Are you a sinner? Of course, you’re thinking. Well, then Jesus came for you! We aren’t necessarily proud of our sinful nature, but we can be assured that Jesus’ arms are open wide to us.
Our reading today begins with Jesus calling Matthew, a tax collector to be one of his disciples. Tax collectors in that day were shrewd scoundrels, cheating people out of their money to make themselves rich. Yet, Jesus wanted Matthew in his group of guys. Of course, he did. Jesus said it himself, he didn’t come for those who were righteous but for those who know they are sinners.
How did Matthew respond to Jesus’ request to follow? He didn’t question it. He got up and followed Jesus without hesitation. You might even imagine he left behind his booth and all the money in it. Are we as mesmerized by Jesus as Matthew was? Would we be able to leave everything behind? What a blessing it would be to have a fresh start with Jesus!
Our situations are probably quite different. But we are still stuck in our sinful nature. If we are already followers of Jesus, that’s a good thing because we certainly need a savior. Perhaps we can be more devoted followers reflecting Jesus in our lives. What does that look like for you?
What else did Matthew do? He threw a party. He invited Jesus and his new disciple friends along with other tax collector friends and people not known for their goodness. Matthew wanted everyone to feel welcome. He wanted to share Jesus with people he knew needed to meet him. Jesus didn’t seem to mind being in the company of “scum.”
Have you ever found yourself in the company of sinners who disgust you? How did you react? Did you try to escape or did you love on them? Did you judge their behavior and feel superior? Did you do everything you could to be welcoming as Jesus would have been? We’re sinners, too, so there’s a good chance we weren’t as loving as we could have been.
Shouldn’t the goal be that others see Jesus in us? What may help is to remember Jesus’ words, “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.” Jesus doesn’t want our sacrifices, he wants us to show mercy on others.
Let’s pray. Lord, help me to be more merciful to others who are different from me. Give me your eyes to see them as you do. Stop me from judging their behavior but love them as you do. Create in me a heart of compassion and hospitality. Lead me to the people I can help today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.