The sin-sickness doctor

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‘It is by grace you have been saved, through faith ... it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast’ (Ephesians 2:8,9). Praise God for his mercy, his gift, his grace.

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Bible passage Matthew 9:9–13

The Calling of Matthew
 9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

Explore the Bible

Human tribalism
The grace of God upsets our ways of thinking. From football to politics, national identity to church denominations, we define ourselves by difference. We divide people into ‘us’ and ‘them’.

The Pharisees aimed to live righteous lives, by keeping the Law and by distancing themselves from anything and anyone they considered unholy. Tax collectors like Matthew were unholy. They were the despised ‘them’ (v 10). Not only did they collaborate with the hated Roman regime but they had a reputation for fleecing their own people to line their pockets.

God's acceptance
Jesus doesn’t keep his distance from those the Pharisees would regard as scum (vs 9,10) because his role is to deal with and heal sin-sickness (v 12). When it comes to sin-sickness there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ (see Romans 3:10).

Consider the groups of people who are despised in your country (loan sharks, paedophiles, drug dealers). How might Jesus want his followers today to show mercy to them (v 13)? How might we let them know that Jesus wants them in his kingdom?


Why not research Christian organisations that work in prisons or with ex-offenders in your area? Consider ways you might support them (through prayer, giving or volunteering); perhaps you could invite others in your fellowship to join you.

Penny Boshoff

Deeper Bible study

‘Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult / of our life’s wild restless sea, / day by day his sweet voice soundeth, / saying, “Christian, follow me”.’ (Cecil Frances Alexander, 1818–95)

Jesus’ powerful word has healed the man with leprosy, stilled the storm, freed the mentally enslaved and pronounced forgiveness. Now his word is effective in people’s hearts and wills, calling them into discipleship. No one could volunteer as Jesus’ disciple. Jesus rejected their offers (Matthew 8:19–22), calling only specifically chosen people to join his inner circle. We don’t know what qualifications Jesus wanted, but here he calls someone society rejected. It is difficult for us Bible translators to find a suitable word to replace ‘tax collector’ or ‘publican’, neither of which bear sufficiently negative connotations. In a pyramid business, they were underlings to those who purchased the right to gather taxes for the Romans, despised as unpatriotic, dishonest and unclean. ‘Collaborator’ might be the nearest modern equivalent. This was the Matthew whom Jesus called to join him.

The concept of a personal call poses problems for Christians. We are all called into relationship with God through faith in his Son – although someone like me, a Christian from childhood, no longer remembers it. My memory is simply growing to love the Jesus my parents loved. I once took part in a panel for a very difficult interview for an important Bible Society position. All six applicants felt strongly called. They were outstanding Christians. It was hard to tell five of them that they were unsuccessful. One had already made significant personal and family arrangements. Yet we all feel that certain people have been specifically called, particularly if their sphere of service is difficult. The truth we discern here is that, as in Jesus’ time, not everyone receives a clear call to a particular task but that most of us Christians, like the first Christians, respond to the call to love Jesus and then, despite our uncertainties, strive to follow him.

John Harris

Love the unlovely

Lord Jesus, I think I might have overlooked too many people. I might have avoided people you love:

• people who have a bad reputation

• people who are irritating or ill-tempered

• people who are from a different social background to me

• people who look untidy or smell unclean

• people who embarrass me

• people who disagree with me

Forgive me for living a life that is unlike yours.

Forgive me for receiving your abundant love and then failing to share it.

And then improve my eyesight. So that when I see others I can see how much you love them. And then join in with your love.

Give me the courage today to open a conversation with someone I have previously avoided. So that the glory of your love is seen a fraction more in my life.


Martin Hodson


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Jesus is Lord
Stuart Townend and Keith Getty
Copyright © 2003 Thankyou Music/Adm by songs
Buy this and other great worship songs at

Martin Smith/Stuart Garrard
Copyright © 1999 Curious? Music UK
Buy this and other great worship songs at

  • Angela Munday | Saturday, 03 February 2018

    Jesus called out to Matthew and he immediately left everything to follow Him. Matthew must have felt so comfortable in Jesus's company and knew there would be no condemnation; there was instead, just tangible love flowing and it was there to be received by him, a collector of money for those occupying his land. Matthew wanted to share this grace-filled love with all his friends and welcomed Jesus to eat and drink with them and the world's values were being turned upside down.....we are never the same again after we meet Jesus.

  • Roger Hall | Saturday, 03 February 2018

    I just received a message from Scripture Union about the Songs Of Praise celebration of 150 years at St Mary's with Her Majesty. I know that young eyes watched too. I also pray for a person who may start using the Church of St Mary's as a result. There's no doubt that the tremendous faithfulness of SU is entering the next era, and we thank them and praise God for what they stand for.

  • Lynda Spencer | Saturday, 03 February 2018

    I watched the BBC Songs of Praise episode mentioned in that message, ROGER. Well worth watching if you can get it on iPlayer. God is moving among our children, for which we give Him praise. We must all always keep praying for the minds and hearts of our children. Here in the UK the Christian Institute is urging us to pray and petition for the continued rights of parents to withdraw their children from sex education in school if it is felt that the teaching is inappropriate for that child at that time. If a particular bill is passed, that right will effectively be withdrawn. It may be helpful to read this bulletin from The Christian Institute which explains it much better than I can! Sorry, I know this has nothing to do with today's Bible reading. I hope you will forgive me for that, but it came to mind as I read ROGER's post.

  • Lynda Spencer | Saturday, 03 February 2018

    However, I did also want to share something relevant to today's passage - a song by Stuart Townend which has challenged me before, and again as I read today's Bible passage and SU commentary. May God bless you all today, whatever it holds.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Saturday, 03 February 2018

    Amen to your prayer Martin Hodson

  • Barbara Sabin | Saturday, 03 February 2018

    Here is Jesus saying 'Don't judge me by the company I keep' The good news of the Gospel is for the 'Whosoever' It must be else I wouldn't have been saved. Thank you Jesus.......

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