by Duane Maust
June 5, 2005
Matthew 9: 9-13
I have these tags passed out to give us something to remember how great God’s mercy is. It comes to you and I just the way we are. God’s love and grace for our sinfulness comes to us despite what we did or did not do. His mercy is there for every one of us. I would like each of you to put your tag on during the service and then give it to someone this coming week and explain that Jesus will take you “As is.” Please accept my handwriting as is.
This idea comes from a book titled Everyone’s Normal Till You get to Know Them. The author is John Ortberg.
You can go to different stores and buy merchandise at greatly reduced prices. You will often find a tag on these items that says the words: as is. When you buy a use car “as is,” its motor may be ready to blow.
You know right away that these items are damaged or something is wrong.
I went to the Frank Cochran Center to a tool sale several months ago. They had leather jackets there for about a 1/5 of the normal cost. I bought one for a gift for my brother. I didn’t see anything wrong with that coat. When my brother put it on, it fit perfectly. When he zipped it shut, he realized the zipper was reversed. He still wore it, but it takes some concentration to zip it.
They don’t tell you where the flaw is. You have to look for it. You know it is there somewhere. Because the rule for these items is usually: No returns, No refunds, and No exchanges. They want to get rid of it.
When you deal with human beings, you have come to the “as is” corner of the universe. Think for a moment about someone in your life. Don’t say any names. Maybe the person you know best, love most. That person is slightly irregular.
That person comes with a little tag: there is a flaw here. A streak of deception, cruel tongue, out of control temper. They are not going to tell you where the fault is, but it is there. Sooner or later you will see what it is. We each have faults. Some are more obvious.
We all want to be normal, but the writers for the scripture insist that no one is normal, at least not as God describes normal. “All we like sheep have gone astray.”
I like what John Haddington said, “I have been comforted for more than 20 years by the thought that Jesus welcomes, not only sensible sinners, but stupid ones as well.”
This is what I want us to get today. Jesus came into the world and saw sin as it really is- with all of its heartache and filthiness. He died because of sin, but he always had great love and compassion for those who sinned.
Now I don’t think Christ was soft and weak and afraid to condemn sin. Time and time again Jesus stood before the sinner and said, “Go and sin no more!” But he was never so blinded by their sin that He did not see the good in them- qualities that were worth saving and redeeming.
In our text today we read that the disciples were questioned. “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, he said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus loved people. He understood what it was to see people with their “as is” tag and accept them anyway. And in his acceptance of us, he has mercy on us. Regardless of how sinful or dumb we are. I want you to see Jesus- His attitude toward sin and His attitude toward the sinner. Let’s look at how Jesus encounters several people.
Let’s take a look at the woman at the well. John 4:1-42. This is a Samaritan woman. Jesus is going against tradition when he goes through Samaria. When noon came, he sat down by the well near the Samaritan town of Sychar while the apostles went into town to purchase food. As Jesus sat there, a woman came out of the city- a woman who was tired of being gossiped about, tired of being the object of jokes by the respectable people of the town. Her “as is” tag was so obvious she didn’t need to wear it. The people knew her.
She came to the well not expecting anyone there at noon. They should be resting where it was cool. But to her surprise, she found someone, and a Jew, of all people. She looked at Jesus, but didn’t say a word. Quickly she went about her business- lowering the bucket down the well and drawing up the cool clear water. She filled her water pot and took a drink and started to leave.
As she did, Jesus asked, “Will you give me a drink?” She wheeled around and asked Jesus, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”
When you look at this account, realize how skillfully Jesus tore down all the barriers. Gradually, He worked around to the real problem in her life and soon he was saying to her, “Go, get your husband and come back.” Jesus was not afraid to approach the subject of her tag.
I think we can assume that there was something about the tone of Jesus voice and the look in his eyes and his whole manner that caused her to realize that Jesus wasn’t trying to tear her down. He saw something good within her. He saw something there that was worth saving and gradually he led her to see it herself.
Jesus was willing to endanger his reputation to stop and talk to this woman. Imagine the apostles returning and finding Jesus talking to this woman.
For the first time since her childhood this woman was seeing kindness and love in a man that was pure and wholesome. He was not someone who wanted to use her and misuse her, not someone who avoided her in self-righteousness because they saw her tag. Jesus saw her as someone beautiful and worth saving.
She was so excited that she left her water pot and rushed all the way into town and ran around town telling people that she had just met a man who told her everything that she had ever done and “could this be the Christ?”
She found a man who saw her tag and accepted her “as is.”
The people from town came running to see Jesus, Jesus turns to the apostles and points toward the people and says, “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
What about us here today? Do we need to sit with Jesus at the well? Maybe we need to be lifted up to see ourselves as really worth something in his eyes. Jesus is someone who will look at our tag and take us “as is.”
We have Matthew, who was a tax collector, and we have Zacchaeus, who collected taxes. These were not very popular guys.
Zacchaeus was a neat little guy. He had one problem. Jesus was coming through town and Zac couldn’t see Jesus. He was too short to see over the people. Zacchaeus, a man of great wealth and dignity, decided to do the very uncool thing of climbing a tree so that he could catch a glimpse of Jesus. So here we have a grown man up in a tree so he can see. Perched up there where he thought nobody would see him. All he wanted was a glimpse of Jesus.
When Jesus gets to the sycamore tree, he looks up and everyone else probably looks to see what Jesus was looking at. What animal is that? I can almost feel the blood as it rushes to Zacchaeus head. He must have turned all different shades of embarrassment. The people there did not need to read his tag.
Then Jesus says to him, “Zacchaeus, come down, for I am coming to your house today.”
All he wanted was a glimpse of the savior, but he received a personal invitation from Jesus to come down to walk with him. And then Jesus invited himself to his house. And before the day was over, Zac was so impressed by Jesus that he repented of all his sins and agreed to pay back all those he had cheated money from. And pay them back 4 times what he cheated them.
It’s amazing what happens in our heart when we know someone has seen our tag and accepts us “as is.”
“All have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3: 23) We all have dark sides. But Jesus stands before us and says, “What I want for you is not punishment, but forgiveness.
Jesus says, “I see your tag and I am willing to take you as is.”
Jesus’s mercy will reach each one of us.