“I’ll take him! … I’ll pick him! … What about him??”
Ah, so many great memories from the eighties. Not even a teenager in that decade, when looking at the music, movies sports, it truly is my favorite decade to date. It is remarkable what comes to mind when thinking about a particular decade; as was the case recently when reading and reflecting on a section of scripture found in gospel of Matthew.
The introduction line of this write up was taken from a commercial that ran quite frequently in the 80’s to promote youth membership with the YM-YWCA. The commercial showed a row of kids being picked, one at a time, for a game of who knows what by unidentified team captains. As they came to the last kid to be chosen, there seemed to be a struggle over who would take him; and not because he was the most popular or most talented. Sensing the struggle, along with the fear of being left out, the boy looks on in dismay.
Of all the things one remembers, often what comes to mind most are those things we find ourselves identifying with and this commercial was no exception. I never forgot this commercial for one reason, I was that YMCA kid growing up. I was always the last or 2nd to last person picked when it came to games in school or at the local kids club. I remember how frustrated I would get as it was never based on skill as much as it was based on popularity and reading Matthew 9 v 9 – 13 took me right back to those days.
Believed to be the author of the gospel bearing his name, Matthew tells of the time Jesus first called him. At the time Matthew was probably one of the most repulsive and unattractive people one could keep company with and it had nothing to do with looks. In verse 9 we learn that Jesus found Matthew at a tax collectors booth. I’m not sure how he found himself in that vocation but it is evident that once called, he follows Jesus without question. One gets an idea of what was really thought of the position in verse 11 when it states:
When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
As we see the position of tax collecting was put right on par with the actions of a sinner and was highly offensive to those, including the religious, of Jesus’s day to be found in their presence. To me there is a sadness found in the perception of Matthew, specifically because ones identity is often found in what they do. Regardless of whether or not Matthew did his work honestly and rightly, he is instinctively labeled a person of interest; a sinner. From there the disciples are questioned, if not chastised for the company Jesus kept.
At the time, those encountering Jesus, including the religious elite, were still at the discovery stage. With loyalties still in question Jesus was held with somewhat modest esteem; mainly due to his actions; something I find sadly humorous as it was those same actions, miracles as they were known, on which they would later crucify him. Questions like “Who is this man? How is he doing these things? Who does he favor?” surely swarmed in their minds. When it was found that he kept with tax collectors and sinners, they were greatly offended as they had hoped he would be one of them; that he would drive their agenda which included the avoiding of those deemed less or worthless.
In hearing the murmurings going round the room and more than that, knowing the hearts of those saying them, Jesus responds beautifully and so encouragingly in verses 12 – 13 when he states:
“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.””
In this we understand what it means to know Jesus and more than that the purpose those around him were missing; that of Messiah, Saviour.
As I meditate on his response I find myself frozen at Jesus’s ask, if not challenge, found in verse 13:
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”
I can say that I have gone, I have learned and discovered a few things. You see, not only was I a YMCA kid so to speak; but I was also Matthew. I know what it is like to feel the shame of my sin. I know what it is like to feel so undeserving; that my eyes should only ever look down. But I’ve also learned that there is a great physician and his name is Jesus. In meeting him, in being called by him, I have received his much needed mercy and have been made well and now walk not just head up but head high. I so pray for all to not just learn but to experience Christ’s grace as I have; to be a first pick and made well and righteous before a loving father.
Coming back to the YM-YWCA commercial again, the young boy smiles as he is finally selected; leaving one with the impression no one is left out at the Y. I’m so thank that this is a guarantee in Christ. As was with the conversation with Abraham found in Genesis 18, if there were a few righteous God would spare. In Christ, the Father sees the righteous and many have been saved. I am proud to say that I am one of them and that the revelation of the empty tomb is at work in the saving of many more. In Christ we are made right and to Christ, the cost was eternally worth it. I pray you would see Christ, confess and repent of your sin and receive his offer of grace in living for him today and know that you are more than a YMCA kid but a son or daughter of the most high.
God Bless – Sean Bosse