Have you transitioned from condemning to caring, from renouncing sinners to receiving them? These are important questions for all Christians to consider. It’s one of the radical changes that happened to Matthew once Jesus rocked his world with “Follow Me!” The story jets ahead from the small confines of the highly profitable tax collector’s booth (Matthew 9:9) to the spacious home of the well-to-do Matthew. He’s so excited about Jesus and his new life that Matthew throws a dinner party with Jesus as the guest of honor.
Around the table is a strange mixture. Matthew’s old friends of fellow despised and unclean tax collectors, other undesirable low-life rejects like “pimps and prostitutes, thieves and gamblers” and other “sinners,” likely non-observant Jews who ate pork, worked on Saturday and dressed however they wanted. Across the table are Matthew’s new friends, the growing group of Jesus followers and future apostles. It’s a strange amalgamation of sinners to be sure, Jesus the obvious exception.
Matthew’s old friends are an easy target, condemned by the local Pharisees. Like snipers, they can spot and pick off an irreligious Jew from miles away. And because this close table fellowship implied acceptance and even unity, this was a scandalous banquet indeed.
Condemning Pharisees scoff while caring Jesus knows they are sinners who need Him, so He meets, greets and eats with this motley crew. The Condemning Separatists say “I never!” and go after His disciples with their accusing query — “why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?”
Truth be told, these new disciples of Jesus are probably wondering the same thing!
Caring Jesus answers the question for them first with a proverb: “It is not those who are healthy (strong, able) who need a physician, but those who are sick (wicked, evil).”
They are sin-sick and incapable of curing their own souls and, of course, Jesus knows this.
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
This quote in Matthew 9:13 is a mix of the LXX and Hebrew of Hosea 6:6, where God rebukes Israel for lacking loyal love while offering daily sacrifices. The Condemning Pharisees flipped it, following the letter of Law and forgetting the spirit.
These sticklers for justice had no feelings of mercy. They were like the person driving the speed limit with a friend bleeding to death in the back seat.
As Jesus people, we are called to show compassion; to care for sinners, not condemn them. When Jesus invades a life, we go from judging to loving others, from a critical to compassionate spirit, from spurning unbelievers to introducing them to Jesus over lunch or coffee.
After all, sinners are why He came! And that’s good news for all because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
In these unpredictable and tumultuous times, may we be compassionate, not condemning, caring not cutting, faithful not fearful.
Chris McKnight is pastor/teacher of Kerrville Bible Church since 2000. His column appears bi-weekly in The Kerrville Daily Times, and he loves to hear from his readers at email@example.com.