As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, 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, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
I love the way that Jesus saw past the outcast status of a tax collector and called him to be a friend and disciple. Years ago I saw something similar when we transitioned some new believers into small groups and made them assistants - these folks had so much zeal and brought such an energy to the small group dynamic. Jesus has such a wonderful perspective about the nonreligious outcasts of society. He wants to be with those who religious folks do not want to be with.
On the flip-side the religious folks are all about judging Jesus and those they marginalize as "sinners". Referencing a verse from Hosea, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees admonishing them to embrace mercy. I wonder if Jesus would rebuke many today who chose to focus their energies on internal church matters and ignore the command to be merciful. I wonder how many of us need to learn what is means to embrace the sick and hurting in mercy.
Lord, I want to learn. Teach me in the ways of love, mercy and compassion.