Jesus saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him. (Matthew 9:9).
This month we remember Matthew’s call as one of Jesus’ twelve apostles. It consisted of a simple invitation, ‘Follow me’, and an immediate response. The resulting meal at Matthew’s house also helps us to understand the challenge of his call.
At the dinner many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Him and His disciples (Matthew 10). Jesus welcomed each person unconditionally, in a way that most Jews would not! In the same way, Jesus welcomes us and shows us how we should welcome others. Our welcome cannot be conditional, expecting people to be like us or to behave as we expect.
When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ (Matthew 11). The Pharisees were upset and avoided sinners, because they believed only the pure and untainted could have access to God. However, Jesus reminded them that they were witnessing God’s love in action, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill’ (Matthew 12). When God is at work in the lives of those we don’t expect, we need to let Him open our hearts to embrace and encourage what He is doing.
But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners (Matthew 13). The Pharisees were so committed to keeping the law, that they had forgotten God’s heart of compassion. Our religious practice is meaningless without love and mercy towards others.
In what ways can we express love towards others, especially those outside the community of faith?
The feature image for this post is (cropped from) William Hole, “Jesus calls Levi”, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.