Second Sunday after Pentecost

by Bear Wade

Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
Second Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 5-Sunday between June 5 and 11 Inclusive)
analysis by Lori A. Cornell

9As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. 10And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” 18While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. 20Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, 21for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” 22Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was well. 23When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24he said, “Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. 26And the report of this spread throughout that district.

DIAGNOSIS: The alienated sick

Step 1-Initial Diagnosis: Sick in living together
These gospel narratives are for people who have limited choices — people who would like to be able to give direction to their lives, but who aren’t sure how or whether they actually can. It’s also a story for people who have been pigeon-holed by their society, and not in the best light. These are the people who occupy a major role in this reading — the tax collector Matthew, the “sinners” who didn’t observe the Torah, an unclean woman, and a dying girl. The representatives of the religious community participate in this segregation, unaware of how their own being is poisoned by the separation.

Step 2-Advanced Diagnosis: Sick at heart
The elite and downtrodden do share one thing in common. Both are sick. Jesus’ explanation of his reason for sitting with tax collectors and sinners (“those who are sick”) does not provide an immediate cure for the illness of either grouping. It points to the depth of the problem whenever there is such a separation of human beings from one another — that the heart is unable to love. Instead, victims are blinded to the possibility of anything new breaking into their lives to change them for the better. They believe they are unacceptable. The elite, in their smugness, cannot see the depth of their illness either (this may also be the case for the leader of the synagogue, who may think this healing is all for him, v. 18). This is not an occasion where Jesus is simply pitting one group against another. He is pointing to a deep malady — sin-sick souls are running rampant.

Step 3-Final Diagnosis: The Sickened relationship with God
The truth of the sickness is even scarier. Being unacceptable and sick at heart is not the whole problem. Their relationship with God is so sickened, that one and all are finally forsaken in their sickness, without any hope for healing. There are no shepherds caring for their people. The final result is that our forsakenness not only dashes our hopes and imagination about ourselves and the world, but it also crushes our desire to know and be known by God. For we have become convinced that God is either neglecting or ignoring us — or maybe worse, visiting us with his neglecting.

PROGNOSIS: Invited through/to Healing

Step 4-Initial Prognosis: A House Call
But what if God were not as distant as our imagination and experience and culture would lead us to believe? What if, in fact, God were the kind of God who knows our forsakenness so intimately himself that he refuses to leave us forsaken, and instead shows up on our door-step ready to treat what ails us? And what if God, like a physician, makes house calls? For that is exactly what God does in Jesus. In Jesus, God shows us that he is ready to face our forsakenness with us, put an end to it, and by his companionship make us acceptable, whole people. For Matthew, and his fellow sinner-friends, Jesus makes this move (of making them acceptable) by sitting at the table with them — unclean souls that they are. For the woman with the hemorrhage, Jesus undoes her forsakenness by acknowledging her presence, healing her, and lifting up her faith in him. And for the little girl he does it by refusing to accept the judgment that she is dead; instead, he makes his house call as planned, and gives her new life. And even for his smug onlookers, even ourselves, he makes us acceptable by taking our guilt, shame, and deadness to the cross, while handing us new life. Jesus shows himself to be the physician and healer of the unacceptable, sick, and dead.

Step 5-Advanced Prognosis: Faith that heals
But that is not all. As they are healed, Jesus lets those newly healed ones know that they themselves have something beating deep within their hearts that “makes them well” — i.e., their faith. With faith we are able to rise above the illness of a relationship with God that would have left us for dead. By our trusting that Jesus can heal the depths of our being, the depths of our soul, we get all that and more in the bargain of his healing presence, and get to live a renewed life in wholeness.

Step 6-Final Prognosis: Following the Leader
What’s more, Jesus invites us to “follow him” as his people made well, and participate in his mission of making house calls on the world. Keeping company with Jesus frees the accepted and healed person to pay attention to other outcasts and forsaken people who need Jesus the Christ’s healing touch in their lives. Jesus’ healing opens our eyes to the healing that we’ve receive; it reminds us of the gift which others still need. Being in the company of Jesus changes our outlook about God and our neighbor. In effect, those who have been healed by Jesus, give up the God-forsaken ways of the world, and follow Jesus’ lead instead. In fact, whenever we see the forsaken before us, we remember the love of Jesus the Physician for us, and (in both relief and gratitude) we offer others the healing which we have received already.


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