Sunday was the commemoration of St. Matthew. In the Gospel lesson, Matthew tells about how Jesus called him, tax collector though he was, and how the Pharisees thought about him:
9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
10 And as Jesusreclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)
Our pastor took this text and played off of the indignation that people are feeling about NFL stars Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. He turned it into a powerful sermon. Read it all at the link, but I give excerpts after the jump. CAUTION: INTENSE Law and INTENSE Gospel.
From Rev. James Douthwaite, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: St. Matthew Sermon:
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Or, to modernize that a little: Why does He eat with wife beaters, child abusers, prostitutes, pornographers, murderers, abortionists, and all the people we know – we KNOW! – are really bad sinners and this planet would be better off without. Those people that should be disqualified from the human race.
Ever thought that? Played the Pharisee? Sure you have. The “there are sinners and then there are the really bad sinners” game. And we know what side you’re on, right? But what if a secret video came out later today for all the world to see, showing all those things you’ve done, you’ve thought, you’ve desired, you’ve spoken. Opening your heart, your closet, for all the world to see. The words that hurt more than any fist could. The murderous anger and bitterness and hatred you use like a club, not just a switch. The impurity of your thoughts and deeds. The forgiveness you are so quick to desire and so reluctant to give. The vile impulses you condemn in others but that keep living on in your heart. So while we’re disqualifying people from the human race . . .
And yet Jesus is here today, with us, still eating with tax collectors and sinners. He’s seen your video, from first to last, beginning to end, every last second of it. But He didn’t shun you – your physician is here for you. Your Saviour is here, to have mercy. To call sinners like you and me not to a righteousness you better start doing and achieving for yourself, and here’s how – but to His righteousness, done by Him and given to you. To forgive your sin and raise you to a new life.For Jesus knew what the Pharisees didn’t – that He hung out with tax collectors and sinners because on this earth, there is no one else to hang out with! The Pharisees didn’t think they were, and so didn’t go to the doctor. And even more than that, didn’t even want to be in the waiting room filled with icky sick people.
But just as God sent prophets like Ezekiel to call people to repentance, to preach to them of their terminal sickness, so He always does, giving (as St. Paul said) apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. And calling to fill these offices not “the good people” but folks who know something about the need for mercy and forgiveness, because they’re sinners too. People like Paul and Matthew. To say: There’s healing here, for you. There’s mercy here; forgiveness. For you. Hear it in your ears, feel it on your head, eat it and drink it. The Great Physician knows what you need to live, and He’s here giving it.
Maybe the mental picture you have in your head of this is like those doctors who go to Africa to help those people stricken with Ebola, but then wind up catching the disease themselves. But that’s not what happened to Jesus. Jesus did much more than that, for it was no acident. He came and said: I will switch places with you. I will be the sick one and you the healthy one. I will be the outcast and you be the son. I will be the they rage against and you be the good one. I will be the condemned and you be set free.
And that’s what happened on the cross. He was gotten rid of, banished, disqualified from the human race. And not just by man, but by God. Yes, for as Isaiah put it in those words we hear every Good Friday: He was despised and rejected by men, yes, but also, Isaiah continues: we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. [For] he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. For the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:3-6). Or as Luther would put it, and I am paraphrasing: Jesus became Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and Matthew and Paul and the Pharisees and you and every other vile and outrageous sinner on the cross, to die for your life, to be banished for your acceptance, to be shamed to cover your shame. Or, maybe we should say today, erase your video.