Friday 21 September 2012

Bible Book:

"I desire mercy, not sacrifice." (v. 13)

Matthew 9:9-13 Friday 21 September 2012


This is quite a familiar passage, and so it's always importantto not presume that we recall exactly what is going on within thestory and within the text. I don't know how you have read thisstory in the past, and what you understand to be happening inMatthew's house. I'd always assumed (perhaps from films andanimated versions of this passage, perhaps from a lazy reading ofthe text) that when Jesus and his disciples arrived at Matthew'shome, it was already filled with people of whom the Phariseesdisapproved. But actually the story doesn't make much sense if weread it as such. It actually says that while Jesus was there, lotsof other people turned up. So, instead of Jesus going to them, theycame to him: so it's important to acknowledge that the most likelything that has happened is that all sorts of different kinds ofpeople were in the procession that seemed to follow Jesus around,and it is from these people that the characters in this scene arecomprised. How and why else would Pharisees happen upon this scenethat they regarded with such distain? They too must have been inthe procession that followed at a distance, or at least saw themovement towards Matthew's house of a large group, heading towardsJesus.

Anyway, Jesus is invited or invites himself for dinner atMatthew's home, which is probably the kind of house that you'dexpect a tax collector who had been making a profit to have.Because of Matthew's new lifestyle choice, and Jesus' insistencethat lots of different kinds of people aren't turned away, we soonhave a collection of a huge variety of people from all around thecity. This seems to be precisely the type of situation that Jesusthrives in (we are often told about him in similar places), and sowe have his oft quoted proclamation that he 'hasn't come for thehealthy' (verse 12).

This amazing group of people shows in one quick glance who Jesusis happy to be amongst, and the answer has to of course be thatChrist wants to be alongside every single one of us, for none of usare without need of a doctor, and none should therefore beclassified as 'healthy'. We may want to avoid this word, for itmight suggest to us that sinfulness or mistakes that we make leadus to be counted as sick, but the analogy should not be taken thatfar. We can happily say that Jesus' mission can and does impact onall of us, and so no-one should turn their nose up at Jesus helpinganother, for we could just as easily be considered unworthy of hispresence. And therefore, we too need his help, his guidance, hislove and his presence in our lives. That's why there was a streamof people heading for Matthew's house, and probably is why thePharisees were there too, although they probably wouldn't haveexpressed it in those terms!

To Ponder

  • Who might you be called to exist alongside?
  • What in your Christian life is attractive to others?
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