In studying through Hebrews this fall, and in seeing how fully Jesus represents the dividing-line between the Old and New Covenants, I was struck this week by how the calling of Matthew - referenced in Matthew, Mark and Luke - is such a perfect picture of Jesus' way of showing the difference. Consider the text with some "Old Covenant reminders" thrown in for context:
On a certain day, Jesus went out and looked straight at a tax-collector called Matthew, as he sat at his office desk. The Old would say “This man is a despicable sinner, unworthy of any fellowship with the living Embodiment of God.” “Follow me,” Jesus said to him. The Old would then say, “Well, now this man must go through elaborate rituals of purification, sacrifice and external proofs of the change of heart in order to even have a chance of following God.” And Matthew got to his feet at once, left everything behind and followed him.
Then Matthew gave a big reception for Jesus in his own house… And the Old would say, “Okay, but let only the perfect, pure and utterly righteous come to this party; let only the exactingly religious sit at table with God’s Son.” ...and there was a great crowd of tax-collectors and other disreputable people at table with them. For there were many such people among his followers. The Old would say, “Well, at least these disreputable people, tax collectors and riffraff are now going to get an earful from their God, regarding their sin and lawlessness to this point...” But it was: The Pharisees and their companions, the scribes, [who] kept muttering indignantly about this to Jesus’ disciples which, yes, according to the Old, was the proper way of doing business: at second-hand, away from God, and they said, “Why do you have your meals with tax-collectors and sinners?” To which the Old would say, “Precisely! What sort of person associates with sinners?”
But Jesus heard this and replied, “It is not the fit and flourishing who need the doctor, but those who are ill! Suppose you go away and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ The Old would now be shaking in its boots as He continues: In any case I did not come to invite the ‘righteous’ but the ‘sinners.’” Which is a verbal invalidation of everything that the Old has ever stood for.
The constant question for our hearts: Is this the Jesus we're following?