S (Scripture): Matthew 9:9 As Jesus continued on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at a kiosk for collecting taxes. He said to him, “Follow me,” and he got up and followed him. 10 As Jesus sat down to eat in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and his disciples at the table.
11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 When Jesus heard it, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. 13 Go and learn what this means: I want mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.”
O (Observation): Jesus associates with outsiders here in this text. Faith in God – for the likes of the Pharisees (and many others) – became about how closely one could follow the rules, and less and less about showing love and mercy to one’s neighbor. If you were a faithful follower of God, you would avoid becoming unclean (by eating with the group Jesus was eating with). If you are with the likes of “sinners and tax collectors” you would certainly become unclean. That would be a big no-no.
Jesus, however, flips things around. He says he has come to these outsiders to show them mercy. Jesus quotes the Old Testament book of Hosea, conveying a message of mercy. Jesus seems to be narrowing his focus on showing mercy, rather than just showing how good he can be at keeping the rules. The harder choice seems to be dealing with the people, rather than avoiding them.
And even though Jesus calls them “sick” I don’t think we need to think of them as less than others. Perhaps their “sickness” comes from the fact that they are pushed aside by society. Perhaps being “sick” meant that they were not followers of the same rules / laws as the Jews. In a faithful (yet misguided) attempt to follow God, many Jews pushed sinners and tax collectors away, rather than find a way to share the joys of following a merciful God…for they, surely, have been shown mercy, too.
A (Application): I have crossed several boundary markers these past few years. And each time has felt very much in line with God’s call for me and my family. I have associated with many groups that might be considered “sick” or “outsiders,” though I don’t see them as such.
Muslims, folks from the LGBTQIA community, prisoners, DACA recipients. In each of these communities, I see people. Perfect? No. (But who is?) I see people with whom I share something in common: a need for mercy. I need mercy just like these folks need mercy.
Our God throughout the Old Testament brings mercy to the Israelites time and time again, in order that God’s covenants / promises would be upheld.
We all need equal access to God’s Word…to God’s mercy. When the Church spouts hateful rhetoric, people get the idea that God is hateful…which is very unfortunate and pushes people away. The world needs to see the face of the benevolent God that I have encountered and who has embraced me.
May you encounter this benevolent God today!
P (Prayer): Lord, may you see the faces of all people and inspire all people to receive your love this day. Amen.