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"Follow Me, the Doctor of Mercy" (Sermon on Matthew 9:9-13)
June 8, 2008 | The Rev. Charles Henrickson

Posted on 06/07/2008 6:31:01 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson

“Follow Me, the Doctor of Mercy” (Matthew 9:9-13)

As many of you know, this is the “Year of St. Matthew” in our lectionary series. Matthew’s Gospel is the one that we’re following this year. But in our text this morning, we see Matthew himself doing the following. St. Matthew hears the call to follow, and we, the people of St. Matthew Lutheran Church--we hear it also, the call of Jesus, “Follow me.”

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, had something in common with quite a few pastors today (including this one): He was a “second-career man” in the ministry. The only thing is, Matthew’s first career was probably a little more unsavory than most. He was a tax collector, a “publican,” as it was called. Of course, the Jews back in Matthew’s day probably called him a few other names besides. For the tax collector was one of the most despised persons in Palestine. In the public opinion polls, “tax collector” or “publican” would have been way down at the bottom of the list.

Now tax collectors are never popular. For one thing, they take away your money. But the tax collectors of that day were hated for two more reasons: 1) They liked to line their own pockets, and 2) The taxes they were collecting were for the Romans, the foreign power occupying Palestine. So the publicans were collaborators, turncoats who cozied up to the enemy for their own advantage. Well, that’s the kind of guy our Mr. Matthew was. No question he was a sinner. That was easy to see.

The Pharisees certainly had no problem spotting sinners--except when it came to themselves. Now how about us? If you’re anything like me, you’re better at pointing out sin in others than you are in yourself. But if we look into the mirror of God’s law, we see that, like Matthew, we too are sinners. We may not have a tax booth, but inside each of us there is a “take booth”: Take whatever we can to satisfy ourselves. Take the gifts God has given me and use them for myself. Take from others whatever they can do for me. This is the “take booth” you and I are sitting at. The symptoms of our sinfulness may not be as obvious as they were in Matthew’s case, but the underlying disease is still the same.

Matthew sitting at his tax booth, you and I sitting at our “take booth”--but to sinners like Matthew and like us, Jesus comes and simply says, “Follow me.” Clean and crisp and powerful the call comes. The initiative is all with Jesus. He chooses his disciples. We don’t choose him. The essential and decisive thing is his gracious call. It’s not because of anything in us that Jesus calls us. It’s about something in him: divine mercy and grace.

Jesus not only calls sinners, he also eats with them. The Pharisees were shocked that Jesus would break bread with a houseful of Matthews. But he did. It’s not that there’s anything virtuous or noble about tax collectors and sinners. There isn’t. The point is that God’s grace is deep enough and strong enough to deal effectively with their sin. Jesus welcomes sinners. Our Lord is not ashamed to have fellowship, table fellowship, with the likes of you and me. Every time the Lord’s Supper is offered in this house, Jesus invites us to eat and drink at his table. At this table he gives us his body and blood, given and shed for you on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins.

Matthew and you and I all share the same sickness. It’s called sin, and it is a chronic, terminal illness. But thank God, we also all go to the same doctor. Jesus says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” And he himself is that physician, the doctor who meets our need. This man Jesus is known by many titles: “Lamb of God,” “Prince of Peace,” “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” Well, there’s one more title we could add to the list: “M.D., Doctor of Mercy.” His mercy is the healing balm that brings comfort and relief to our sin-sick souls. His mercy is the medicine of immortality that will give life to these dying bodies.

Suppose for a moment that there was a brilliant physician who founded a hospital. What’s more, this doctor’s personal efforts developed the very effective medicine that the hospital uses. The medicine is based on a rare antibody found in the great doctor’s own blood. And still today he constantly donates blood with which to make new batches of the medicine. Every drop of the medicine used in treatment gives the patient, as it were, a transfusion of the physician’s blood. Therefore the hospital and its patients live in ongoing dependence on the founder--not just for information and guidance, but for life itself.

In this story, the church is the hospital, a hospital for sinners. We are those sinners, the patients. And Christ is the doctor who has established the hospital and continues to give life to the patients. Just as the medicine has healing power because it is made from the founding doctor’s own blood, so the blessed Sacrament applies to us, again and again, the very blood of Christ which makes us whole.

Matthew the tax collector, Jesus the Great Physician. This text about a tax collector and a physician reminds me of some of the political discussions in America these days. Now stick with me here--this’ll end up being a comparison to the gospel. A tax collector and a physician. Some politicians are calling for “free universal health care.” Of course, what they don’t tell you is that it is never free. In order to get that “free universal health care,” some of us are going to have to pay an awful lot at the tax collector’s booth. And then if you’re lucky, and the government decides you’re a worthy enough candidate, you might get to see a physician--oh, in six or eight months. As someone has said, “If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it’s free!”

Well, I say this not to make a political point, but in order to point you to what is the only true “free universal health care.” And that is the kind Jesus, the Doctor of Mercy, provides. It is spectacularly free. Absolutely free to you, a free gift, all by grace. Of course, there was a price, and somebody had to pay. The good news is that Jesus paid it all for you. Your coverage comes to you free of charge, because Christ paid the full cost for you on the cross. No co-pay required.

The care Christ provides is free, and it is universal. Everyone is covered. The Son of God paid the price for all sinners, everywhere, for all time, with his holy, precious blood. Everyone is covered; no one is left out. And the care this Great Physician provides gives you healing for your soul, in the forgiveness of sins, and ultimate healing for your body, at the resurrection of the dead. Unlike smooth-talking politicians, Jesus can actually keep his promise, no strings attached: Free, universal eternal health care, for everyone--for you--from the Doctor of Mercy.

Yes, Jesus is the Doctor of Mercy. Up to now, we’ve been using the word “doctor” in the sense of “physician.” But I think there’s another way in which we can call Jesus “doctor,” and that’s in the sense of “expert teacher.” In our text, he is called the “teacher” of the disciples. Jesus also wanted to teach the Pharisees the lesson of mercy, but they would not listen. He said to them: “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus is the Doctor of Mercy for us as disciples. He is our expert teacher. Not only do we need him as our physician, but also as our example and instructor in dealing mercifully with others. Like the original disciples, we too have been called by Jesus to follow him, both in receiving mercy and in extending that mercy to others.

We extend God’s mercy to others by our Christian witness. We tell our friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors about the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. The wellspring of refreshing mercy which we have discovered in the gospel, we do not keep to ourselves, but we give it away to others. We invite other thirsty souls to join us in receiving God’s mercy in Christ.

We also extend mercy to others by our acts of Christian kindness. We don’t think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but in humility and love we serve our neighbor. We don’t look down our noses, with an air of smug superiority, at those still caught in the web of sin. We recognize that we too are sinners. We realize that the only reason we are anybody or anything is by the mercy of God. Forgiveness is that gift of God by which we live, and it is that, then, which we practice and extend toward others. As we disciples follow Jesus our teacher, more and more we too become experts in extending God’s mercy to sinful people, even those who sin against us.

Jesus, the Doctor of Mercy. “Doctor” as the Great Physician for sinners. “Doctor” as the expert teacher of disciples. “Doctor” in both senses of the term. My friends, fellow sinners and fellow disciples, the good news is this: The doctor is in. Your appointment is now. The bill has been paid for. “Follow me,” Jesus is calling out to you today. “Follow me, the Doctor of Mercy.”

TOPICS: Religion
KEYWORDS: lcms; lutheran; matthew; mercy; sermon
Matthew 9:9-13 (ESV)

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.”

1 posted on 06/07/2008 6:31:02 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
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To: lightman; old-ager; Cletus.D.Yokel; bcsco; redgolum; kittymyrib; Irene Adler; MHGinTN; ...

2 posted on 06/07/2008 6:36:41 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson (Lutheran pastor, LCMS)
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To: Charles Henrickson

Cool story of Our Lord having chow with a bunch of IRS agents. But these were of the nice kind.

3 posted on 06/07/2008 7:10:12 PM PDT by 353FMG (What marxism and fascism could not destroy, liberalism did.)
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To: Charles Henrickson

Jesus saw beneath the surface of Matthew and discerned that this man so skilled at balancing accounts and checking debits and credits would be excellent at gathering verses from the Psalms and Prophets and checking them “fulfilled” as they came to pass in His Holy Passion, one by one.

4 posted on 06/07/2008 8:43:16 PM PDT by lightman (Waiting for Godot and searching for Avignon)
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To: 353FMG; Charles Henrickson

Thanks for the sermon Pastor.

>>Cool story of Our Lord having chow with a bunch of IRS agents.<<

I had to snicker at this statement.

5 posted on 06/08/2008 5:02:14 AM PDT by Arrowhead1952 (Typical white person, bitter, religious, gun owner, who will "Just say No to BO in Nov.")
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