12. While Jesus was ministering in a certain town, a man came along who was covered up with leprosy. As soon as he saw Jesus, he literally fell on his face to the ground, and with great emotion started begging Him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can heal me...You can make me clean!"
13. Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man that society considered untouchable, and said to him, "Hey...I'm totally willing...you don't have to beg...be clean!" And just like that the leprosy completely left him.
14. Then Jesus said to him, "Look, don't tell anyone about this...but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing as a testimony to them."
15. But, of course, there was no way to keep something like this quiet. The news about Him spread even more, and very fast. As a result, huge crowds of people came to hear Him, and to be healed of their sicknesses and diseases.
16. But when the crowds got bigger and more demanding like this, Jesus withdrew to lonely places to pray and to meditate.
17. One day as He was teaching in the home of someone, some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to listen to Him. People had come from every village of Galilee, from Judea, and Jerusalem on this occasion, and the tangible power to heal the sick was present and unusually strong that day.
18. And some men came carrying a paralyzed friend of theirs on a mat, and tried to get him into the house to lay him before Jesus.
19. But the crowd was too thick and tightly packed into the house, so when they realized that they couldn't find a way to get through, they just went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles, into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20. When Jesus saw their innovation, and the proactive way that their faith manifested into action, He said to the man, "My friend, all your sins are forgiven!"
21. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were offended, even scandalized at these words, and began thinking to themselves, "Who does this upstart think He is? And why does He so glibly speak blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
22. Jesus instinctively knew what they were thinking and asked them, "Why are you thinking these things, internally?
23. I mean, which is easier...to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up off of that stretcher and walk'?
24. Allow Me to demonstrate this concept to you, and to show you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." Then He said to the man, "Get up! Pick up your mat and go home, whole!"
25. And immediately he stood up in front of all of them, picked up what he had been lying on, just as Jesus instructed him, and went home praising God.
26. Everyone there was amazed by the whole scenario, and gave praise to God. They were all filled with awe and said to one another, "Remember what took place on this day...we have seen remarkable things here!"
27. Not long after this Jesus encountered a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office, as he did every day. When He saw him, He focused His entire attention on Him, and, without wasting any words, said to him, "I want you to join Me right now as a disciple, and follow Me wherever I go."
28. These words were so direct, authoritative, and inexplicably compelling to Levi, that he completely left everything in his life as a tax man, and got up right then and there to follow Jesus into a completely new and different reality.
29. One evening, Levi (also known as Matthew), hosted a great banquet in Jesus' honor at his own house, and invited a large company of tax collectors, and others of dubious reputation. And all of these people were comfortably reclining at the table with Jesus, laughing and talking with Him.
30. Now the Pharisees and their scribes were complaining about this, and protesting to Jesus' disciples, saying, "Why are you all eating and even drinking with these tax collectors and openly sinful people?"
31. Jesus overheard them and said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick.
32. I haven't come to invite and call the ones that everyone assumes are righteous, but the ones who are perceived as the unrighteous...the ones who are considered the worst of the worst...and the ones who, indeed, need to change their ways by changing their mindsets."
33. Then they said to Him, "Well, the disciples of John practice fasting often and offer up prayers and petitions...and so do the disciples of the Pharisees...but Yours spend all their time at parties, eating and drinking with riff-raff!"
34. And Jesus said to them, "Do you think you can make the wedding guests fast as long as the bridegroom is with them?
35. Look, the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and then, believe Me, they will do their fasting."
36. He also told them a proverb, saying, "No one puts a patch from a new garment on an old garment, because, if he does, he will tear the new one, and the patch from that garment will not match the old one.
37. In the same way, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the fresh wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled everywhere, and the skins will be ruined.
38. The bottom line is this...new wine must be put into fresh wineskins!
39. No one, after drinking fine, aged wine immediately desires new wine, for he says, the old is good or better. So, in other words, I am having to show you a whole new way to think about how you perceive right and wrong...about how you discern what is 'acceptable' and what is 'unacceptable'...about who you think is fit or unfit. My intention is to turn your minds into new wineskins, and to create within you a taste and a craving for the new wine!"