When it comes to Bible reading, I’m all about context. We can’t really study a passage without looking at what took place before we got there. I actually learned that lesson through a movie my husband and I once watched. Somehow, when we clicked play, the movie began right in the middle. Honestly, it felt quite artsy and dramatic with a flair for mystery. For the next forty minutes, we were consumed wonder about the characters, the plot, the twist and turns of events. If felt like we had missed something, which of course, we did. When the credits rolled at the end, we realized we missed the first forty minutes of the film. I think that is what happens to us with studying God’s word. We don’t quite know where we’ve landed when we jump into the middle of Scripture.
In Matthew 9, we enter a scene where Jesus heals the paralyzed man. It’s not the first healing that’s occurred since the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus delivered the beatitudes followed by teachings about the law, anger, adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, loving our enemies, giving to the needy, prayer, fasting, money, and possessions, judging others, the golden rule, the narrow gate, the true and it’s fruit, being true disciples, and building on a solid foundation. Oh yes, Jesus had quite a lot to say to his new followers before he began healing the sick and lame and blind and broken. What’s fascinating to me is that Jesus heals first than calls us to put His Word into action, not the other way around.
Yes, Jesus takes us broken so that He can heal us and set our lives on a brand new course. Every single one of us. Every single time.
Right after the healing of the paralyzed man, Jesus meets a man named Matthew busy doing his job as tax collector. That didn’t stop Jesus from offering him the invitation to take on a new calling as his disciple. Matthew didn’t hesitate. He didn’t object. He didn’t make excuses. He immediately got up from his booth and followed Jesus, and then proceeded to invite Jesus, his disciples, his tax-collecting friends along with “disreputable sinners” for dinner.
So let me ask you, what is your response to Jesus’ calling into healing and then also following Him?
Are you willing to leave everything — your familiar illness or health issue, your wounded heart, your career or ministry, your idols of security, your efforts for approval, all your dreams and big ideas?
Matthew followed Jesus. It appears he gave up his career as he walked away from his booth — the place his work occurred. But maybe not. Maybe God added to his ministry by what was about to take place in His home?
Could God be calling you to this as well? Even in the face of criticism, just like what Matthew received from the Pharisees. Jesus rebuked those critics, declaring that who they called the “scum of the earth” are actually the “sick people who need a doctor — those who do not think they are righteous but those who know they are sinners” (Matthew 9:13-14). He references a passage from Hosea 6:6, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me, more than I want burnt offerings.”
It seems that kind of ministry could happen anywhere, anytime. Yet it’s hard to not take notice that in the case of Matthew, showing love began with eating with sinners in his home. Could the same calling be on us, too?
Imagine what would happen if instead of food being the motivator for getting to the table that it was about the people gathered around. How could that be a bold step in crushing a sugar addiction with a new goal that is holy whole and kingdom-minded!
“Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said . . .
Matthew 9:9 NLT
Heavenly Father, thank you for the many lessons we can learn about living with kingdom-minded priorities through this passage of Scripture. Thank you that you sent Jesus to heal and call, and no one was disqualified. Help us to see clearly the work you want to do in us and through. Help us to be bold and courageous in our obedience to you. In the Strong Name of Jesus, Amen.
Join me for more devotionals and encouragement in the 40 Day Sugar Fast hosted by Wendy Speake.