In our passage today Jesus, who is part God come down to earth, is now moving about the neighborhoods of ordinary people. These Jews of tradition and legacy are people just trying to make a living while under the oppression of the Roman government. If that oppression wasn’t enough, there is more burden placed on them from the Jewish religious elite.
As Jesus teaches, He is awakening the ordinary people with real love, mercy and grace. The people have not experienced anyone like Jesus. They are happily surprised by His new teaching in story form. They not only understand but they adore Him and love to hear Him speak. His teaching is not about more rules to follow but about God and how He loves them and wants them to love and serve Him. He teaches God’s true intent about The Law created for the good of His people.
Jesus is also awakening the religious elite who have fought all their lives to rise to power in the ranks, not in serving and loving God’s people. They know only enough about God to use His Law to their advantage. They know The Law well enough to find loopholes while twisting it to their need.
The zealous religious are teachers of The Law. But their focus is not God or His people, it is only on self preservation, manipulation, pride, and greed as they lord it over the ordinary to line their pockets while consorting with the enemy. Their made up rules demanded obedience, not from their elite but for the ordinary people “under” their control. The ordinary were harassed and were are punished with no mercy if the man-made rules were not followed or if one of the religious teachers decided he needed more money.
This is the back story to the calling of Matthew. Jesus comes into this community of oppression and demonstrates what God had originally called priests to be;
–righteous (in right relationship with God),
–holy (humbly asking God to cleanse their hearts)
–teachers who listened to God and did what He said (helping people know God and do what He says for their good)
–humble servants who obeyed God.
Instead these men became focused on themselves, their own power, greed and dishonesty. They no longer knew God. God had no place in their hearts, no thoughts in their minds which produced only darkness in their souls.
When there is no love of God in our hearts, fear rises to the surface quickly when self is threatened with Truth. Self-made power easily diminishes to nothing in the Light of God’s power, love, mercy and grace. Jesus is that Light, shining on all that is not of God.
The Calling of Matthew
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
“GO AND LEARN WHAT THIS MEANS”
Today, we all need to evaluate our hearts, minds and souls often as we move about our world. Why do we do what we do? Do we do all in the Name of Jesus for the glory of God? Do we know what Jesus’ teaching mean?
Do we judge other’s faith without seeing the what is rotten in us? Do we know God’s Word well without having a relationship with Him? Do we “do church” without being the church? Do we use God’s Word as a weapon against our true enemy, the devil who seeks to destroy? OR do we point the way to Truth and Life, helping people find and follow Jesus, too?
A tax collector was deemed a cheater because he could decide what to charge the people on top of what was required for the Roman government. That was his “fee” for collecting. That’s how he made his living.
Jesus comes along and asks Matthew, a despised cheater, to leave this life for a life with Him. Matthew, the writer of this passage, is obviously excited and honored to be asked. He celebrates his new “calling” by throwing a party! He invites the only friends he has…other tax collectors! Jesus was then introduced to others who needed Him. Go and learn what this means.
When we found Jesus and committed to following Him, did we throw a party for our friends?
“Go and learn what this means”. Jesus wants us to think about who to tell our story of His saving grace.
Jesus also want us to show mercy to others like He showed it to us. There is plenty of opportunity in our world to do just what this means. Go and learn. Then do.
Lord and Savior,
We are consistently learning as we go as we realize the depth of your love and obey you when you invite us to your work. You are amazing. You call the ordinary to join you. You called me. I am your servant and I am listening. Thank you for saving my soul.
In Jesus Name, Amen