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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Today’s Reading | Matthew 9:9–17 

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.”

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (NRSV)

Are we the well or the sick? This is the question we must answer in order to properly engage with this text. Though modern understandings of disability and ableism add a layer of complexity to how we talk about wellness, the larger metaphor in this passage is about spiritual brokenness and Jesus’ role in healing it. The Pharisees understand themselves to be well because they are righteous and uphold the laws. They see tax collectors and the other social pariahs with whom Jesus associates to be a sickness to their society. But Jesus doesn’t confirm this understanding; he only uses it to show them how he operates differently than they expect.

The Pharisees thought that they were morally superior to the people Jesus called friends, but Jesus recognized that the Pharisees too were caught up in personal and systemic brokenness. Their distorted understanding of God’s love was something from which they needed to be healed as well. When we come to this text, it has two important truths to offer us. First, it reminds us that our understanding of who God loves and cares for—of who is good and worthy of acceptance—is not Christ’s understanding of those things. God’s love is broader than we can imagine—probably broader than we are comfortable with. Secondly, this text reminds us that we, too, are included in that healing love—no matter how broken or unwell we feel. Christ comes to sit at table with us.

Loving God, we give you thanks that you came to us in the form of Christ to welcome us to the table and make us well. We thank you too that you came for others whom we might cast off or overlook. Help us to see them as you see them so that, made one body in your love, we might work to make the whole world well again. Amen.

Written by Layton Williams, Pastoral Resident

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