The Calling of Matthew (Lectio Divina – Day 3)

Day 3 of my 160 plan is about Matthew 9:9-13 and is about the calling of Matthew who was a hated and despised tax collector. It’s a relatively short passage but it covers some important points.

Jesus calls him to join him, and he does without any hesitation whatsoever, and then they both proceed to dine with some of the supposedly more unpleasant members of the local community. Jesus did both such acts to make a very, very clever point and to make those judging them subsequently very uncomfortable about their actions.

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13 NIV)

I was challenged to think about situations where I have felt like one of the individuals Jesus sat with. There are times I have felt like an outsider, different, and perhaps judged for it.

I guess we have all felt that way at times, perceived or real, where an unwelcome gaze and opinion has been cast our way. Was their judgement on me fair or not? To be honest in those situations I have learned to never really cared whether someone has an opinion or not about me. That can be harder for some people to do than others.

However… Is it not also said in Matthew 7:1-2 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”? This is how I have learned to deal with these problems. Judge me if you wish but it will be returned back to you.

Jesus, in my opinion, was clearly using these situations to his advantage to point out some important essentials to faith. Faith with actual reward. Where is the reward in faith by staying in a tight knit community of believers?

It is like permanently staying in a warm house, with plenty of food, and everyone getting on absolutely perfectly with each other. Where is the challenge? Where is the work? It is not to say that being like that is wrong, because I guess it’s an ideal situation to aim for… but isn’t it better, surely, to help one sinner find faith and love than living in harmony with even one hundred fellow believers?

Surely to challenge and test your faith every day, going against all the supposed “social norms”, is what we should all be aiming for?

If I was sitting in the group of people, eating with Jesus, I know I could not have responded any clearer than he did to the Pharisees. His words, must have seemed to be almost revolutionary, yet at the same time so glaringly obvious.

I can imagine the dumbstruck faces on the Pharisees as they no doubt immediately realised how silly they were at mocking Jesus and those he was eating with. It’s this kind of inspired and unique way that Jesus tells us how we should be living our lives. It’s about showing us the way that would otherwise obscured to us. Thats what I believe these verses are saying to me.

What do you think?