21 September 2007

Matthew 9: 9-13

"As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, 'Follow me'. And he got up and followed him... When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners? But when he heard this, he said, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice". For I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners'". (v.10-13)


Jesus was a Jew; and Jews believed that as the Chosen People, God would work through them. They further believed that in order for people to be right with God, they had to join up with the Jews. 

By his words and actions, Jesus showed this was definitely not the case. 

He ate with social outcasts. He made friends with people of bad reputation like tax-collectors, some of whom deserved the reputation they had. Tax collectors in the Roman world were seen as collaborators with the occupying forces. Some were known for enriching themselves at the expense of others. But Jesus seemed to enjoy their company. 

What an attitude; what an example! The Pharisees, who were the upholders and teachers of the Jewish Law were disgusted. How could this man who spoke so earnestly about God, even think of acting like this? 

Then came the body blow: 'I came to give attention to those who are deemed ne'er-do-wells'. Jesus was accused of not toeing the party line and therefore having invalid and improper views. 

Today is the feast day of St Matthew. The disciple Matthew was a prime example of Jesus' emphasis on those who were deemed below par. Yet look what an asset he was; what a life for God he lived. 

The commotion and the opposition had begun!

To Ponder

Are you offended or encouraged by Jesus' choice of friends?

Where is the balance to be struck between spending energy and caring for believers and those who are in the judgement of some below par?

Bible notes author

Revd Wes Blakey

Revd Wes Blakey is a native of the north east of England. He served in circuits in Lancashire and Newcastle upon Tyne before being appointed to Chair of Nottingham & Derby District.