Scripture: Matthew 9:11-13
When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus’ mercy is for all. He shares it with us so that we might share it with others.
When my family sits down to dinner together we pray the following table prayer:
“Come Lord Jesus be our guest; let these gifts to us be blessed. And may there be a goodly share on every table everywhere.”
I love this prayer! It’s simple and so sweet. We invite Jesus to our table, ask for His blessing and ask that others be blessed as well. What a great way to start the meal. But I had never considered what it really means to invite Jesus to be a guest at our table.
Jesus gladly sits with sinners and tax collectors and enjoys a meal. Not such a big deal to us in our day and age. But that was huge back in Jesus’ time! Tax collectors were outcasts among the Jews. The sinners in this instance are probably robbers, adulterers and the like. Today’s equivalent of these dinner guests might be the homeless, robbers, convicted criminals, the elderly, ex-husbands or ex-wives – you get the idea. Jesus didn’t discriminate at His dinner table. He also doesn’t discriminate when He joins our table. He gladly sits among us sinners.
He even tells us why. Mercy not sacrifice — love not law. Jesus came to show us mercy and, just as importantly, show us how to be merciful. So while He is happy to join us at the dinner table, He’s expecting us to show the same hospitality He does. So does this mean I should invite “sinners and outcasts” to my dinner table? Well, yes! But, if I’m not comfortable doing that, I could volunteer my time to an organization – say one that feeds the homeless.
I know there are some of you thinking you could just donate money or maybe you already do. I know because that’s what I’m thinking! Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing to do. But, I don’t want to miss the fact that Jesus actually sat with the sinners and outcasts in person! He didn’t give them a gift card to Perkins, He joined them were they are and ate what they ate. Jesus is all about personal relationship and He is calling us to be the same.
I have to admit, this makes me squirm a bit. I’m definitely out of my comfort zone when I’m among strangers. But if I think about wearing the shoes of some of these hurting people for a while, I know that I would want people to see me, talk to me, and even reassure me with a gentle touch. That is Jesus and that is the person I’m supposed to be.
Our simple table prayer has become so much more to me. It’s a beautiful blessing and a beautiful invitation to step out of my comfort zone and do some work for the kingdom of God.
Jesus, you are so merciful. Please forgive me for the times when I’ve been selfish and turned a blind eye to this hurting world. Forgive me for times when I’ve only done what is in my comfort zone. Thank you for showing me Your mercy even though I’m so sinful. Help me to listen for You and look for those people you put in my life who need to see Your mercy. Help me to step out of my comfort zone and be Your loving eyes, ears and hands.