There is a scripture I’ve read several times this week, and everytime it makes me cry:
Matthew 9:10-13: And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
This story never resonated with me before. Internally, I always saw myself in the Pharisees’ place–always thought it was a lesson on not judging others, and understanding that Christ loved everyone, not just people “like me.” But this week I’m tender. This week I see the other side. Jesus wants to eat with me. I’m sick, I’m a sinner, I’m a publican, I’m a human in need of love and mercy, and Jesus wants to eat with me. He defends me against those who would judge; he invites me to his table. Undoubtedly, dinner consists of milk and honey without money and without price.
How many of our brothers and sisters at church squirm, uncomfortable with the pressure of being themselves in a misleading sea of homogenous smiling faces and burning testimonies. How many sad, sick, doubting sinners are sitting in the pews hoping for a glimpse of the spirit, a sense of peace they’ve felt before and now crave? How often do we go to church, hoping to be healed by the Physician, simultaneously hoping no one else notices? Who are the publicans and sinners in our midst? Or rather, who among us are not publicans and sinners?
This week I’m tender, and this week I echo my brother Alma, O thou Jesus, son of God, have mercy on me. A prayer and a hope that is perhaps a simple acceptance of the very best dinner invitation ever: Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.