Troublesome observers (Matthew 9:9-14)

Published on Tuesday, 02 January 2018 05:03
It was common for uninvited persons to present themselves at a meal in another person's house, especially if the individual was wealthy and holding the meal in a large room or in a courtyard. In effect, such people invited themselves, and here some Pharisees went to Matthew's meal.
Eventually the religious leaders made their presence known, and it was not a pleasant experience for those with whom they interacted. They were the flies on the ointment at this meal. Their question about Jesus and his methods was not a search for answers to the needs of their souls, but an attempt to find evidence to punish Jesus and prevent him from continuing his ministry. Still, they did not realise who they were combatting – they were unaware that he is omniscient and knew their words and their motives better than they knew them themselves.
They received from Jesus a lesson in theology, and the lesson contains three points. No doubt we should ask how Jesus gave the lesson. Was he angry with their response? He would have been. Yet he would also want them to understand the truth of what he was saying. So there would also have been in his heart a desire that they would experience the truths that he was about to mention. What were the three details?
First, they learned something about themselves: they did not realise they were sinners although they were able to see faults in others a mile away – if they had known they were sinners, they would have looked for a cure. Instead, they did not think that they needed a cure. They assumed that their religious activities and self-righteousness were sufficient for pleasing God.
Second, they learned something about God: he is more interested in showing mercy than watching correct displays of sacrificial rituals (they would also have noticed that Jesus claimed to be God). Anyone who knew anything about the Pharisees would have known that they delighted in detail and had even put together complex rules for administering those sacrifices. Their focus on winning the approval of God ignored the greatest of his activities, the one that is above all his other works, his desire to show mercy to sinners.
Third, they learned something about Jesus, which is that he wants sinners to follow him. He wanted to be the shepherd who would lead them, the teacher who would instruct them, and the guide who would show them the way to heaven. They had not realised what the role of Jesus was, that he was the Saviour who had come into the world to find those who were lost. They did not realise that they, although very religious, needed a Saviour like everyone else. Of course, there are no righteous persons for him to call, even if the Pharisees imagined that they were. such.

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