Stories, thoughts and reflections on the Bible from the WSFC Staff.
“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. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13
If I had to create a short list to start a religious movement, Matthew would not have been my first (or even twelfth) choice. He did not check any of the obvious boxes for an apprentice to the Savior of humanity.
This Jewish tax-collector was seen as a traitor to his people.
He was sold out to nation over God.
He chose greed over generosity and deception over integrity.
He had a reputation for building wealth for himself and Rome on the backs of the less fortunate.
This is who Matthew was, but it was not who Jesus saw. Jesus saw a man worth an invitation. An invitation to follow the Creator of the Universe. And, an invitation to eat together. But not at just any table. At Matthew’s own table.
Jesus invited himself over.
Jesus made Matthew feel so seen and accepted that Matthew invited his other friends over. Friends who he may have kept distant from any other religious leader in their day. Tax collectors and sinners. Broken people. Lost people. Greedy people. Roman-indoctrinated, anti-religious people. But they all found themselves sharing a meal with the one who knit them together in their mothers wombs.
Jesus ate with those He was morally opposed to. How could He do this? He could do it because He didn’t just see them at face value. Jesus saw what could be redeemed. He saw where their brokenness was and where He could bring restoration. He didn’t see them sick, He saw what could be made healthy. The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world already saw them on the other side of the cross. And on that day, He sat and ate with them.
Jesus sets a table for those in need of a savior. People like you and me. Tax collectors and sinners. Because as much as we’d like to see ourselves as Jesus in this story, we’re not. We are Matthew. We are the outcasts in need of welcoming arms. We are the ones who religion declared not good enough for a spot at the table. And in some cases, we are also the Pharisees – because even they were sick… they just did not know it yet.
We cannot place ourselves as Jesus in this story, ready to be the savior to people around us. We are merely the attenders and gatherers, setting the stage for Jesus to minister.
This week, set a place at your table for those who may not come to your church yet. And let the presence of Jesus around that table minister to them like He’s ministered to you.
Pastor Cris Buck