Evangelistic Service

The “True Love” for Sinners

Matthew 9:9-13

Today, we will have a testimony by Mr. Yuta Komatsu.  A testimony is when a person talks about how Jesus Christ worked in their life, and how they came to believe Jesus as their personal savior.  Mr. Komatsu, please.

(Testimony by Mr. Yuta Komatsu)

Thank you, Mr. Komatsu.

Now, today is November 29th.  The year is almost over in about a month already.  Originally, we were to have had the Tokyo Olympics this year, but it has been postponed until next year, and we are being affected by the new coronavirus still.  So, I think many are watching this worship service via the internet, too.  There may be people who are watching the worship service of our church for the first time today, too.  

Today is gospel worship service.  Gospel means good news from God.  What kind of good news is the Bible teaching us?  Let’s study it together.

By the way, there is something that is really drawing my attention watching the coverage on TV and the internet these days.  That is the sense of apprehension that the society is becoming stricter than necessary, getting more and more intolerant than before to those who made mistakes or committed crimes. 

Of course, it is better not to makes mistakes.  Committing sins is bad, and they should naturally be punished according to the law.  I’m not trying to say it is bad to point out mistakes and sins, but it may be going too far. 

For example, we are still now being exposed to the threat of the new coronavirus.  In rural areas, there are harassment to people who are from other prefectures.  You might recall that there were troubles like rocks thrown at cars with plate numbers from other prefectures, or harassing letters sent to those who had come home for a visit from other prefectures. 

Healthcare professionals being discriminated against, and their children not being accepted at nursery schools, has been reported.  Furthermore, there was the shocking incident of an infected person being ostracized by their neighbor, and committed suicide.  How that person was infected is not known.  However, just being infected is hard and unfortunate enough, but being treated as a social pariah by people had been neighborly until recently so much so as to take their own life.  How awful is that? 

It is understandable that many people are stressed due to the various restrictions forced upon them because of the coronavirus pandemic.  We get that there is fear towards secondary infection.  However, we cannot excuse harassment, discrimination, or ostracizing because of it.  That is a different matter. 

Also, I think public bashing is becoming more extreme every year against remarks made on social media or misconduct by celebrities these days. 

Of course, misconducts like infidelity and crimes are not good.  I’m not approving nor condoning them.  However, I do feel strongly disconcerted seeing that person being thoroughly thrashed about how bad they were day after day.  Under the name of the freedom of the media, and the right to know, reporters rush to their homes and their family’s homes without any consideration to disturbing the neighbors be it night or day. 

Also, it is often that what celebrities say on social media go up in flames.  Not thinking at all of what the writer’s intentions were, even unrelated people slander them just because they don’t share the same sentiment. 

What both examples have in common is that they don’t consider at all how the other person would feel, how much they would be hurt, and just criticize them.  The ones criticizing is not responsible for anything.  I can’t help but feel the mood that the bad one is the person who caused the trouble, and that person has no right to complain or to defend themselves whatever they are said or done to. 

In reality, when a person makes a mistake or sins, they lose the trust of people around them.  There might be cases where they would receive social sanction by the law.  With that, they would feel remorse, and regret.  Their heart will be scarred deeply.  It is natural.  However, for the surrounding people who have not directly suffered damage to attack the person saying it is natural seem to be too much. 

This is just my personal analysis, but haven’t we been influenced unawares by such society and become extremely fearful of making a mistake?  I think people who attack are blaming and disparaging other people as an outlet to the pressures and stress they are under.  I am even beginning to think that by attacking other people, they are looking away from the weaknesses and slyness in themselves, trying to maintain that they are living more righteously than the other person. 

Thinking about such things, I recalled the lyrics to the song “Sejo (the state of society)” by Miyuki Nakajima.  “Waves of slogan chants go by, unchanging dreams sought in the flow . . .” You may have heard it. 

It was the song used in the TV drama series “3rd Year B Class, Mr. Kinpachi” aired in 1980 - 81.  The theme was “The Equation of the Rotten Tangerine,” and the scene where a student got arrested for school violence sent a big shock wave in society.  The drama likened delinquent junior high school students to rotten tangerines, and depicted that if bad people were not taken out of the group, they would spoil the other good people.  You may remember it.  For those of you who don‘t know it, sorry.  Please rent the DVD.

“Sejo” was a song released in 1978, so the social background is different from now, and the interpretation might be different from the intent with which the author Ms. Nakajima wrote it, but I think these lyrics expresses the problem in today’s society, too.  For example, “Likening what is unchanging to something, every time I fall apart, put the blame on it,” or “The world is a very timid cat, so it is always telling trivial lies, by seeing through lies like bandages, the scholars think they’ve seen the world,” are some of the lyrics.  The word “Sejo” means the state of the society, but it also has the meaning, “mercy of the world.”  At the time the song was written and even now, it sounds like it is highlighting the societal problem of people feeling the stress and unreasonableness of society, but keeps on seeking the unchanging kindness and mercy of people somewhere in their hearts.  Each person will have their own interpretation, but what do you think?

Now, the preamble has gotten very long.  I need to talk about the good news in the Bible.  Today, I would like to look at it from the Gospel of Matthew.  I will read Matthew 9:9 and 10.  Please look in your handouts.

9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.

There was a tax collector named Matthew.  He was one of the twelve Apostles who followed Jesus Christ, and it is the scene that became the catalyst for him following Jesus.  He was disliked by everyone, namely, Jews. 

Tax collectors collected taxes for the Roman Empire from the Hews.  The tax collectors were really hated by Jews.  Because they collected unjustifiably high taxes from the Jews to line their wallets.  Tax collectors paid the taxes set by the Roman Empire from the money they collected from the people, and kept the rest as their income.  The Roman Empire did not involve itself in the issue of how much the tax collectors were making.  They did so on purpose so the dissatisfaction and criticism of the people would be turned against the tax collectors instead of the empire.  That is why the tax collectors were so thoroughly hated by the Jews. 

To such Matthew, Jesus gently called out, “Follow me.”  In those days, Jesus was already becoming famous for having amazing power to heal many sick people, and one to preach the truth gently from the Old Testament.  Matthew probably knew about it, too.  I think though perplexed, he must have been really happy.  After becoming a tax collector, aside from conversations he had when collecting taxes, he must not have talked much with other people.  Even among other tax payers, he would not have had a heart to heart relationship with one he could call a friend.  Occupationally, he would have been relatively rich, but walking down the streets, he wouldn’t have had people greet him in a familiar way by anyone, but rather, people would have eyed him with fear and contempt, avoiding him.

So he must have thought to introduce such kind Jesus to tax collectors who would be suffering and hurting in the same way he was, and prepared a banquet.  It might have been that he felt this much joy and happiness for the first time in years.

Seeing such a scene, the Pharisees critically questioned Jesus’ disciples.  Please look at verse 11. I will read.

11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

The Pharisees were the opposite of tax payers and were admired by people as the elite of the Jewish society.  They were well versed in the laws of the Old Testament, and kept them strictly themselves, being in a position to instruct the people.  However, they prided themselves in their strict adherence to the laws and their knowledge of the Bible, and criticized and looked down on the people who were not obeying the laws, and kept their distance from such people.  There were many whose interest were focused only on how they could become more greatly admired and praised.  Such attitude was a far cry from what law of the Old Testament taught saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and was also sin. 

Hearing the contemptuous question of the Pharisees, Jesus answered them with a brilliant parable.  I will read verses 12 and 13. 

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

No one can argue against the example of, “It is not the healthy, but the sick who need a doctor.”  The job of a doctor is to diagnose properly what and how a patient is ailing, think about how the person could recover, and provide specific treatment and advice. 

Here, Jesus is comparing the sick to people who have sins before God.   That is why he says in verse 13, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  “The righteous” are people who believe they are right.  Of course, such people have no awareness of their sins.  They are like the Pharisees. 

Jesus Christ says that he came to this world to give specific advice and treatment to people who have sins before God and who wish to recover from the illness of sin. 

God gave humans the laws in the Old Testament to teach that we could never meet the perfect standard of holiness and righteousness of God, that we are sinners before God.

The laws stipulate that sinners must confess their sins before God, offer animal sacrifices, and seek God’s forgiveness through the sacrifice of the blood and life of the animal.  It meant that sins required the price of life. 

Actually, this forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of animals was the foreshadowing of the cross of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ came to this world as the sacrifice to forgive human sins.  Jesus clearly answered the purpose for which He came to this world here. 

In verse 13, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’”.  They were supposedly very familiar with the laws, but in time, they came to be satisfied only with keeping to the sacrificial ceremony.  However, what they should have done was to be aware that they, too, were sinners before God, and those sins are forgiven by God’s love and mercy through the sacrifice of life stipulated in the laws that God had given them in the first place.  In addition, they were to reach out to sinners themselves to encourage them to become aware of their sins, and teach them about God’s love and mercy.

Jesus called warmly out to Matthew, shared a meal with them, and expressed love to them.  Also, later on, went on the cross himself to receive the punishment for human sins on their behalf, and in exchange for his life, asked God’s forgiveness for the sins of people, showing true love.  Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees that they should go out to sinners themselves and practice love in the same way.

Now what exactly is sins of humans before God? 

The Bible declared that all humans have sins before God, that there is no one without sin.  Even if you have never stolen anything, been violent against someone, you may have lied, deceived, taken your frustration out on others, assumed someone to be bad based on rumors alone, looked down on people without morals, pretending not to have seen people who had been shunned or been in trouble, etc.  There would be no end to the examples I could give.  Not thinking of the God of the Bible to be God, thinking we don’t need God in itself is sin in the first place.  Being told so, we must admit there is no one who is an exception to this. 

In addition, the Bible teaches that sins have severe punishment.  I will read Romans 6:23.  It is the second Scripture passage on your outlines.  First, I will only read the first part of verse 23.

23 For the wages of sin is death

It says wages, and it means something to be received as expected.  The Bible points out that the result of sin is certain death.  And the death here is not only the death we will eventually experience.  It is saying that humans with sins, after they die, will to be sentenced with a second death that is eternal destruction.  The Bible teaches that eternal destruction is suffering that is far surpasses any suffering, grief or unreasonableness that we would experience on this earth, and that there will be no end to that suffering. 

Furthermore, the Bible also teaches that the chance we have for receiving the forgiveness of sins from God is only during the time we are alive.  If we die without being forgiven of sins, we would never again receive God’s mercy and love. 

Then, what do we sinners have to do exactly to receive God’s mercy and love that is forgiveness of sins?  The Bible also indicates the specific way in which we could receive forgiveness of sins from God.  I will read the continuation of the Scripture verse of Romans 6:23 that we looked at before.  Please look in your handouts. 

23 The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The gift of God means that it is a one-sided gift from God.  The Bible teaches that it is eternal life in Jesus Christ.  Eternal life is literally life that is eternal with which we can live eternally in heaven that is filled with God’s love and blessing after we end our lives in this world.  It is the opposite of the eternal destruction that I mentioned before, and is a special life given only to those who have been forgiven of sins by God.  The Bible says that in heaven, there is only joy and blessings.  

At the beginning of today’s sermon, I touched upon the present society being more intolerant than necessary towards those who have made mistakes, sinned, or misconducted.  God in heaven also is very strict towards human sins, and will never accept them.  However, at the same time, God loves each and every one of us truly.  Because of that, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to be the substitute for the punishment of human sins, to pay the price of life.  Jesus Christ receiving the punishment for our sins in our place, that is “the true love” that God expressed. 

Jesus called out gently to Matthew, “Follow me.”  “To follow” meant to believe me to be the savior from sins.  Now, Jesus is calling out gently in the same way to us, too.  In order for our sins to be forgiven, it is enough to believe Jesus Christ as one’s savior.  Believing Jesus Christ to be the savior.  I don’t think it is a very difficult thing.  Nothing is said about living a life without sinning after this, or understanding the Bible to the last detail, or your family religion to be different.  Such things can be considered in time after believing Jesus Christ. 

Knowing that we are sinners before God, and in need to be forgiven of sins, realizing that God is urging us to believe that Jesus Christ became the sacrifice to forgive our sins, then we are only left with just believing Jesus as the savior.  I know I’m being repetitive, but just by believing, we are forgiven of our sins before God. 

Now, I will pray a prayer to believe Jesus Christ as one’s savior.  Those of you who wish to believe Jesus, please pray with me.  Those of you participating through the internet, too, please join in prayer.  I will pray in short segments.  You do not need to pray out loud.  If you will, please pray with me in your heart.  Let’s pray.

“God in heaven,/  before you /   I realize I too, have sins.  The reason Jesus Christ  /  died on the cross /  was to forgive  /  the punishment for my sins  /  I thank you  /  Today   /  I believe  /  Jesus Christ  /  as my savior.  /    Amen.”

Let’s continue in prayer.

Heavenly God, we thank you that you put Jesus on the cross for the punishment of our sins.  However, God, even now, we unconsciously criticize others, or our mind moves to outcast other people.  God, please protect our hearts.  Also, if we are pressed to agree in saying bad things or criticizing other people, or expected to exclude someone at school or the workplace, please give us the courage not to give into such bad peer pressure.  We pray these prayers in the name of our savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

I think there are people who prayed the prayer to believe Jesus with me.  Those of you have certainly received forgiveness of sins from God today.  Salvation by believing Jesus can never be taken away whatever happens.  You have been given true love and hope that last eternally from God.  Please continue coming to church.  Let’s deepen our understanding together of how full of love our heavenly God is, and about the wonderfulness of Jesus’ cross.