June 9, 2002

Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26

Passing along, Jesus saw a man at his work collecting taxes. His name was Matthew. Jesus said, "Come along with me." Matthew stood up and followed him.

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 riffraff?"

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."


As he finished saying this, a local official appeared, bowed politely, and said, "My daughter has just now died. If you come and touch her, she will live." Jesus got up and went with him, his disciples following along.

Just then a woman who had hemorrhaged for twelve years slipped in from behind and lightly touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, "If I can just put a finger on his robe, I'll get well." Jesus turned - caught her at it. Then he reassured her: "Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith, and now you're well." The woman was well from then on.

By now they had arrived at the house of the town official, and pushed their way through the gossips looking for a story and the neighbors bringing in casseroles. Jesus was abrupt: "Clear out! This girl isn't dead. She's sleeping." They told him he didn't know what he was talking about. But when Jesus had gotten rid of the crowd, he went in, took the girl's hand, and pulled her to her feet - alive. The news was soon out, and traveled throughout the region.

<The Message >


1. Jesus' closest followers were joined by society's riffraff with nary a notice. Jesus' religious rivals (institutionally) had trouble with this crossing of class lines. What group of people (riffraff) in your community are outside the church? What does that say about how close to Jesus your congregation is?

Does the church still follow Jesus' line, "I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders"? Where do our church finances go? Where do we spend our time? Can you have a Bible study that does not have half the participants who are not "religious"? Can you have a church that doesn't give at least half its resources away to the benefit of individuals and families who do not have "enough"?

2. Mercy? Religion? Why does it seem that this is always the choice?

What keeps us from automatically thinking, "Ah, merciful people," when we hear the term religion come around in conversation?

Meditation on this and implementing the vision of that meditation is perhaps a key task of church people in this and every age and class.

3. What could have been a simply healing story showing the power and glory of Jesus turns a sharp corner when Jesus comments, "You took a risk of faith."

While it is always dangerous to equate faith with healing (one only has to note the variety of ways in which healings are recorded to see that this is definitely not a one-to-one relationship), it may be accurate to say that every healing story gives evidence of a risk, not a sure thing. It is like in fairy stories, you don't get to the "lived happily ever after" until you've gone through a three-fold testing/risking.

Jesus points to an important mid-point in the healing process, that of risking to do things differently because keeping on keeping on simply has been shown not to work. Happy risking to you.

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