Our culture elevates self-reliance to the point which makes it difficult at times to ask for help. We seem to expend a lot of energy pretending or actually believing we can and should make it on our own. Heroes, it seems, are self-made people, able to overcome any obstacle in single-handed combat. This in itself is comical, for no one is truly a self made person. However, once the self-sufficient attitude becomes ingrained it becomes very difficult to admit when we need help.
During Jesus’ three-year ministry on earth the needy were attracted to him while those who “had it all together” took offense at him and his teaching. In Matthew 9 we see Jesus call a tax-collector to become one of his followers, part of his inner circle. While most of us would not put paying taxes on the top of our list of most fun things to do, we do not immediately catch the implication of Matthew being a tax collector and being called to follow Jesus. During the first century the Romans controlled Israel, along with many other foreign nations. The Romans used nationals on the ground to collect taxes from their countrymen to send back to Rome. As you can imagine, these tax-collectors were unpopular and looked down upon as traitors. Tax-collectors became wealthy because of the foreign occupation of their own country and the economic suffering of their own people. For Jesus to even give the time of day to one of these people would have caused an uproar.
Jesus goes much further by calling Matthew to be his disciple. Matthew immediately leaves everything behind including his tax booth and follows Jesus. In gratitude, later that evening Matthew host a party for Jesus and his other followers. Matthew also invites those from his own social circle and when the religious people catch wind of the party, they were aghast that this supposedly upright teacher (Jesus) would be hanging out with the crooks and riffraff.
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.” MATTHEW 9:10-13
Those Who Are Sick
Jesus came and still comes to help all people. One requirement to gain access to his help is the virtue of humility. Humility allows us to see ourselves as we truly are; completely powerless to take away our own sin. The one sin that seems to give birth to all others is the sin of pride. G.K. Chesterton once defined pride as “seeing oneself out of proportion to the universe.” The Pharisees were some or the most religious people of Jesus’ day, but their religious pride kept them from receiving the only antidote for the soul-sickness we have all contracted. We can sacrifice all we have and all we are and it still will not be enough to eradicate our sin. We are all dependent upon God’s mercy found in the person of Jesus, the Christ.