by Josiah Potts
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Pic by by The Jungle Photo
The story of Jesus seeing Matthew the Tax Collector and calling him to be His disciple (Matthew 9:9-13) has to be one of my favorite passages. Jesus entered the earth in a time when the Roman Empire was aggressively expanding. Prophecies of a Savior had been announced and the children of Israel were awaiting upon His arrival.
They had the expectation that the Messiah would show up and establish His earthly rule while smiting those who opposed the devoutly religious. Their expectation of the Messiah executing justice on the earth was crushed when they discovered that His mission was about including all of humanity in His plans for redemption.
Those who believed that they were God’s chosen people held beliefs that were oppressive. They marginalized people under the guise of the “will of God.” Stoning people to death who were caught in sin, and believing that certain illnesses were a form of punishment from God, are among some of the most prominent ideologies held by religious leaders of the day.
They began to classify people as deserving or undeserving, and outsiders were automatically disqualified. Within their own community the qualification for ‘deserving’ was based on how well you could follow a set of rules.
Here are a few thoughts on this story:
When Jesus said ‘go and learn the meaning of the Scripture “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifice,”’ I believe He was letting them know that it has never been about performance, but always about His goodness.
The impact Jesus had on people was overwhelming. He came to earth to include everyone in His plan. Everyone is loved, valued, and accepted equally: gender, race, socioeconomic status, (dare I even say) religious background will never disqualify us. We can all receive the same unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor and blessing from God.
Our part to play is to constantly and consistently show mercy to people who are like us and even those who are polar opposite. People see Jesus when they are treated with respect, when their stories are heard, and when they are shown compassion. When people’s opinions are respected and validated, the defensive walls come down.
People are more apt to receive the message of Jesus because they have been fiercely loved and unconditionally accepted. Redemption has never been about forcing people to adhere to a set of values to prove one's worth. The goal of redemption was provide a “once for all” statement that placed the same value on every individual. No one is excluded from access to receiving God’s mercy.
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum? When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”