As Jesus went on, 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
Jesus gets right up in our faces. He has to, or we might not ever let Him get into our hearts.
Here, Matthew is seen and called by Jesus, and Matthew, in a faith-filled response, sees that Jesus has something he can’t resist, something he desperately needs. And Matthew gets up, right there and then, and follows Jesus.
Matthew welcomes Jesus into his home, offering Him a meal. Matthew, as host, feasts not only on the food placed before him, but also on the deep spiritual food offered through Christ’s life-changing, mercy-filled words. Many of Matthew’s guests are known to be sinners. Others are known to be righteous – at least by their own self-evaluations. And all of Matthew’s guests need the life-changing mercy that only Jesus can give. But not all of them knew this.
The self-righteous voices are raised. The condemning criticism is spewed. The life-changing mercy of God Most High is challenged. And the sad, and damning, truth is that these healthy ones do not even begin to see how desperate they themselves are for the mercy of God. Nor do these healthy ones even consider the possibility that others, who are not like them but rather are sinners, could ever be worthy of God’s blessings and goodness.
And Jesus gets right up in their faces. They are blind to their own desperate need for God. They are blind and uncaring, judgmental and condemning of the needy ones in their midst. They are blind to their own sinfulness. They can’t see what the sinners see: their need for the mercy of God.
May Jesus get in our faces and into our hearts so that we will see and follow the One who alone can give us the mercy we so desperately need.
May Jesus get in our faces and into our hearts so that we will see others as no more, and no less, needy than are we.
May Jesus get in our faces and into our hearts so that we will see others with (what I call) mercy eyes, and help us to offer real, tangible, relational and spiritual mercy to all with whom we interact as we follow Jesus – the One who looked on us with the full measure of His mercy.
Jesus calls to each of us, “Follow Me!” And He holds out His nail-marked hands to us, calling us to follow Him on a path marked out by mercy – God’s life-changing mercy that is to be fully received into our own hearts and lives and fully offered from us to all others along our paths.