9th June 10:17
(~) Pentecost: Alive In The Spirit Of Hope (religion ritual prophets aspect sacrifice)
(~) Pentecost: Alive In The Spirit Of Hope
Third Sunday after Pentecost Proper 5
June 5, 2005
Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
Outward Behavior, Inward Attitude
During his earthly ministry, Jesus constantly challenged the traditional
systems of religion, including those that defined who was "acceptable" and
who was not. Jesus never backed away from saying and showing that no one
was unacceptable. He even went so far as to hang around with those who
were considered "outside"--even those who were despised.
The first verse of the Gospel reading (Matthew 9:9)
describes in very few words an early interaction between Jesus and Matthew
the tax collector. In first century Palestine, the Roman
system of government had the right to collect taxes from persons and used
local business people to carry out the actual collection. These business
people, called tax collectors, who worked for a commission, were obviously
not popular. They were, in fact, despised and hated because of the job the
Romans paid them to do.
What a shock it must
have been for Jesus to call Matthew, one of these reviled tax
collectors, into his closest circle of followers. Jesus looked past the
stigma Matthew bore in society and apparently saw potential and worth that
was not evident on the surface.
If this were not enough,
the next verses (Matthew 9:10-13) describe a scene in which Jesus
demonstrated again his acceptance of different types of persons.
These verses are a dinner scene, a very important aspect in defining one's
"in" and "out" group. What you ate and who you ate with were viewed as
definitions of character, a sort of social status. Once again, Jesus
shocks everyone around him by sitting down to eat with persons of highly
questionable character--sinners and tax collectors (9:10). In those days,
upstanding religious folks would not dare eat with such a crowd.
In his response to the Pharisees who questioned his audacity to do such a
words from one of Israel's prophets must have been equally shocking to his
first audience. To suggest that God was more interested in an attitude
than a sacrifice must have threatened Israel's tradition of the
sacrificial system. Hosea reminded them that a sacrifice without the
proper attitude is simply a meaningless act of ritual. The attitude of
mercy made it worthwhile to God and to the one offering the sacrifice.
The readings from Hosea and Matthew remind us that God has in mind a
different set of standards for acceptance than those normally operative in
the world. While outward behavior and actions certainly offer a clearhint
of a person, inward attitude and character better define who we are. As we
reflect on today's readings, may God help us understand that the true
character of a person comes from deep within...and not from what we see on
This week's Reflection was prepared by Steve Berneking, Ph.D., who serves
on the staff of the American Bible Society as Translations Officer in the
Translations Unit of the Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship.
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• Ninure Saunders aka Rainbow Christian
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