SCRIPTURE: Matthew 9:10-13 (TM)
Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew's house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus' followers. "What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff-raff?" Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: 'I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders."
A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death.
"But I don't ask for justice," the mother explained. "I plead for mercy."
"But your son does not deserve mercy," Napoleon replied.
"Sir," the woman cried, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for."
"Well, then," the emperor said, "I will have mercy." And he spared the woman's son.
Who among us deserves the mercy and grace of God? Not one … no not one. And yet mercy is given without mercy. We do not hear God say to us, “I’ll forgive you this time, but only this time.” Thank God we have a merciful father in heaven.
As people who have received mercy should we not be also people who give mercy to others? There are times that we do, but then there are those other times when we withhold mercy because the “crime” is to large for us to comprehend granting mercy.
We have, over time, developed this list of “good sins” and “really bad sins”. It is those “good sins” to which we show mercy, but those “really bad sins”… well, that is an entirely different story.
The Pharisees in the scripture lesson looked upon Matthew in one light, but those “others” eating with Jesus was just too much for them. They could not handle the situation because they were the “really bad sinners”. Yet, Jesus understood that it is those “really bad sinners” that need more mercy than the “slightly bad” people. Jesus was on earth to reach out to those who didn’t fit into the neatly woven network of people who were “acceptable” (whatever than meant).
Wouldn’t it be great to be involved in a church that was designed specifically for people who really didn’t fit in any place else? People who weren’t really acceptable any place else? People who didn’t deserve mercy, but really needed it… like you and me? The Pharisees had constructed one kind of religious organization, Jesus moved in a totally different direction.
We have a tendency, don’t we, to lean closer to the Pharisee’s kind of church than the one Jesus was about creating. Oh, that we would be a church for outsiders! A church for the least, the last, the lost! Those men and women who are desperately in need of a lot of mercy.
Jesus really shock things up didn’t he? I wonder what would happen if we did the same?
We admit that to be people of mercy (as outlined above) we will make a lot of people uncomfortable and probably mad… including ourselves. Help us get over ourselves and become mercy driven people!