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 riff-raff?”
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.”
A little later John’s followers approached, asking, “Why is it that we and the Pharisees rigorously discipline body and spirit by fasting, but your followers don’t?”
Jesus told them, “When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!”
He went on, “No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.”
I love that Jesus is all about the outsider. The person that the religious folks have no time for.
Do you notice what he’s doing in this story?
He’s eating with people whom the religious folks find disgusting. This is a statement that can’t be overlooked or minimized. Table fellowship was a big deal in this culture. When you had table fellowship with someone you were saying, “They’re with me and I’m with them.”
Now, as you read the stories in the Gospels, Jesus eats with the religious folks and with those whom the religious folks find deplorable.
I have to wonder if what the religious people found so frustrating about Jesus eating with the “riff-raff” was the mere fact that he ate with them or the fact that in doing so he was uniting them to one another.
Think about that for a minute. Jesus was having table fellowship with all these people. In so doing he was the bridge between them. If the religious wanted to be with Jesus, they necessarily had to be with the outsiders. If the outsiders wanted to be with Jesus, they necessarily had to be with the religious. It was not either/or for Jesus, it was both/and. He was bringing these different people together through himself.
How many “good Christians” would have table fellowship with those considered to be “riff-raff” by their community? Sadly, not as many as we would like to imagine, I think.
This passage is another reminder for us to go show up in the world and not hide from the world.