Matthew’s Gospel. We see that Jesus goes out of His way to ‘stir the pot’, causing trouble that seems unnecessary. He calls a tax-collector to be one of His disciples. A tax-collector! Are you kidding me? Tax-collectors weren’t the most sterling characters in Jesus’ day. Crooks… or worse. Of all the people He could reach out to and call as one of His disciples, a tax-collector? Why not a Rabbi or a Temple official? Nicodemus came at night. Why not call him by day? No, not Jesus. No! He calls a tax-collector!
The Pharisees are disgusted. Fed up. He even goes to dinner with tax-collectors. You can feel the Pharisee’s dripping arrogance and self-righteousness. That’s when Jesus lowers-the-boom! He quotes from Hosea in the Old Testament. Remember him? Hosea was God’s prophet, commanded to take an unfaithful woman as his wife. He was to show forgiveness in addition to that big word, mercy. Nothing about ‘throwing the book’ at her or standing on his right principles with his righteous indignation. In the book of Hosea, we discover that our Lord ‘…desires mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings'(Hosea 6:6). More mercy and less judgement is the desire of our Lord.
He doesn’t want to throw salt on our wounds. He wants to heal them. With mercy. He really loves us, and wants us to come back to Him. Have you read that portion of the prophet Amos yet? My, oh my, just dripping with sarcasm! ‘Go to Bethel and sin…Bring sacrifices every morning, your tithes…brag about your freewill offerings–boast about them…for this is what you love to do…'(Amos 4: 4-5). Reading the rest of Amos 4, we discover the heart of the Lord, who says over-and-over again–‘…yet you have not returned to Me.’ Five times God says this in chapter 4. He cries out: to come home… to Him. Waiting for us at home is His mercy… like a mighty river flowing and flowing with great force.
How could we ever stay away? But we do. I have at times, and I don’t recommend it. So, come home. Open arms will greet you. He promises to forgive and forget. Unlike you and me, He really means it. Forgives…AND forgets. That’s mercy, I’d say. Like choosing a tax-collector or receiving an unfaithful woman. Even greeting me and you, not with the back of His hand, but with open arms. Empty rituals will never cut it with our Lord. Never. Only hearts and souls that passionately desire Him. Only if we come home to Him. Only then…
Are you home yet? You’ll know it when you’re there! He’s left the light on and the door is open! Welcome home!
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for all your kindness to us in Jesus. In His name. Amen.