Father, I thank You for Your abiding faithfulness. I ask for patience and steadfastness as I process the ragged edges of my life.
Consider: Matthew didn't leave his tax-collector's job in a spirit of grim resignation. He threw a party for sinners!
Today's passage tells us something of Matthew's own story. It also reinforces the powerful message that Jesus gives about the kind of people into whom he repeatedly chooses to invest himself. Collecting taxes for the despised Roman occupiers, operating a corrupt system and known for getting rich on the proceeds, tax collectors and their families were widely ostracized from mainstream Jewish society and worship. As Michael Green points out, "It was amazing that Jesus should bother himself with someone so universally despised and hated." He again crashed through contemporary social mores, making a bigger point about the nature of forgiveness and of the kingdom, underlining this in his response to the judgmental criticism of the Pharisees about his fellow partygoers.
The impact Jesus had upon Matthew was so great that his first thought was to hold "a great banquet for Jesus at his house" (Luke 5:29), inviting friends and work colleagues, all with the social status of "sinners." Eating together and hospitality extended to strangers were deeply rooted in Jewish culture (see Gen. 18:1-8). In our contemporary Western world, however, the word "hospitality" is more likely to make us think of the hospitality industry or of ensuring that we reciprocate dinner invitations to people who are like us. Even in our churches it can be more about rotation than building inclusive relationships and treating people with dignity no matter what their background.
God's guest list (11,12) includes a disconcerting number of poor, broken, or overtly sinful people--those who appear to bring little to any gathering except their need (Luke 14:13,14). Here, although ostensibly Matthew is the host, in reality Jesus is both guest and host. As Christine Pohl has said, "The practice of Christian hospitality is always located within the larger picture of Jesus' sacrificial welcome to all who come to him."
Do a study of meals in the Bible and prayerfully review your approach to hospitality. Consider when you last really celebrated forgiveness.
Father, remind us that all people in this land should have freedom and justice.