The scandal of the gospel is that it turns everything on its head.
I think we forget this sometimes when we are sitting in our Christian mega churches, and listening to sermons from celebrity pastors.
From his birth in a stable, to a criminal’s execution, Jesus is all about shaking up our preconceived notions. The strong are weak, and the weak are strong. Outsiders are insiders, and insiders are outsiders.
In Matthew 9, we read the story of Jesus calling Matthew. Matthew is the ultimate outsider. He’s a traitor to Israel, working for the occupying army, doing business with Gentiles, and getting wealthy off the exploitation of his own people. It doesn’t get less, “socially acceptable” than Matthew.
And what does Jesus do?
First, he sees him. Jesus sees Matthew as he is, sitting at the tax collector’s booth, doing what he does. There are no secrets. He knows who Matthew is. (Mt 9:9)
Second, he calls him. “‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” (Mt 9:9)
Third, he eats with him. Not only does Jesus eat with Matthew, but he is having dinner in Matthew’s house with “many tax collectors and sinners,” as well as his disciples. (Mt 9:10)
While Jesus and the “sinners” are inside Matthew’s house dining, the religious establishment is outside Matthew’s house grumbling. They want to know why he is eating with tax collectors and sinners. (Mt 9:11)
Jesus answers them that it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. He tells them, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mt 9:13)
And, of course, we are all sinners. Everyone has sinned. (Rom 3:23)
So here’s a reminder to anyone who feels like an outsider, no matter what the reason.
First, Jesus sees you. He sees you just as you are, and he isn’t put off. He knows exactly who you are, inside and out, what you’ve been up to, and what you’re struggling with.
Second, Jesus calls you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. He says, “follow me.” And the response is simple, just follow.
Third, he will be your friend, not just your internet type friend, but your real friend — the kind that comes to your home and eats a meal with you and your other friends, no matter how shady they might seem. He came to fix the broken souls of sinners. He came for you, and me, and for every single person who has ever drawn breath — not just the clean cut righteous living folks, but for all sinners.
And when you invite Jesus in to dine with you, religious folks may stand outside and grumble. Be kind. Invite them in. Remember that Jesus came for them too, and they might really need a good meal with him.
And be encouraged. Jesus’ meal with Matthew was not just a gesture. Matthew, the ultimate outsider, became one of Jesus’ closest insiders. He invites you and me to do the same.