Second Sunday after Pentecost — June 11, 2023

There is room for everyone in Jesus’ community, but the marginalized get top priority.

Year A
Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26

Reading this passage from the Gospel of Matthew feels a lot like life these days – too much activity, not enough time! These fifteen short verses narrate four distinct episodes: the calling of Matthew, the Pharisees criticizing Jesus’ table companions, the healing of the hemorrhaging woman, and the raising of a synagogue leader’s daughter. Mark, the Gospel writer known for his brevity, takes 28 verses to cover the same narrative territory. Slow it down, Matthew! Give a girl a chance to breathe!

There’s no way a sermon, lesson or Bible study could adequately address every story in this text, so should we really include all four? The Revised Common Lectionary has already sliced and diced the passage; surely a little more pruning couldn’t hurt?

Or maybe there is great wisdom in the RCL editors’ decision. I think it matters that all four of these stories are included in the lectionary and read in worship. We, the gathered people of God, are an increasingly diverse cross-section of humanity. In this text, we see the broad spectrum of people touched by Jesus’ ministry. Careful attention to this passage from Matthew offers a place in Scripture for each of God’s people to hear a snippet of their story.

Jesus calls Matthew the tax collector, and then he engages in a debate with the Pharisees. And so, the Lord directs his attention to those who are judged and those who do the judging.

Jesus raises the daughter of a prominent synagogue leader and heals the woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years. And so, there is space in Jesus’ community for the privileged and the marginalized.

Jesus heals the woman who touches him herself and raises the little girl whose father appeals to Jesus for her. And so, there is room for those of us who have the wherewithal to approach Jesus on our own and those of us, like the daughter (or the paralytic, immediately before this passage) who need the help of others to get to Jesus.

The synagogue leader approaches Jesus and directly asks him to come to his house and raise his daughter. The hemorrhaging woman approaches Jesus discreetly, from behind, only daring to touch the fringe of his cloak. And so, there is a seat at Christ’s table for those who feel worthy of Jesus’ time and attention and those who don’t.

Everyone in this text receives the gift of Christ’s love, healing, time and attention. But it’s worth noting who Jesus prioritizes.

Jesus sees Matthew the tax collector, calls out to him and asks him to be his disciple. Jesus takes the initiative to invite sinners and tax collectors to his home and table. The Pharisees get a hearing from Jesus, but they must approach him with their questions. Jesus, who desires not sacrifice but mercy, has a preferential option for sinners.

Likewise, the synagogue leader approaches Jesus and asks for his healing touch first. But along the way, the hemorrhaging woman touches Jesus’ cloak, and he interrupts his initial mission to commend her for her faith and heal her. Both the synagogue leader and the hemorrhaging woman receive the healing they are seeking. But Christ, who teaches “Blessed are the poor,” has a preferential option for the people who are overlooked and marginalized.

At Christ’s table, there is always enough to go around. But make no mistake: The sinners, outcasts and marginalized get served first.

Jesus prefers outcasts. Jesus prioritizes sinners. Every single time. Perhaps we would do well to go and do likewise.

Questions for reflection:

  1. With whom in this passage do you identify? Matthew? The Pharisees? The hemorrhaging woman? The father? The daughter?
  2. Who are the people in your life who get top priority, the most attention? How about in the life of your church?
  3. Look around at your community. For what people and groups of people might Jesus have a “preferential option” in your context?

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