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Matthew 9:10-13 | Stay at the Table

Matthew 9:10-13 (NIV): “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 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, to repentance.’”

1) Don’t leave Christ’s dinner table

The first message I want to address that we can receive from this passage is one pertaining to humility. To all believers, and particularly those who have been walking with Christ for a long time: let us not forget whose table we are sitting at. The first sentence in this passage addresses the scene, and it involves Jesus eating with a bunch of sinners. The following question posed by the Pharisees asking why Jesus is eating with sinners is hilariously ironic. As believers in Christ, we were all chosen by God. I won’t dive into the enigma that is the relationship between our free will and God’s sovereignty in this blog, but I will address the reality that God reached His hand out to us first, and not the other way around. Jesus came to our door and knocked--we never left the building.

So it is in this reaching out of God’s hand that we consider this first sentence of the passage from Matthew. Since we know that we did not initiate the grace that has been given to us and that God is the first-mover per se, we know then that everyone at the table with Jesus (minus Jesus) is indeed a sinner. Therefore, considering the disciples are sitting at the table as well, they too are sinners (according to Jesus’s analogy). Along with this, the Pharisees who are criticizing Jesus are sinners as well, but Christ calls them “righteous” in a manner that’s turning the word upside-down and in opposition with the kingdom of God, to convey His point. That is the irony. Nonetheless, we can glean wisdom from this imagery of the table at which the tax collectors and the sinners are sitting, because it is by sitting at the table that they could then potentially, and truly, become righteous--in the true sense of the word.