Matthew 9:9 -17
Passing along, Jesus saw a man at his work collecting taxes. His name was Matthew. Jesus said, “Come along with me.” Matthew stood up and followed him. 10 Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. 11 When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff-raff?” 12 Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? 13 Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” 14 A little later John’s followers approached, asking, “Why is it that we and the Pharisees rigorously discipline body and spirit by fasting, but your followers don’t?” 15 Jesus told them, “When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!” 16 He went on, “No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. 17 And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.”
Follow me…literally get up and come, but also follow my example. Matthew, a tax collector, part of a group not well liked, probably shunned. Called by Christ. Eating dinner with others like Matthew, a group used to being shunned by religious leaders. His disciples do not fast like others, again actions not in keeping with the status quo of the religious leaders and practices of the time. Christ makes several statements that are significant: Practice mercy, not religion; there is a time for all practices and we are to use wisdom for the correct time. Don’t put cold water on friendly fire. As cold as it is, we wouldn’t put out the fire that warms…
Christ is accused of being a bad example, but note that He is the example of putting into practice what the religious leaders teach but do not practice. Practice mercy…Also, religion is supposedly instructed to reach out to the ‘unlovely.’ In real practice the ‘unlovely’ are shunned by most ‘religious practitioners.’ Has anything changed? Do you see this today? Do we avoid those in attendance at our services that are dressed differently, or talk differently or have habits the Spirit hasn’t helped them to remove yet? Time and place… Are we good examples of what the Word teaches or bad examples? And that is not a question about personal conduct or habits; rather a question of mission and purpose. Do we avoid certain segments of society, it would be different for each individual, are we selective in who we reach out to? The Pharisee was OK with taking care of those in the synagogue, and currying favor with the wealthy. They looked down on the poor and ill. They avoided the unclean, that touch would require a period of cleansing, personal effort and inconvenience.
Practice mercy, heal/reach out to the ‘unlovely,’ what is your mission? Eat with the sinners? Sit with the poor? Touch the unclean? Or keep the rules…avoid all else?