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“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, ‘Follow me,’ so he got up and followed him. While he was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when He heard this, He said, ‘Those who are well do not need a doctor, but the sick do. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” (Matthew 9:9-13)
For Jesus to call Matthew, a tax collector, was a big deal. In Jesus’ time, tax collectors were viewed as traitors, Jews who had turned against their own people to help the Romans with their continued oppression. They often became rich by overtaxing the Jews and taking the money for themselves. Tax collectors were reviled by the Jews. They weren’t welcome anywhere or by anyone.
Not only did calling Matthew not go over well with the other disciples, it definitely did not go over well with the Pharisees. Once Jesus called Matthew and he accepted, they gathered at his home for a dinner party. This was where the Pharisees found them and made their objections known.
“While he was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:10-11)
Jesus Knew the Opposition
What I love so much about this story, and about Jesus, is that He doesn’t care about their objections. He knows there is opposition between Jews and tax collectors. He knows how tax collectors are viewed by others. He knows that spending time with sinners is the unpopular choice. He’s not interested in any of this; He’s only interested in saving souls. I love His response to them:
“But when He heard this, He said, ‘Those who are well do not need a doctor, but those who are sick do. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” (Matthew 9:12-13)
As I look at this story and Jesus’ response, I try to apply this to my own life. Right now in our country, there is a lot of political and social unrest. We’re letting our differences, whether it be race, gender, sexuality, political affiliation, religious beliefs, or more, divide our nation.
Looking at Others Through Jesus’ Eyes
What if I stopped focusing on what makes us different and focus on what we have in common? What if I looked at others through the eyes of Jesus?
Imagine if we started viewing others as Jesus did? Instead of focusing on differences, we made a point to look at others through eyes of love and acceptance. What an impact we could make!
The Bible states, a house divided will fall (Mark 3:25). Division gets us nowhere. The only way to survive and defeat all the “isms” (racism, sexism, etc. ) is to instead seek unity.
“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” (Psalm 133:1)
God, thank You for creating us each so differently. Help us find a way to live in peace despite these differences and to find a way to connect with others. May we seek out unity and see others as Christ does. Amen.