It’s behind you!

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Matthew 9:10-12

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

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.”

 

I saw something in today’s passage that I can’t believe I haven’t noticed before. Jesus says ‘I have not come to call the righteous but sinners’; he then says ‘go and learn what this means’.

 

So I thought about it to try and work out what Jesus meant and I realise I’ve been as blind as the Pharisees!

 

Jesus wasn’t saying that the Pharisees weren’t sinners. He hints at the scriptures they knew so well – the Lord ‘desires mercy, not sacrifice’ (Hosea 6:6). I was reminded of Psalm 95 where it says ‘Today, if only you would hear his voice, Do not harden your hearts’. That is what we, and the Pharisees do. We think we’re righteous. Jesus doesn’t or perhaps cannot call those who are comfortable with their lives and think they’re ‘alright Jack’. He calls those who recognise that they’re sinners (as we all are).

 

The verb to repent means to turn around. Often when I imagine this, I think of people turning their back on drugs or a life of crime. It is just as important though, that we turn our backs on our own perception of righteousness and confess our sins of arrogance and pride. That is what Lent is about.

 

Jesus in Matthew chapter 7 makes the famous statement about the speck in your friend’s eye and the plank in your own (I think this is one of Jesus’ jokes – a little lost in translation perhaps – but if you remember Jesus’ former profession it raises a smile!) I was reminded of those slapstick scenes in pantomime when children shout themselves hoarse ‘he’s behind you!’

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Of course, in a pantomime the actors are pretending that they don’t know what’s behind them for comic effect but the characters, especially to the children, look really stupid. I think we and the pharisees are just the same. We look ridiculous standing there not seeing that our greatest sin is not recognising our sinfulness. Not acknowledging that we’re sinners in need of a saviour. Jesus makes the same point again with the story of the tax collector and Pharisee praying in the Temple.

 

We need to repent, to turn around and see that ‘it’s behind us’.

 

Psalm 51:17 says: ‘a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise’. The Message translation of the Bible puts it this way:

 

I learned God-worship

when my pride was shattered.

 

Heart-shattered lives ready for love

don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

 

Here is a song of repentance that you can use to pray and acknowledge what’s been there all along as one of the lyrics says ‘I’m still a (wo)man in need of a saviour’.

 

 

In the light by DC Talk

I keep trying to find a life
On my own, apart from You
I am the king of excuses
I’ve got one for every selfish thing I do

What’s going on inside of me?
I despise my own behaviour
This only serves to confirm my suspicions
That I’m still a man in need of a Saviour

(chorus)
I wanna be in the Light
As You are in the Light
I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens
Oh, Lord be my Light and be my salvation
Cause all I want is to be in the Light
All I want is to be in the Light

The disease of self runs through my blood
It’s a cancer fatal to my soul
Every attempt on my behalf has failed
To bring this sickness under control

Tell me, what’s going on inside of me?
I despise my own behaviour
This only serves to confirm my suspicions
That I’m still a man in need of a Saviour

(repeat chorus)

Honesty becomes me
[There’s nothing left to lose]
The secrets that did run me
[In Your presence are defused]
Pride has no position
[And riches have no worth]
The fame that once did cover me
[Has been sentenced to this Earth]
Has been sentenced to this Earth

Tell me, what’s going on inside of me?
I despise my own behaviour
This only serves to confirm my suspicions
That I’m still a man in need of a Saviour

(repeat chorus 2x)

[There’s no other place that I want to be]
[No other place that I can see]
[A place to be that’s just right]
[Someday I’m gonna be in the Light]
[You are in the Light]
[That’s where I need to be]
[That’s right where I need to be]

 

 

 

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