Daily Reading & Meditation

Saturday (March 8): Jesus calls sinners to follow him

Gospel Reading:   Luke 5:27-32

7 After this he went out, and saw a tax collector, named Levi, sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, "Follow me." 28 And he left everything, and rose and followed him. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house; and there was a large company of tax collectors and others sitting at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" 31 And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 58:9-14

9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am.  "If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11 And the LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong;  and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. 12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;  you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. 13 "If you turn back your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable;  if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; 14 then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;  I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Meditation: When your neighbor stumbles through sin or ignorance, do you point the finger to criticize or do you lend a helping hand to lift him or her up? The prophet Isaiah tells us that God repays each in kind. When we bless others, especially those who need spiritual as well as physical and material help, God in turn blesses us. When Jesus called a despised tax collector to be his disciple he surprised everyone including Levi (also known as Matthew). The religious leaders were especially upset with Jesus' behavior towards public sinners like Levi. People in Palestine were divided into roughly two groups: the orthodox Jews who rigidly kept the law and all its petty regulations, and the rest who didn't keep all the minute regulations. The orthodox treated the latter like second class citizens. They scrupulously avoided their company, refused to do business with them, refused to give or receive anything from them, refused to intermarry, and avoided any form of entertainment with them, including table fellowship. Jesus' association with the latter, especially  with tax collectors and public sinners, shocked the sensibilities of these orthodox Jews.

When the Pharisees challenged Jesus unorthodox behavior in eating with public sinners, Jesus' defence was quite simple. A doctor doesn't need to treat healthy people - instead he goes to those who are sick. Jesus likewise sought out those in the greatest need. A true physician seeks healing of the whole person - body, mind, and spirit. Jesus came as the divine physician and good shepherd to care for his people and to restore them to wholeness of life. The orthodox were so preoccupied with their own practice of religion that they neglected to help the very people who needed the greatest care. Their religion was selfish because they didn't want to have anything to do with people not like themselves. Jesus stated his mission in unequivocal terms: I came  not to call the righteous, but to call sinners. Ironically the orthodox were as needy as those they despised. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Do you thank the Lord for the great mercy he has shown to you? And do you seek the good of all your neighbors and show them mercy and kindness?

What does it mean to "leave all and follow the Lord"? Bede the Venerable (673-735 AD), an Anglo-Saxon monk who wrote numerous commentaries on the Scriptures, explains what it meant for Matthew and for us to "follow" as disciples of the Lord Jesus:

"By 'follow' he meant not so much the movement of feet as of the heart, the carrying out of a way of life. For one who says that he lives in Christ ought himself to walk just as he walked, not to aim at earthly things, not to pursue perishable gains, but to flee base praise, to embrace willingly the contempt of all that is worldly for the sake of heavenly glory, to do good to all, to inflict injuries upon no one in bitterness, to suffer patiently those injuries that come to oneself, to ask Godís forgiveness for those who oppress, never to seek one's own glory but always God's, and to uphold whatever helps one love heavenly things. This is what is meant by following Christ. In this way, disregarding earthly gains, Matthew attached himself to the band of followers of One who had no riches. For the Lord himself, who outwardly called Matthew by a word, inwardly bestowed upon him the gift of an invisible impulse so that he was able to follow."
Are you ready to forsake all for the Lord Jesus Christ?

"Lord Jesus, our Savior, let us now come to you: Our hearts are cold; Lord, warm them with your selfless love. Our hearts are sinful; cleanse them with your precious blood. Our hearts are weak; strengthen them with your joyous Spirit. Our hearts are empty; fill them with your divine presence.  Lord Jesus, our hearts are yours; possess them always and only for yourself."  (Prayer of Augustine, 354-430)

Psalm 86:1-6

1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am Godly; save your servant who trusts in you.  You are my God;
3 be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day.
4 Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; hearken to my cry of supplication.

A Daily Quote for Lent: Our All-powerful Pysician, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 AD

"Our wound is serious, but the Physician is all-powerful. Does it seem to you so small a mercy that, while youi were living in evil and sinning, he did not take away your life, but brought you to belief and forgave your sins? What I suffer is serious, but I trust the Almighty. I would despair of my mortal wound if I had not found so great a Physician." (excerpt from Sermon 352, 3)


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author Don Schwager © 2014 Servants of the Word

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 

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