Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

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Matthew 9:9-13: The Remedy of Compassion
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. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard this, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ’I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners." (Matthew 9:9-13)

There was no special reason to be interested in Matthew. If people passing by his tax booth didn’t have to pay any taxes, they would probably not even notice him or else would ignore him. Matthew was a Jew working for the Roman tax administration. Most probably, he made some extra money dishonestly. He was maybe not very happy with his situation, but he couldn’t just change the job he had.

Then Jesus passed by. Jesus didn’t ignore Matthew, but noticed him and looked at him as if he were somebody special. He saw in Matthew a unique person. And more amazing still: he invited him to be one of his closest companions. Most people judged or ignored Matthew. Jesus trusted him and asked him to follow him.

Then we see Jesus at dinner with tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees thought and taught that sinners should eat with other sinners, and the righteous people with the righteous. If Jesus and his disciples would have been sinners, the Pharisees wouldn’t have bothered. But they were indignant because they respected Jesus. They respected him so much that they didn’t even dare to criticize him directly, but only through his disciples: “Why does your teacher eat with sinners?” They didn’t understand how a holy man like Jesus could mingle with people with bad reputations. Did he not put holiness in danger by abolishing separation?

Jesus justifies his behaviour by presenting himself as a doctor. Doctors don’t run away from those who are sick. They have to meet and even touch them. Jesus calls sinners into his company because in his presence they are healed and transformed. Matthew was transformed by the trust Jesus showed him. Jesus holiness is not defensive but communicative. And the remedy Jesus uses is compassion, according to the word of God spoken by the prophet Hosea: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

- What did Matthew see in Jesus that he got up without hesitation and followed him at once?

- How can I welcome the trust Jesus places in me?

- As we walk in Jesus’ footsteps, which wounds of today’s world can we contribute to heal with the remedy of compassion?

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Printed from: - 15 November 2018
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