We join Jesus walking by the sea again today. I’m assuming that it was the Sea of Galilee, but we are not told what city He was near. Wherever He is He has a LARGE crowd following Him, again. No problem; its lesson time!
Mark doesn’t tell us what lesson Jesus was teaching or how long it lasted. Mark simply picks up the story as Jesus leaves the seashore. I am curious where Jesus “passed by.” Was there a tax booth on the seashore? Was it as you entered a specific road between two cities? How and where did Jesus encounter Matthew? Was Matthew within hearing distance of Jesus’ teaching that day? Had Matthew popped in and out of his booth to hear Jesus speak? Had he been where Jesus was teaching on other occasions? Plain and simply, why Matthew? I wonder if Matthew wondered, “Why Matthew” too.
When Jesus picked up Matthew by the road side they didn’t head straight into the mission field. They went to Matthew’s house for dinner instead. His house became the mission field that day. Matthew didn’t put a limit on how many or who could come to this dinner. From the sound of Mark’s account, anyone who was following Jesus that day was welcome to have dinner at Matthew’s house that evening. From the scribes’ comments the people following Jesus were also sinners and tax collectors.
I noticed that the “scribes of the Pharisees” were at this dinner too; otherwise they wouldn’t have had access to Jesus’ disciples nor have been overheard by Jesus. What were THEY doing eating with sinners and tax collectors? Was there a separate table for “the righteous?” Were they simply standing around watching everyone else eat? What were they doing there, besides judging everyone? Were they there to “take notes” and report back to the religious elite?
I’m going to assume that the people eating were well known in the area and the scribes knew of their character, or at least their deeds. The scribes put the majority of the people into one of two categories; tax collector or sinner. Were these mutually exclusive categories in their eyes? Did they consider one group worse than the other?
Why did the scribes bring Jesus’ behavior to His disciples’ attention, instead of going straight to the source? Did they believe Jesus didn’t know the kind of people He was eating with? Did they think His disciples could discreetly warn Him and get Him out of there? Did they fear Jesus would dismiss them, or worse yet, openly chastise them? Well the last is exactly what He did.
Jesus wasn’t deaf, and He heard what they were saying. Did they try and be discreet in their conversation with Jesus’ disciples, or were they making a scene? Jesus didn’t wait for His disciples to answer the scribes; He jumped right into the conversation.
Jesus’ statement made it clear that He knew the kind of people He was having dinner with. He told the scribes that these were exactly the kind of people He came to help. The people being discussed recognized their need for Jesus. They put on no pretense. They simply came to Him hiding nothing. Those were the kind of people who He could help.
The ones Jesus couldn’t, and still can’t, help are the ones who have no need of Him because they are “good enough” or “self-righteous.” They don’t recognize their need so they won’t come to Him. Do they need Him? You bet your bottom dollar they do. But He can’t do anything for them.
So of the groups identified in this dinner were: sinners, tax collectors, Jesus’ disciples, and scribes. Of all these people, only one group was beyond Jesus’ reach. Not because He didn’t care about them but because they refused to acknowledge Who He was and that they needed Him. We all know the identity of that group. I wonder how the other groups felt about the conversation. Were they shamed by the words of the scribes? Did they want to crawl under the table or withdraw? How about when Jesus said that they were exactly the type of people He came to help? Did they stand taller or look at Him with love and appreciation? I am SO grateful that Jesus came to help people like me. I can use all the help I can get. Pour it on!
Father God, please don’t let me become like the scribes. Judging others without looking into my own heart first. So sure of my own righteousness that I have no need of Yours. My righteousness is beyond garbage. If Jesus came only for the “sick” then I’m dying of a terminal disease: “Lost without You itis!” I will never be cured of this disease because I need You as my “medicine” for the rest of my life.
I know You understand my sense of humor, because You are the one Who gave it to me. Thank You for laughter, even in the midst of trouble. Keep me always laughing and coming to You. You are the author of my smile. Without You and all You accomplished there would be nothing to smile about. Thank You again, forever and always.