Tuesday

21 September 2021

Matthew 9:9-13

‘I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’ (v. 13)

Psalm 119:65-72

Background

Matthew was  a customs officer working for King Herod Antipas and would have been dealing with Gentile tradespeople every day. For those reasons the Pharisees would have regarded him both as a traitor and ritually contaminated. But this does not matter to Jesus.

Verse 9 in which Matthew immediately leaves his post to follow Jesus, is clearly an abbreviated account of the event. Matthew must have tidied his desk and handed in his notice or his employers would have pursued him!

Verse 10 mirrors the attitude of the Pharisees. ‘Righteous’ implies observance not only of the law of Moses but of their strict interpretations and rituals. Correspondingly ‘sinners’ is a wide description of all who did not follow them and were therefore regarded as beyond the reach of God’s approval. For Jesus however such people are precisely the ones who are of concern to God, and he quotes Hosea 6:6 in support: "For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." Sharing a meal with them is a demonstration of that.

To  Ponder:

  • Does the quotation in verse 13  "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" rule out formal worship altogether? What is the reason for your answer?
  • What might this passage be saying to you about your own practice of hospitality?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England.

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