Have you ever come across one of those verse that you read and you are sure that you have never seen it before, even though you know have. I was reading the book of Matthew a while back and had this experience. I remember it so clearly becuase this verse lept of the page and slapped me right up side the head….hard! I have to admit that at first I wasn’t really even sure why Jesus said what He did, but I knew that I there was a reason for the verse in my life. I prayed about it, meditated on it, and walked away….God would reveal the meaning in His time. And boy did he ever.
I have grown up in church circles; I am actually somewhat of a mutt when it comes to my denominational background. I don’t know that i have “loyalties” in one. I grew up in an Episcopalin church. At times I went with my grandmother who was Methodist. At other times, we went with my uncle who was a Lutheran Priest. In JrHi we went to an E Free church and in high school it was an Independent Bible church. I dated a girl that was Assemblies of God and you guessed it…I went there for a while too. In college I checked out many Baptist churches; ranging from Free Will and Missionary Baptist churches to Independent and Southern Baptists. After college I served in a Church of the Brethren, Independent Bible and and American Baptist church. Whew…that wore me out just writing it up. But what is the point? Why bother writing all of this down? Because in most of the churches, in most exeriences that I have had, there was at least one common thread.
Each of these churches and subsequent denominations taught me that if I were to get close to God, I needed to perform a series of disciplines. By following these spiritual disciplines, I would come to know God in a new and a fresh way. These disciplines would include things like prayer, fasting, worship, bible study, bible reading, quiet time, speaking in tongues, tithing, etc. You know the list. Think about what it means to be a “good christian” and you will quickly come up with a list of actions that you are “supposed” to have as a child of God. In fact take a moment to answer this question: what does it mean to be a “good christian”? Do you have your list? Is it full of religious activities? Is it full of the spiritual disciplines that I mentioned (probably added some more to it)?
I have grown thinking that all of these things were necessary for me to learn about God and understand who He is. This verse I read seems to indicate that this thinking may not be entirely accurate. I am not saying these are bad things and I am not saying that I can’t draw closer to God through these activities BUT what if there were another way to really get to know God? What if there were a way that God intended for us to really draw closer to Him? I think there is.
Jesus is at Matthew’s house with the disciples, other tax collectors and other disreputable dinner guests. In other words, Matthew has such an encounter with Jesus that he invites a rough crowd of individuals over to his house to meet Jesus. As a tax collector, he would know just about everyone in town….and it appears that he invited the best of the of the best and the worst of the worst. He invited other tax collectors and probably told them to bring their disreputable friends. So we find ourselves in a house full of tax collectors, pimps, prostitutes, druggies, alcoholics, thieves, losers, etc. etc. etc. Jesus finds himself right in the middle of a room full of SICK people!
There is another group of individuals there. Whether they were invited or the invited themselves or they were just passing by and heard the noise of the crowds….the Pharisees were there and saw what was going on. In a style that is true to their form, the pulled the disciples aside and made an off the cuff comment in order to confuse the situation. They look at the crowd and with all of the disgust they can muster they look at the disciples and say, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” In other words, “Isn’t your teacher supposed to be a man of God? A man of God would never allow himself to be put in a situation like this? Don’t you smell that? That is sin at its worst my friends. That is profane! That is a godless environment and God would have nothing to do with that. If your teacher is who he says he is, he would have nothing to do with this and would walk away right now. If you, as his disciples want to keep your reputations and desire to be taken seriously in the future, you will walk away right now. Leave this setting. Leave this people. Don’t look back….”
I can imagine Jesus hearing this conversation, however it is that He hears these things, and He smiles. At first it is a heart broken smile; mixed with all sorts of emotions. Part of Him is broken because these teachers of the law have just confirmed what He has known all along…they don’t get it! They don’t understand who He is and what He is there to do. They also confirmed that they don’t understand God or His plans for the world. As religious teachers, they should at least have a heart for the lost….right? Then I imagine that Jesus smiles because they don’t get it…but that they will soon see what He is all about. He knows what He is going to do and He knows that it is going to blow their minds.
Soon a smile becomes a chuckle, a chuckle becomes a laugh, a laugh becomes a moment of uncontrollable joy and elation on the part of the Savior as he looks around the room at the lost and the broken that He came to save. He can’t wait to do what He was sent to do. He can’t wait to heal the broken hearted, to bind up the wounds of the hurt, set the captive free!
His eyes that have been wandering around the room and resting upon each person there and His mind races! In an instant He remembers their birth, the hurt in their lives, the pain and devastation of their first sin, and the moment that they believed the lie that their lives won’t count for anything. He then leaps for joy in His heart as thinks of the act He will perform that will set all of that right. He will buy them back. He will set things back to the way that they were meant to be. He will bring them back to God, one by one, and they will be restored to their purpose in life which is to bring glory to the Heavenly Father…the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
His eyes travel around the room and then He turns to the very ones that were there questioning His very presence at this party. He looks to the Pharisees, with a sideways glance to His disciples, and states that “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.” I am sure that His words cut straight to their hearts, if they were to admit the truth. But we know that they generally never responded that way, so I am sure that on the outside they snickered and became rude and arrogant. “What is this man talking about? Isn’t he a teacher? Why is he speaking about a doctor? Is he claiming that now he can heal these people? Now we are to believe he is a doctor? Oh this is rich! This is great! How much has he had to drink anyway? Just listen to him laugh. And did you see the way his eyes spun around the room?”
And then they walk away. The damage has been done. They have attempted to discredit Jesus and to malign Him and they feel pretty onfident that they have done so. It is time to go.
As they leave, Jesus turns to the disciples and says something that struck me as so profound! He quotes from an Old Testament book and says something that didn’t make sense to me; in fact it took several weeks of meditation before I think I finally got it.
You will have to come back tomorrow to find out what it was….