June 11, Ordinary 10A (Matthew 9:9–13, 18–26)
Sitting and talking with a boy from Ethiopia, I received a radical dinner invitation.
Reading matthew’s gospel, we see Jesus as a new law giver. Matthew tells the story of Jesus in a way that reflects significant connections to ancient Israel and the law of Moses. Matthew places Jesus’ most significant sermon on a mountain. Jesus is a master teacher, attentive to the law.
In this week’s text, Jesus sits in the house of Matthew, a tax collector who has invited his friends to dinner with his new friend, Jesus. The Pharisees and the disciples alike wonder how Jesus could be a teacher or rabbi and yet eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees raise this question with the disciples.
Table fellowship in the first century mediated communal relationships. It defined who did and did not hold power and social status. Who you ate with said who you were spiritually, socially, and economically. This is not so different from many of the tables we sit at today. The Pharisees ask a legitimate question: Why is Jesus doing this? He knows the holy intent of the law, yet he sits at the table of sinners—especially a tax collector, who in his very job description is complicit with and benefits from the Roman occupation.