Second Sunday after Pentecost

Second Sunday after Pentecost

Mathew 9:9-13, 18-26

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax-collection station, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with Jesus 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 not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader 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 a flow of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak,for she was saying 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 the woman was made well from that moment.

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 through all of that district.

Now let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Savior & Redeemer.


In my high school and college years my family played a lot of boardgames. One of the games we liked to play was a game called Tribond. In this game you were given 3 words and you had to guess what the words have in common. Sometimes it was easy and sometimes it was more difficult. It was a lot like life because you took what you had and tried to make a connection.


In this weekend’s Gospel, we have a strange assortment of stories that don’t seem to go together. But like Tribond you have to look for the larger concept. We have a story about a tax collector being called to follow Jesus, and then a discussion about who should be eating with who, and a mysterious passage about who needs a doctor and mercy vs. sacrifice. And then we get to the bleeding woman and a dead daughter. What on earth do these stories have to do to with each other?  

But when I go back to look at the reading again, I begin to see what unifies it. I begin to see a larger pattern of healing. But it may not be healing in the form we expect. Across all of these verses in today’s reading, we see outcasts of all kinds. 

  • There are the two women at the end of today’s text, the most obvious outsiders, one bleeding, one dead—both conditions making them beyond the borders of acceptance in an ancient culture. 
  • There’s Matthew the tax collector, whose profession puts him outside of acceptability to both Jews and Romans. Jews would hate him because he worked for the occupying empire and made money off their misery; Romans would despise him because he was Jewish. 
  • The leader of the synagogue is outside of acceptability; his daughter’s death has compelled him to seek out Jesus, which would not have been OK with his colleagues back at the synagogue. 
  • Even the pharisees who want to know why Jesus shares a meal with sinners have cast themselves out from the society gathered around Jesus in this passage. 


But what does this have to do with us?      

The truth is that we live in a society that is rigid and divided in similar ways to first century Rome. We live in an empire that is still enamored with military and consumerism, and so we live under a current state of war and preparation for the next war. 

  • We live with traumatized survivors of past wars and families ripped apart. 
  • We take money that could be used to feed people to feed the war machine. 
  • War weapons are used against civilians: every week brings another school shooting, massacres of all sorts. 

And even if we can maintain a healthy distance from the war-mongering, we live in a capitalist empire that wants us to buy more, more, more, and so we are bombarded with messages of how we are inadequate in the hopes that we will buy more and more. And to make matters worse, we willingly carry the tools of empire’s oppression with us all the time. How long can you go without looking at your phone? How often is your phone sending you the message that you are a beloved creation of God? Not often, I bet.      

Maybe in our focus on the healing miracles, we’ve missed the point. We’ve focused on the individual healings and lost sight of the larger resurrection Jesus offers. Jesus came to heal our communities, to raise the larger society from the dead. And this healing happens by inclusion, outsiders made insiders, the realization that we are all outsiders desperately in need of inclusion. Jesus announces a kingdom of God that will be very different than the kingdoms of earthly empires.     

 As a society, we’ve been hemorrhaging our very life force for much too long. Many of our communities are as dead as the daughter of the synagogue leader. Like the Pharisees, we ask questions about who is eating with who instead of asking essential questions about the best way to live our lives, the most life-giving ways to order our societies. We are in desperate need of a physician.      

I suspect that many of us feel Matthew. We do work that doesn’t feel essential—or worse, we do work that helps an empire repress the people we claim as our own. But the Gospels remind us again and again, that God offers us an invitation to a life that can come in the middle of our living death. Jesus invites us to put down our cell phones and follow. Jesus invites us into a new community built on inclusion. The ways we create an inclusive community are as vast and varied as we are. When in doubt follow Jesus’ lead: Invite people to dinner. Invite people to church. Invite people into your lives so they are no longer outsiders. Jesus invites us to follow him, so let’s invites others to follow him too.


Jesus calls this man of unacceptable status and he gets up and follows after him. Implied in Matthew’s following of Jesus is the leaving of his desk, the symbol of his profession and the root of his sinfulness. 

God never calls us to something, without first calling us away from something. Some people will never fully come into discipleship because they find themselves unable to let go of commitments in which they are oftentimes legitimately engaged before the call of God comes into their lives. And to be honest, we can never get to the next thing that God has for us until, in an act of simple obedience, we let go of where we are and follow after him.

The call of God is a far reaching call. Jesus calling a tax-collector is a controversial call. In far too many churches there are still those who tell us, and apparently also God, who can and cannot be called. Tax-collectors were despised for they were often believed to cheat the people whose taxes they were instructed to collect. They were considered to be no better than swindlers and murderers; they were believed to be guilty of flagrant moral offenses. 

It is likely that Matthew was indeed a customs official, counted among those of such ill repute. Yet Jesus extends the call to him. It is not so much what Jesus sees in us that makes us worthy, but rather what he puts in us when we obey his command. Follow me, Jesus often said, and I will make you become fishers of people. 

So I guess there is a connection in these stories, and so I leave you with this…will we get past the individual miracles in our lives and see the larger societal resurrection Jesus lived and died and rose again for? Jesus has asked us to come do that, so now I guess we’ll just see how we will answer that call.