As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13 ESV
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin! Psalm 51:1-2 ESV
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6 ESV
Quasimodo was a very ugly, deformed man who had been abandoned as a baby in Paris. He had a huge wart over one eye that made him half-blind, his back was hunched, and he had a large lump on his chest. Everyone hated him and was afraid of him except for the archdeacon of the Notre Dame cathedral, Claude Frollo. The archdeacon had taken Quasimodo into his home at the cathedral when he was young and taken care of him and given him the job of ringing the bells. Quasimodo was completely devoted to Claude Frollo and would do anything he asked, because the archdeacon had loved him and taken him when no one else wanted him.
This is only a story, and unfortunately in the story the archdeacon was not a good man. But this story is a picture of the way Jesus called Matthew. Matthew was a tax collector. He worked for the Roman government, and all the religious leaders and many of the people hated him because they thought he was a traitor. But Jesus loved Matthew and called him to become his follower. Matthew left everything behind and followed Jesus. That day Jesus ate dinner with Matthew, and many tax collectors and other people who were considered to be bad sinners were eating with Jesus. The religious leaders didn’t like this at all. They thought that a teacher like Jesus should only spend time with good people. But Jesus said that people who aren’t sick don’t need a doctor. He also said that they should learn that God is more interested in showing mercy than in having people follow all the laws of sacrifices and of being clean.
Jesus is like a doctor who came to cure us from the terrible sickness of sin. He took our sins onto himself and went to the cross with them to pay for them there. Jesus welcomes everyone to him who wants to receive his love and mercy. Some people don’t think they need any help or forgiveness from the Lord. They believe they are good enough for God all by themselves, and this is a serious mistake. People who think that way cut themselves off from the forgiveness Jesus has to offer them, and they also feel angry and upset when they see other people coming to the Lord whom they don’t think deserve his love and help. Jesus came for sinners, and he makes us righteous by covering our sins with his forgiveness. He warns and pleads with all people to see their need for him and to come to him for the mercy they need.
Dear Jesus, thank you for showing mercy to sinners and making us righteous by your forgiveness. Amen.
Hugo, Victor The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1831.