June 6, 1999
Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
As Jesus was leaving [Capernaum], he saw a tax collector named Matthew sitting at the place for paying taxes. Jesus said to him, "Come with me." Matthew got up and went with him.
Later, Jesus and his disciples were having dinner at Matthew's house. Many tax collectors and other sinners were also there. Some Pharisees asked Jesus' disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and other sinners?
Jesus heard them and answered, "Healthy people don't need a doctor, but sick people do. Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, 'Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.' I didn't come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners."
. . . .
While Jesus was still speaking [with followers of John the Baptist], an official came and knelt in front of him. The man said, "My daughter has just now died! Please come and place your hand on her. Then she will live again."
Jesus and his disciples got up and went with the man.
A woman who had been bleeding for twelve years came up behind Jesus and barely touched his clothes. She had said to herself, "If I can just touch his clothes, I will get well."
Jesus turned. He saw the woman and said, "Don't worry! You are not well because of your faith." At that moment she was healed.
When Jesus went into the home of the official and saw the musicians and the crowd of mourners, he said, "Get out of here! The little girl isn't dead. She is just asleep." Everyone started laughing at Jesus. But after the crowd had been sent out of the house, Jesus went to the girl's bedside. He took her by the hand and helped her up.
News about this spread all over that part of the country. [CEV]
1. The family of GOD is much broader than our experience or desire. A change in values is needed to continue assisting people to be adopted into this family. A first act of change is liberation from prejudice which classifies people. It is important to get beyond dividing people into good or bad; those we can greet and those we cannot; those whom we can love and help and those we cannot. This restructuring of values helps us see that GOD does not hate the rich or the uneducated, those on the left or those on the right. For GOD's merciful plan sees to the salvation of all.
A key element in this value shift is measurable on the mercy scale. What takes precedence -- blame or mercy? judgment or mercy? sacrifice or mercy? What will it take to move a degree closer to the mercy pole? Do you see it as possible and desirable to arrive at only mercy as the key element in your life? How would you and the congregation you are with be different if the only question you asked for the next year is, "Is this Merciful? Will this lead to more Mercy being available?"
How would you distinguish between mercy and its corollaries of love and compassion and hospitality?
2. It is usually helpful to compare scripture with scripture. The incident with the daughter in Mark 5:21 and Luke 8:40 indicate the official had a name, Jairus, and that the daughter was sick unto death but not dead. Does it make a difference for you to have Jesus going to help up someone who had already died (Matthew) or someone who was closing in on death (Mark/Luke)? This might also be compared to the Lazarus incident where Jesus seems to have deliberately waited unto Lazarus was dead before starting off.
Do you feel as good as dead, or even have a part of you that is all the way dead? With GOD, nothing is impossible. [Of course it is important to make a distinction between healing and curing, but more about that at another time.]
3. Does Jesus care whether you receive mercy and healing and new life through the polite request form or the method of reaching out and grabbing or stealing it? If mercy is the category, is there a limit to the style of sharing same or to the amount of mercy which is available? Our tendency is to offer mercy in the same way in which it came to us rather than to help others receive mercy according to their need which may well be different than ours. How merciful can we be with brothers and sisters of Jesus who share mercy in a different way than we do? Is this another seventy times seven issue?
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