Matthew 9: Walking with Jesus in the Gospels
Calling all Sinners: Dane Ortlund describes Jesus’ heart for sinners, “What was His first impulse when He came across prostitutes and lepers? He moved toward them. Pity flooded His heart, the longing of true compassion. He spent time with them. He touched them.” This ministry practice is clearly seen in Matthew 9. In the same chapter note the religious leaders opposed, judged, questioned, and rejected Jesus because of the heart He demonstrated for sinners. As we encounter sinners, are we like Christ or the religious leaders?
The list of sinners, unclean, and rejected is lengthy in this chapter. A paralyzed man (v. 1-8) is brought by his friends to be healed by Jesus. The sick were considered to be judged by God for their sins and considered unclean for the religious. Jesus calls Matthew (v. 9), the tax collector, to follow Him and be His disciple. Tax collectors were greatly despised by the Jews, yet Jesus invites Matthew to identify with Jesus, a Jewish Rabbi. Jesus eats (v. 10-13) with the tax collectors and sinners. Eating is an indication that He desired to have a relationship with these religious castoffs. Jesus heals a dead girl (v. 18, 23-26). Jesus touches the dead girl and raises her from the dead. Again, touching the dead meant that Jesus would be unclean in matters of worship according to the religious. Within this same story of going to see the young girl, the crowd presses in on Jesus and a woman with a 12-year issue of blood reaches out and touches Jesus (v. 19-22). Jesus feels power go out of Him but does not feel unclean from the touch. He speaks to the woman affirming that by her faith she is fully healed. The next account (v. 27-31) Jesus heals two blind men. He enters a conversation with them, recognizing them as human, and then acts according to their faith and restores their sight. The final account in this chapter is with a demon possessed, mute man (v. 32-34). Jesus casts out the demon and the man begins speaking.
Rather than being repulsed by these people, Jesus invites them into relationship with Him. The religious pushed away from these individuals and feared being associated with these sinners. Jesus invited them to Himself and declares that He has come to call sinners to Himself.
Jesus instructs His disciples and urges them to see these individuals as lost sheep without a shepherd. The shepherd is to guide, protect, provide, and speak with the sheep. He is moved with compassion because these sheep have been abandoned, they are “harassed and helpless.” Jesus invites the disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out more workers into the harvest. Implied in this prayer is that the disciples are going to these lost sheep Jesus ministers to while at the same time praying that God would send more workers.
What is our response to the castoffs of society? Do we push back fearing how they might contaminate us? Do we see them as “getting what they deserve?” Do we abandon them in their issues, their problems, and their struggles? Are we moved with compassion seeing their helpless state? Are moved to action and prayer that God will send others as we ourselves call all sinners to faith in Christ?
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 Ortlund, Dane, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2020), 31.