knows that His new covenant was not compatible with the old one. Because the old one could not contain the new.
e. [Slide 19] From Luke – only real difference – He adds a saying about no one having drunk old wine, immediately desires new wine because the old is better. Or perhaps another reading is no one having drunk old wine desires new wine because the old is good
i. The main take away from this is that there is no one who would sit down and drink from a glass of old wine and then desire to drink from a glass of new wine. Why?
ii. Because old wine, wine that has completed its fermentation process is the best, it is of the greatest value. It is of the greatest taste and highest alcohol content.
iii. Frankly, It is better at being wine. New wine is, wine in progress.
iv. So is Jesus saying that the Old Covenant is the best covenant? Of course not. Is Jesus saying that getting plastered on wine is good? Um… NO.
v. What He is saying that the Old covenant has been given great value. It had become comfortable. Jesus in a sense is saying, it is not odd that your are asking these questions. Of course you desire to keep the old. Because the old is what you have been taught is best, and of great value.
vi. But the new is better. The new is best. The new… is the best you’ve ever tried.
vii. He is simply stating that men tend to cling to what they are used to, and for these disciples of John the Baptist… that message really hits hard. Because they are standing on the fence of the new and the old. Jesus is saying, let it go. Something better has come. Go against your natural inclinations to cling to the old – and embrace the new.
[Slide 20 (blank)] God is not and never has been impressed by our rigid adherence to a moral code or ethical standard. It wasn’t true in the Old Covenant and it isn’t true in the new covenant. In fact every false religion that has ever existed has adopted this mindset of slavish adherence to a moral code or ethical standard set out by some higher power or being. Even Atheism boils down to slavishly pursuing what makes you happy in this life, whether that be knowledge, pleasure, or success because this life is all there is so make the best of it.
But how easy it is to go back to the old wine. How tempting it is to moralize and conform. If we can just try harder. If we can just do this, do that. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. If we don’t smoke, chew or run with those who do. If we don’t get divorced, if we go to church, if we read our bibles, pray every day… If we can just follow all of what God has given us we can be what God has called us to be… but friend. We can’t.
You say but Chris haven’t you been preaching on and off lately about the importance of obedience. Of course. Obedience is critical to living a life for Christ.
So… that seems like a contradiction.
It isn’t. I’ll tell you why. Jesus.
Nice Sunday School answer…
No really. Jesus.
In Christ we are made new. In Christ we can obey. In Christ we can be holy. In Christ we can change. We aren’t changing to be in Christ… we are in Christ so we change. You can’t be a good Christian by changing on your own. You surrender yourself to the leading and direction of Christ and he makes you a good Christian. Do you understand?
The old Covenant seems best. It seems best to try to do it on your own, until you realize that the Old Covenant’s purpose was to instruct you, like a school teacher, that you can’t do it on your own…
Then the whole system comes toppling down on your head and you realize that God was never after your actions, HE WAS AFTER YOUR HEART.
Wholesale, inside to outside, supernatural change. Not reanimating a dead body to some zombie state – but bringing you to LIFE AGAIN! Remaking you.
This legalistic way of viewing Christianity must end here folks. We need to stop trying so hard to obey Jesus and simply surrender to Him working in us.
That is what it means to believe. Perhaps you have repented. You thought… yes I am wicked save me. But you have never believed. You have never placed all your hope on being made new in Christ and Christ alone.
Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone and that salvation is salvation to being made new. Not in the next life but in this one and continuing to the next one.
That is belief and that is the glorious beauty of the new covenant … fulfilling the old covenant and making people new.
Stop trying to be good for Jesus and cry out to Him in dependence on Him and let Him make you good. Then… in faith… clothed in His righteousness… dependent on His power… obey. If you fail, it is because you are like Peter and have taken your eyes of the Lord. If you succeed it is because the Lord has sustained you.
So boiling all this down into one succinct take home point, what can we learn from today’s message to help us live more like our master?
God from before the foundations of the world, set in motion a plan to make new those who had been spiritually dead. It was never His design to establish a written code of ethics whereby His people would be enslaved to follow it without error. He gave His law, only a fraction of what He could have given them , and He gave it so they would conclude that they need Him. That they can’t do it without Him. That something is wrong with them. That something, deep within is broken and defective.
And yet, they lied to themselves that they could keep it. Or ignored the parts they couldn’t. Even excusing it as a lesser command among greater commands. Character gave way to ceremony. Righteousness to Ritual.
God then gives a new Covenant where He replaces the broken and defective heart with one that is alive. He invades the soul of the dead to bring it to life again. His Spirit penetrates them and makes them new. Not to adhere to a law… but to be a people. To love God. To Love others. To be little Christs walking the earth.
But people don’t want to be little ambassadors for Christ They would much rather go to church, read their bible, pray every day and go to heaven. They would much rather check boxes off their list each day to prove to themselves, and maybe to others, that they are exactly what God wants them to be. So they can chase away the nagging thoughts of inadequacy.
But doesn’t dependence necessitate feelings of inadequacy? Doesn’t it take feeling inadequate to truly be dependent?
Our inadequacy without constant dependence on Christ should echo our wickedness without atonement from Christ. We are just as dependent on Him today as we were the day we converted. In fact, I take that back… We are MORE dependent on Christ now than when we were converted.
The New Covenant is not a dressed up version of the Old. We can’t accept Christ as our savior and get our bus ticket to heaven and expect to do His will in our own strength and power. And it is just as ridiculous to accept Jesus as our savior while still believing that we aren’t that bad of a person.
The old and new covenant operate hand in hand where one points to the need for a savior, and the other the changing power of that savior.
Only God – the creator of the covenant is at liberty to update and reform the agreement. And Jesus and the Father are one.
Are you still living a pre-new covenant life?
[Slide 21 (end)] If you are a partaker in the New Covenant there are two things that are and continue to be abundantly clear
1.) Outside of Christ you are desperate and wicked and unable to be who God wants you to be.
2.) In Christ you are adopted and righteous and able to be who God wants you to be.
So if one or both of these things have never been part of your faith – I’d ask that you come talk to me and learn what it is to be a New Covenant believer
But if both of these are absolutely proven over and over again to you – my conclusion is simply this… Do not waver from depending on Your King to continue the work He began in you.