Matthew 9:2 And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” 7 And he stood up and went to his home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.
9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. 10 And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Jesus blew the religious leaders’ minds back in his day. They just didn’t know what to make of him. On the one hand he performed feats that only God’s anointed would be able to do. On the other hand he defied the religious convention of his day at every turn. Forgiving people’s sins? Eating with tax collectors and sinners? He was a walking paradox. That said, people on the margins – the poor, the sick, people from the wrong side of the tracks – got Jesus. They didn’t care whether he observed all the religious rules. In Jesus they saw hope and light and life and that was enough.
This morning I’ve been pondering the ways in which the call of the gospel is leading the modern church to do what Jesus did – break with religious convention, go places we’re not supposed to go, embrace people we’re not supposed to touch. In particular I’m drawn to the words, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
Lord speak to your church anew. Amen.