By Barrett Vanlandingham
October brings many creative disguises. But this is not the only time of year when people who appear to be one thing turn out to be another. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and other times not so good.
In the New Testament we read about Jesus approaching a tax collector named Matthew to make him a disciple. Jesus said, “Follow me.” And he did.
So what’s odd with this picture? Well, in today’s times I would say nothing. But back in the first century, tax collectors were thought of as thieves who gouged the taxpayer for more than what was due so they could keep the extra for themselves.
The Pharisees who were known to be religious people were always trying to catch Jesus doing something wrong.
So when Jesus went to Matthew’s house to eat dinner with him and many other tax collectors and “sinners”, the Pharisees tried to make a big deal out of it. They wanted the disciples to explain why their teacher would spend time with those kinds of people.
And who knows, Matthew may have been less than upright. If Matthew had seen some of the miracles Jesus had been performing, maybe he followed Jesus in hopes of turning this miracle man into a cash cow.
But after spending some time with Jesus and his disciples the picture changed. Jesus saw this as an opportunity to show love and compassion to a group of people who had only known criticism and hatred from their community.
The Pharisees were not asking questions about the “sinner dinner” because they cared, but rather to make Jesus look bad for hanging out with undesirables.
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means” I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)
In this story, the Pharisees were masquerading as God-fearing religious people while Matthew was disguised as an undesirable sinner.
But in the end, as history would have it, the roles were switched. What made the difference? In both cases Jesus exposed what was in the heart. It is when we allow Christ to control our hearts that we find out just how much joy life can bring.
May we get rid of our masks and get real with God so we can begin making a difference in the lives of others. Have a great week!
Reach Barrett Vanlandingham at the Fort Gibson Church of Christ at (918) 478-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.