(Saturday, July 8 )

Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’” (Mt 9:10-13)

The tax collectors and sinners simply “came and sat down with Him and His disciples,” but the Pharisees stood around and asked questions. They feared being degraded or even contaminated by the company of those who were not following their rules; who were not making the sacrifices that the Pharisees had come to demand from people.

But the Lord sends the Pharisees off to “go and learn” the basics of what God desires from us, which is not *our* righteousness and sacrifices, but His “mercy,” which is God’s way of sharing Himself with us. In Greek, the word “mercy” is *eleos*, which means more than just a withholding of punishment. It is an overflowing of God’s good will and goodness onto all of us; His way of sharing Himself with us. We are meant both to receive God’s “mercy” and to pass it on to others, rather than guard it as if we own it. It is God’s way, and we can be liberated from our self-isolating way, based on self-centered fears of *others*, by letting God have His way with us and others in our midst. That’s why in our church-services we are repeatedly saying, “Lord, have mercy!” We are saying, “Lord, have it *Your* way!

Let us “come and sit down” with One who eats and drinks with the sinners, with a Friend of turncoats and heathen. We are all “those people,” we might recognize, if we change our focus and take a look at ourselves and our own need of a Physician, instead of asking questions about others and demanding from them sacrifices we think they should be making. Lord, have mercy!