This summer, we will have weekly studies available for each of 12 weeks from May 13 through July 29. Each week, we’ll focus on one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. We’ll look at a short passage involving that disciples (actions, words, attitudes, etc.); we’ll have a short reading putting the passage in context; and we’ll have some discussion/reflection questions that can be contemplated alone or discussed in a group (a youth small group, friends, family, etc.). One of the main questions we’ll be asking is whether what we see from the disciple is “good” (something to be imitated) as we try to be disciples today — and the answers will not always be as easy as we think. This week, we look at the disciple Matthew, who was a tax collector (“sinner” – read more below) before Jesus called him, and who was one of many given grace and a second chance. READ Matthew 9:9-13 (NIV below)

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
READ this: I mentioned last week that I was hired in college by the same newspaper company my brother worked for, and that his work and his reputation were a big factor in them wanting to hire me (thinking I might be a “little Ben”). I applied for that job, for which the chief responsibility was writing news stories, with the one “clip” (published piece) I had — the one news story I had written. I was still in college; I wasn’t majoring in journalism; I wasn’t even minoring in journalism. I have experience working at the college newspaper, but as I mentioned, my published work in terms of news stories was not even enough to use the plural. I was being judged and evaluated and hired based on the possible future they saw in me, not on the recorded past of mine they had in front of them. This is the situation we encounter in this week’s disciple and this week’s passage. In the first verse, we see a situation very similar to other “call” stories we have of disciples: Jesus approaches man (Matthew) while man is working; Jesus says “Follow me”; man gets up and leaves work to follow Jesus. Then the story changes, because Jesus ends up at a dinner table at this new disciple’s house with Pharisees who are criticizing the company of Jesus: tax collectors and “sinners,” of whom Matthew is one, as we know from the job Jesus just called him away from. What we often want to say in response to this is that we’re all “sinners” – that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God, to quote Paul. But this is not what Jesus did. Instead, he acknowledged that these “sinners” were lacking in something, “sick” in some way, that they needed something he had. Tax collectors were agents of the Roman government, which ruled over the Jews. This association plus a tendency to be unfair and profit from their dealings in money lumped them in with “sinners.” Even Jesus uses “tax collectors” as an example of the least admirable group of people just a few chapters earlier in Matthew 5:46 (“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?”) Jesus saw his new disciple Matthew — the tax collector — and all of Matthew’s friends and coworkers in the corrupt tax-collecting business, and Jesus made a choice. He chose to act based on what their future could be, instead of what their past was. He saw them in their sickness but wanted to see them well. Jesus chose to give grace to Matthew and to see what Matthew could become — one of Jesus’ twelve closest followers. I thank God that Jesus makes the same choice for me — to act based on what my future could be, not what my past is. ANSWER these questions: Are there times we shouldn’t give people second (or third or fourth, etc.) chances? If so, what are those circumstances? When have people judged you based on what you’ve done in the past? When has someone given you a chance based on what you might be able to become? Who have you only been seeing the past in? How would seeing their possible future change how you think about them and act toward them? PRAY and thank God for when God has given you second chances you didn’t deserve, and ask God to help you see those who need those second chances offered to them.
Disciples: Matthew — Emerge Remote Lesson July 1
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