The “As Is Tag”
In stores from Sears to Sam's there is a little section off in the back corner of the store where you can always find a little section of merchandise that is usually a great deal. The prices are usually several dollars less that the exact same item would be in another part of the store. The tip off is a usual two-word phrase that you see on the tags, or on a sign hanging somewhere in the area: As is.
Sometimes they are called slightly irregular, sometimes they are called seconds but whatever you call them this is another way of saying, these are damaged goods. The store has given you fair warning: This is the department of something’s gone wrong. You are going to find a flaw, a stain that won’t come out, a hole, a zipper that wont zip a seam that’s not straight, there will be a problem. These items are not normal.
We are not going to tell you where that flaw is. You are going to have to look for that, but we know that it’s there. So when you find it, and you will find it, don’t come whining to us. Because there is a fundamental rule in this corner of the store: No returns, No Refunds, and No exchanges.
If you were looking for perfect you have walked down the wrong isle. You have received fair warning. If you truly want this item you must take it, As Is.
I have this wonderful book in my office that was written by John Orteberg. It was worth the price of the book for the title alone, “Everyone’s Normal Until You Get To Know Them”. If you have ever dealt with another human being in your life you know the truth found in the title on his book. When you interact with other people you have entered the “As Is” section of the universe. Think for a moment about someone in your life. Maybe the person that you know best and love the most. If you were honest you would have to admit that that person was slightly irregular. In dealing with perfection if you walked down the people isle you are in the wrong place.
Sometime ago a magazine article caught my eye. “Totally Normal Women Who Stalk Their Ex-Boyfriends” It was the normal part that struck me. What would a normal woman look like? What would a normal man look like? And if the obsessive stalking of an ex-love was not just normal but totally normal what would you have to do to be a little strange?
We all want to be normal, but the writers of the scripture insist that no one is normal, at least not as God describes normal. The Prophet Isaiah put that idea to rest when he wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” But we do have hope; 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."
That is what I want us to see today. Jesus came into the world and saw sin as it really is, with all of its heartache and filthiness. He died because of the sin but He always had great love and compassion for those who sinned.
Now I don’t believe that Christ was a soft, weak, sentimentalist who never condemned 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 for this morning we read the question, "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 fully understood what it was to see people with their “as is” tag and accept them anyway. And in His acceptance He made us what we want to be. Today I want us to look at Jesus’ attitude toward sin, and His attitude toward the sinners. Jesus has no problem taking us like we are, but He cannot allow us to stay that way. Let’s look at three people and their encounter with Jesus.
The first broken person I want us to notice is The Woman At The Well in John 4:1-42
Jesus going against tradition went through Samaria. When noon came He sat down by the well near the Samaritan town of Sychar while the apostles went on into town to purchase food. As Jesus sat there, a woman came out of the city, a woman who was tired of being the butt of gossip, tired of being abused, and the object of jokes by the respectable ladies of the town. Her “As Is” tag was big enough for everyone to see and she was surely the topic of discussion.
So to get away from that, she had come to the well at noon, expecting no one else to be there. 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 into the well, and drawing up the cool, clear water. She filled her water pot, took a drink herself, and then started to leave.
As she did, Jesus asked, "Will you give me a drink?" Now, at first, the woman was irate at the request. She turned to him and with sarcasm and said, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?"
Now, when you reread that account, realize how skillfully Jesus tore down all the barriers. The woman wanted to change the subject but Jesus wanted to change her life. Gradually, He worked around to the real problem 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.
When she heard that, she said to Him, "I have no husband." and Jesus responded, "You are right, in fact you have had five husbands, and the man you are living with now is not your husband." If you or I had said that to a woman, I would imagine that we would soon find ourselves in serious trouble. But there was something about the tone of His voice and the look of His eyes and His whole manner that caused her to realize that Jesus wasn’t trying to tear her down. Rather, He saw something good within her. He saw something there that was worth saving, and gradually He led her to see it herself.
Now understand, Jesus probably endangered His own reputation. Here He was, not only talking to a woman, but to a Samaritan woman of poor reputation. I imagine that when the apostles came back and saw Jesus talking to this woman, that not even those Galilean fishermen were ready for this kind of scene. Probably they were greatly disturbed by what they saw.
But look at what is really going on here. We have heaven’s holiest being; Jesus, the Son of God, God in the flesh; talking to a woman who is the object of jokes, has a poor reputation, and known by all to be immoral. But Christ sees something in her beautiful and worthwhile.
For the first time in a long time this woman was seeing kindness and gentleness 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, but one who saw something beautiful in her and something worth saving.
She was so excited that she left behind her water pot, ran to town and proclaimed to all the people that she had just met a man who told her everything that she had ever done and, "Could this be the Christ?"
In Jesus she found someone who saw her tag, and accepted her “as is”. Now what about our community? Or even closer to home what about Park Central? How many of us are sinners, feeling beaten and defeated? Maybe we need to sit with Jesus by that well. Maybe we need to be lifted up to see ourselves, too, as someone really worth something in His eyes. Someone who will look at out tag and take us “as is”
The second encounter I want you to notice this morning is The Woman At Simon’s House found in Luke 7:36-50
Simon, who was a very influential Pharisee, had invited Jesus to his home to eat. We don’t know why he had invited Him. Maybe it was because Jesus had gained some notoriety, and either Simon was curious, or he wanted to rub elbows with someone who was famous.
As they were eating, a woman comes off the street and fell at the feet of Jesus and anointed His feet first with her tears and then with perfume from a container that was around her neck. She had no napkin, no towel, so she used her own hair to dry His feet.
It may have been her clothes, or the fact that she probably wasn’t wearing a veil, or maybe Simon had done business with her before. Whatever it was that gave her away it was there and everyone in the house, including the host saw her “As Is” Tag, and it brought different reactions.
While we are not told the reaction of the disciples in this text, Matthew's account says that they were angry that Jesus would allow this to happen. Once again Jesus is doing something weird, and a bit embarrassing.
Simon was disgusted, and he said to himself, "If this man were really a prophet He would know what kind of a woman she is." You see Simon was a lot like us and he missed it all. Jesus was a prophet, and He knew exactly what kind of woman she was. And I am sure that Jesus also saw her tag, but He saw something there that Simon could not see, Jesus accepted her remorse and repentance.
The Disciples saw waste. Simon saw a woman of the streets. The disciples saw deep sin, and Simon saw a person who needed to be punished for her sin.
But Jesus saw a sinner who needed forgiveness, and whose life could be turned around. She had broken the law, but she wasn’t alone in that. They "all had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." The law said that she ought to be put to death. But Jesus said that she needed forgiveness and help.
What about our community, what about you this morning? How many of us have fallen short of the glory of God and deserve to be put to death? Maybe we need to sit at the feet of Jesus. Maybe we need to look into His eyes and see someone who will look at our tag and take us “as is”
Finally this morning I want us to notice Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10
I love Zacchaeus. He was a wee little man with a huge problem. He learned that Jesus was coming through his city, and that was something he wanted to see. Evidently, he arrived a little bit late, as Jesus was making His way through the streets of Jericho. Zacchaeus was unable to see Him. He couldn’t see over the people because he was too short. He couldn’t see around them because the people were too close together. It was too dusty to see underneath them, so he couldn’t see anything at all.
So Zacchaeus, a man of great wealth and dignity, decided to do the very un-cool thing of climbing a tree so that he could catch a glimpse of Jesus. I have always thought that that was one of the most ridiculous stories in Scripture. There is Zacchaeus, a grown man, climbing a tree so that he can see over a crowd of the people to see Jesus walk by. Now I’m not sure how old he was but the thought of climbing a tree is not exciting to me at this point in my life. But here we see Zacchaeus doing just that so he could get a glimpse of the Savior.
But as Jesus walks by, He stops underneath the Sycamore tree and so does everybody else. Jesus looks up, and so does everybody else. And they all saw there hanging in the branches Zacchaeus, tag and all.
Can’t you just see him as the blood rushes to his face and he turned all different shades of embarrassment. It’s one thing to have a tag, and we all do, but it is another thing entirely for us to put ourselves in a position where all eyes are on us. Have you ever done anything like that? Can you feel his embarrassment?
But once again we see Jesus doing only what a Savior would do. Incredibly He says, "Zacchaeus, come down, for I am coming to your house today."
All Zacchaeus wanted was a glimpse of the Savior, but Jesus gave him so much more. Jesus invited Zacchaeus to come down to walk with Him. And then the Lord invited Himself to his house. And before the day was over, Zacchaeus was so impressed by Jesus that he repented of all his sins, paid back all those he had defrauded through the years 4-fold, and became one of the bright shining lights in all of the New Testament.
It’s amazing what happens in our heart when we know someone has seen our tag and accepts us “As Is.” So here we are this morning. Everyone of us has broken the law. Our tags are big and in plain view. There is no way to hide them.
All of us "have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God." We’re all guilty. We deserve to die without any hope. We deserve to die in the misery of our sins, 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”.
The most amazing thing is that once Christ has accepted us, He doesn’t leave us in that state but he restores us. To a new life, He takes all of the damaged goods out of our life and makes us brand new. Once again He extends the loving arms of invitation to all sinners, regardless of the degree of our sin, or the number of our sins. He invites you to come and allow Him to transform you to the abundant life you were created to have.
Questions For You To Consider
Why is it so difficult for us to admit our brokenness?
This morning Jeremy said that “the woman at the well wanted to change the subject, but Jesus wanted to change her life.” In what ways are you trying to change the subject?
What are the ways that you try to hide your brokenness?
We like our brokenness because it’s easier to stay broken than it is to change; but Jesus wants us to experience better. What difficult things do you have to do in order to get better?
If you were to experience abundant life, what would that look like?
If that is the life God created you to have, then what effort do you have to make to achieve the life you were created for?