2 Pentecost, Proper 5 – June 11, 2023
Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26

         Cheat. Collaborator. Greedy. Shameful. That’s how people saw Matthew as he took in money dishonestly, unjustly, there in his little booth. Tax collection appeared on the lists of despised occupations that no practicing Jew should follow. People like Matthew were regarded as lost souls.

But one day grace knocked on the door. Grace in the form of a person, Jesus. Jesus doesn’t ignore or condemn him, or otherwise treat him as he was accustomed to being treated by so many others. What Jesus does is invite him. “Follow me,” is what Jesus says.

In some ways, it is no surprise that people are confused (even outraged) by the fact that Rabbi Jesus is associating with “unclean” people.  He associates with these “sinners” and even eats with them! What is going on?

This begs the question: ‘Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?’ We humans often like to categorize people and put them in neat and tidy groupings. Often those in the “bad” category are those who are not like us, who do not share our morals, our social standing, our beliefs, etc. So, we can see that this tendency was as alive and well during Jesus’ time as it is during ours.

It seems that Jesus doesn’t see himself as a religious leader who must quarantine himself, keeping himself pure from the sickness and sin around him. He knows himself to be the doctor, sent to help and heal the sick. As N. T. Wright says, “There’s no point in a doctor staying in quarantine. He’ll never do his job” (N. T. Wright for Everyone, Matthew Part 1, page 101). The doctor puts aside questions of categories and seeks to heal those who are ill. All who are ill.

The scripture goes on to tell us that a leader of the synagogue came to ask Jesus to heal his daughter. While Jesus is following the synagogue leader to his dead daughter, another woman in need comes up behind him. Unlike Jairus who has the position, authority and therefore the communal welcome to approach Jesus with boldness, this woman is an unclean, marginalized person. Since she’s been bleeding for twelve years, she is not only physically unwell, but religiously dangerous according to purity laws. And yet, she has the same kind of faith in Jesus’s power as the synagogue leader and trusts that the littlest of contact with Jesus will be enough to change her future. Jesus confirms her belief and heals her—an act of restoration that will utterly change every aspect of her existence.

Then, Jesus goes on and tells the crowd gathered outside the home where death reigns that they should leave. In essence, he tells them that this reality is not true—she isn’t dead, she’s sleeping—and he proceeds to usher in the true reality he has promised to those who laughed at his words. Just as the synagogue leader believed it could be, Jesus touched the young girl’s dead body and brought her back to life. Like the bleeding woman, the rest of her life becomes possible again, a story yet to be told.

In these short verses we have a vocational-180, a restoration, and a resurrection.

We have various kinds of people shown mercy by Jesus the Christ: a despised sinner, an unclean woman, a dead child, a respectable religious leader. At first glance these stories may seem unrelated, but the overarching theme of power of Jesus’ life to change people connects them together. Jesus interacts with, eats with, and touches those who are regarded as unclean, untouchable, cast away. His life and love changes lives.

They were all sick or sinners in different ways, healed by Jesus. Each story involves simple faith and action that results in new possibilities for life, wholeness, and purpose. Because of Jesus, everything changed for them.

May it be so for us as well.  Amen.