The call of the apostle Matthew follows on the heels of the account of Jesus healing the paralytic and forgiving his sins.
This call is direct. Two words are enough. I don’t know about you, but I can’t say I’m always paying close enough attention to note two words. What if I missed that call?
As Jesus passed on from there,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners came
and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
He heard this and said,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
The Lord alludes to Hosea 6:6. It strikes me as more than just a convenient citation to hush up the Pharisees. The promise of that portion of Hosea (6:1-6) is that God offers his people healing and knowledge.
This section of Matthew’s Gospel links healing with forgiveness (9:1-8). Jesus reaffirms this in his response to the Pharisees. He presents himself as the physician needed by these people. Jesus is also presented as the new Moses, the new lawgiver in this Gospel. This is consistent with Christ’s openness to teaching those who are in need, those who come to him.
Christ embodies the Father’s compassionate message to Hosea. He affirms that faith is about those who come to God in need. Not those who style themselves as already righteous. And truly: what need have they of God?