Tuesday 21 September 2010

Bible Book:
Matthew

"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.12-13)

Matthew 9:9-13 Tuesday 21 September 2010

Background

Today the Church celebrates the life of the disciple and apostleMatthew.

Today's passage is one of many where Jesus comes into conflict withthe Pharisees. The Pharisees were a particular grouping of Jews inNew Testament times who kept strict food and purity practices asset out in Moses' holiness code (see Leviticus 10-17, for example). Many Phariseesinitially respected Jesus as an observant Jew and teacher, but thenrejected him when he flouted these regulations. To do so was, forthem, entirely scandalous - it was not just that it wasinappropriate, but it struck at the very heart of their religiousfaith.

Tax collectors were despised by Jews of their day. They were oftencorrupt and became rich working as Jewish agents for the Romangovernors in their own communities. That Jesus would call one ofthese to become his disciple, let alone eat with them and other'sinners' was highly offensive to the Pharisees. Why would a holyteacher behave this way?

Jesus uses the Jewish Scriptures themselves against the Pharisees.When challenged he responds by quoting the prophet Hosea, "For Idesire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of Godrather than burnt-offerings" (Hosea 6:6). Jesus uses the same versedefending himself against the Pharisees in Matthew 12:7, knowing that to do so wouldconfuse and silence his accusers.

But what does Jesus mean? He is not saying that the way people liveand their behaviour does not matter. Rather he says that fullnessof life in community is not just about following rules andexcluding those who don't follow them. The mercy or "steadfastlove" that Jesus hopes for among his followers is a sign of themercy that God extends to all people. The teasing irony of Jesus'teaching here is that from his standpoint the Pharisees wereequally 'sick' and in need of a 'physician'.

To Ponder

In your opinion, how has behaviour in church(clothing, seating, style of worship, minister) changed over thepast 50 years in the UK?

If you have lived in another country, what aresome of the differences between behaviour in UK churches versuschurches there?

How should we deal with something we findoffensive in church?

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