Sabbath, June 6, 2009

“Man must be emptied of self before he can be, in the fullest sense, a believer in Jesus. When self is renounced, then the Lord can make man a new creature. New bottles can contain the new wine. The love of Christ will animate the believer with new life. In him who looks unto the Author and Finisher of our faith the character of Christ will be manifest.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 280.

1. How did the Jews regard the publicans? To whom did they compare them?
Luke 15:1
Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
Luke 7:34
The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
Matthew 21:31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

“Of the Roman officials in Palestine, none were more hated than the pub­licans. The fact that the taxes were imposed by a foreign power was a con­tinual irritation to the Jews, being a reminder that their independence had departed. And the taxgatherers were not merely the instruments of Roman oppression; they were extortioners on their own account, enriching them­selves at the expense of the people. A Jew who accepted this office at the hands of the Romans was looked upon as betraying the honor of his nation. He was despised as an apostate, and was classed with the vilest of society.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 272.

2. Who was one of this class whom Jesus called to be His disciple?
Luke 5:27
And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me.

“To this class belonged Levi-Matthew, who, after the four disciples at Gennesaret, was the next to be called to Christ’s service. The Pharisees had judged Matthew according to his employment, but Jesus saw in this man a heart open for the reception of truth. Matthew had listened to the Saviour’s teaching. As the convicting Spirit of God revealed his sinfulness, he longed to seek help from Christ… Great was his astonishment to hear the words addressed to himself, ‘Follow Me.’” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 272, 273.

3. How did he respond to the call of Jesus?
Luke 5:28
And he left all, rose up, and followed him.

“Matthew ‘left all, rose up, and followed Him.’ There was no hesitation, no questioning, no thought of the lucrative business to be exchanged for poverty and hardship. It was enough for him that he was to be with Jesus, that he might listen to His words, and unite with Him in His work.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 273.

4. What did the new disciple organize at his house and for what reason?
Luke 5:29
And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.

“In the joy of his new discipleship, Matthew longed to bring his former associates to Jesus. Accordingly he made a feast at his own house, and called together his relatives and friends. Not only were publicans included, but many others who were of doubtful reputation, and were proscribed by their more scrupulous neighbors.

“The entertainment was given in honor of Jesus, and He did not hesitate to accept the courtesy. He well knew that this would give offense to the Phari­saic party, and would also compromise Him in the eyes of the people. But no question of policy could influence His movements. With Him external distinc­tions weighed nothing. That which appealed to His heart was a soul thirsting for the water of life.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 273, 274.

5. How did the scribes and Pharisees react to the calling of Matthew and the feast with the publicans?
Luke 5:30
But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?

“The calling of Matthew to be one of Christ’s disciples excited great indignation. For a religious teacher to choose a publican as one of his immediate attendants was an offense against the religious, social, and national customs. By appealing to the prejudices of the people the Pharisees hoped to turn the current of popular feeling against Jesus.

“When the rabbis learned of the presence of Jesus at Matthew’s feast, they seized the opportunity of accusing Him. But they chose to work through the disciples. By arousing their prejudices they hoped to alienate them from their Master. It was their policy to accuse Christ to the disciples, and the disciples to Christ, aiming their arrows where they would be most likely to wound.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 273, 275.

6. What answer did Jesus give to the Pharisees? Did He approve abuse by His presence? What spiritual lesson can we learn from this?
Luke 5:31, 32
And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

“Jesus did not wait for His disciples to answer…. The Pharisees claimed to be spiritually whole, and therefore in no need of a physician….Then was it not His work, as a physician, to go to the very class that needed His help?

“But although the Pharisees thought so highly of themselves, they were really in a worse condition than the ones they despised….

“The Pharisees would not consider that Jesus was eating with publicans and sinners in order to bring the light of heaven to those who sat in darkness. They would not see that every word dropped by the divine Teacher was a living seed that would germinate and bear fruit to the glory of God.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 275, 276.

7. How did the disciples enjoy the company of Jesus? Was this a spiritual feast for them? How did Jesus present Himself to them?
Luke 5:33-35
And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.

“The Prince of heaven was among His people. The greatest gift of God had been given to the world. Joy to the poor; for Christ had come to make them heirs of His kingdom. Joy to the rich; for He would teach them how to secure eternal riches. Joy to the ignorant; He would make them wise unto salvation. Joy to the learned; He would open to them deeper mysteries than they had ever fathomed; truths that had been hidden from the foundation of the world would be opened to men by the Saviour’s mission.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 277.

8. How are we to understand His teaching about the old and the new? Does the “old garment” or “old bottles” represent the religion founded on the law and the prophets?
Luke 5:36-39
And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, the old is better.
Romans 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
Ephesians 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.

“Continuing His answer to the disciples of John, Jesus spoke a parable, saying, ‘No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old….’ The mes­sage of John the Baptist was not to be interwoven with tradition and supersti­tion. An attempt to blend the pretense of the Pharisees with the devotion of John would only make more evident the breach between them.

“Nor could the principles of Christ’s teaching be united with the forms of Pharisaism….’No man putteth new wine into old bottles….’ The faith that works by love and purifies the soul could find no place for union with the reli­gion of the Pharisees, made up of ceremonies and the injunctions of men. The effort to unite the teachings of Jesus with the established religion would be vain. The vital truth of God, like fermenting wine, would burst the old, decay­ing bottles of the Pharisaical tradition.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 278, 279.

“There are those who profess holiness, who declare that they are wholly the Lord’s, who claim a right to the promises of God, while they do not render obedience to His commandments. These transgressors of the law claim every­thing that is promised to the children of God, but this is simply presump­tion…. Obedience is the true sign of discipleship.” –Gospel Workers, pp. 226, 227.