“Go and Learn What This Means” June 11, 2023
“Go and Learn What This Means”
Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
Once again, from the 9th chapter of Matthew we read: And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Now, Begging your forgiveness, let me read again even more of today’s message from the Gospel of Matthew because I really feel it bears repeating, starting at verse 18, Matthew tells us: “ While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
. When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district.”
The report of this spread throughout that district,” we can only imagine how this kind of news would have spread. But is this why Jesus repeatedly performed these miraculous acts of mercy and compassion? Was he merely looking for publicity; to make a name for himself? It is Nadia Bolz Weber, the somewhat controversial preacher out of Denver, Colorado who has this to say: “Jesus seemed to want connection with those around him, not separation. He touched human bodies deemed unclean as if they were themselves holy: dead little girls, lepers, menstruating women. People of his day were disgusted that Jesus’ disciples would eat with unwashed hands, and they tried to shame him for it. But he responded, “It is not what enters the mouth that makes one unclean but what comes out of it that defiles” [Matthew 15:11]. He was loyal to the law, just not at the expense of the people.
Jesus kept violating boundaries of decency to get to the people on the other side of that boundary, those who’d been wounded by it, those who were separated from the others: the motherless, the sex workers, the victims, and the victimizers. He cared about real holiness, the connection of things human and divine, the unity of sinners, the coming together of that which was formerly set apart.” To these words of Ms Bolz Weber, I would have to offer a hearty “Amen.” But we know this.
We know the many acts of compassion and forgiveness and healing that Jesus did. We know that more often than not, Jesus could be found hanging out with the less desirable members of society. It was the lepers and the demon possessed that the son of God sought out. The prostitutes, the tax collectors, widows, orphans,; all those whose hopes were hanging by a thread – these were the children of God to which God made himself known.
But we know this. We know this and are continually humbled by it all: humbled, amazed, and hopefully, inspired. After all, a large part of the reason that we gather to worship a Christ who is both human and divine Is because he gives us the genuine hope that holiness is not out of reach. We cling to the love of Christ because it is Jesus who teaches us to be human.
In the 7 weeks after Easter, We have read and talked about the ministry of Christ after his resurrection. This was an important time as the disciples were prepared to carry on the ministry that Christ had started, and it was no small task. There were moments of hesitation, I’m sure. There were concerns for the future and doubts about the past. These doubts, as you know, can have a destructive force, especially in matters of our faith and our beliefs, And Jesus was well aware of this. So what’s the answer here? Should he Perform even more miraculous acts of healing; Call lightning from the sky, trigger an earthquake, even raise the dead? Well yes, Christ was never shy about Showing compassion and love to those who were in need.
But if you’ll notice, He also Speaks repeatedly to those of us who are unsure, who Can’t or won’t recognize the purpose and the reason for Christ’s coming in the first place. When God came to this earth in the body of Jesus Christ, it was not happenstance. It wasn’t a fluke of nature or one of those things that happens every few thousand years. No, there was a reason why God chose to manifest himself in the flesh, and for those who couldn’t or didn’t want to see the big picture, Jesus was quick and ready to remind them.
Once again from the 9th chapter of Matthew: “When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”,
’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”, This is why I have come. In case you were wondering This is why I have come; and it dawned upon me after reading this passage that the underlying theme of ‘why’ has popped up repeatedly in the weeks following Easter. The most notable example can be found in the 10th chapter of John that we read a few weeks back it is during the teaching of the Good Shepherd that Jesus tells us: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. …. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ////
I have come that they may have life. That’s why I’m here.” (X 2)
As I was working on this sermon yesterday, I had the annual conference of the Oregon Idaho conference on my desktop. Around 12:30, I took a break to make a grilled cheese and tuned in to a gentleman who represented The United Methodist Committee on Relief as well as the Advance program. He told stories That warmed your heart: stories of food and medicine and some of the basic necessities of life that UMCOR had made possible for places in Africa, Malaysia, and elsewhere. But the story that touched me the most Involved a man named Oleg, who I believe was the district Superintendent of the Methodist Church in Ukraine. Now, Oleg was all too aware of the need for food and supplies in eastern Ukraine But felt somewhat helpless to do anything about it. Helpless, that is, until a parishioner spoke up.
“I have a van,” he said. “We could use that To haul supplies to the east.” And so, With money From The United Methodist relief fund, they bought food and clothing and mattresses and bedding until that van was packed to the gills. Next, was a four hour drive along with numerous stops at checkpoints, but when they arrived at the church and started unloading the van, it was all worthwhile. This drew quite a crowd, as you can imagine, And they were overcome with joy.
“How can you do that?” yelled someone from the sidelines to which Oleg answered, “It’s easy, we do it out of love.” He then explained that since we are a connectional church, there were people from all over the world who donated money, time, and resources to help those who needed help. It was as if to say, “That’s why we’re here. We have come to share the love of Christ through our gifts and through our presence.”
When the Pharisees and church leaders spotted Jesus eating with the tax collectors and riff raff, They were indignant. Asking the disciples why he would do such a terrible thing. Jesus replied, “, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ for I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” ‘Go and learn what this means. ‘ Of course. It was the meaning of his words ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice” that Jesus wanted them to understand. I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and you can bet it is animal sacrifice he is referring to here, not personal sacrifice. But still, it’s kind of a weird request, don’t you think? I mean, “Go and learn what this means.” Go where? Can’t you just explain it to us and save us the trip?” Believe it or not, I found my answer once again in this year’s annual conference. The theme for this year it’s the story of the Good Samaritan. The story, you’ll recall, tells of a man who is jumped by robbers who beat him up and left him for dead by the side of the road. A priest walks by but is afraid to touch him for fear that he is dead. Next, came a Levite who also walked on by. When a Samaritan showed up however, he bound up his wounds and paid for a room that he might heal up. At this point, Jesus asks the legal experts, “which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “the one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Go and do likewise. Go and learn. Go and do. And so, the point of this rather long winded dialogue Is that our faith is not meant to be static. It moves toward mercy, it gives out of compassion, and it loves in the same way that God loves us: unconditional & unwavering. Amen and Shalom