January 13, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Now go and learn what this means: I desire compassion rather than sacrifice. I came to call the sinners [into God’s presence] and not the righteous.” (Matthew 9.13)
True change in our lives comes with serious introspection. As we continue to press into reflecting on Matthew 9.13, let us see it as if we are looking into a mirror. Paul said to the community of faith in Christ in
Corinth “For the moment, we see only a reflection of ourselves as in a mirror [and that we see only dimly,] but the day is coming when we shall see ourselves face to face [and then we shall truly see Christ.] Now I know in part but then I shall know fully as I AM fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13.12) The interesting thing is that the mirror Paul spoke of was far different than the ones common to us today. In Paul’s day, a mirror was not made of glass but of metal or obsidian whose surface was so polished you could see yourself in it. Regardless, all mirrors are not transparent. You cannot see “through them.” You could polish a surface so finely as to create a reflection but it would never have the clarity of reality as we might see with modern mirrors. Thus, Paul could speak of “seeing ourselves in a mirror dimly.” But, one day the mirrors of Paul’s day would rust and decay or erode and disappear and then what? Paul challenged the Christ followers in Corinth with the truth that they would be left face to face with the truth about themselves. Did they want to live life solely reflecting upon themselves? Did they desire to collect people around them who would reflect what they wanted to see in themselves? Did they want others around them with a modicum of diversity to present themselves in a positive light for their own benefit? I think you can “see” where all this would lead. If all we do is reflect upon ourselves and project our own image, then our truth will eventually be shown to be a lie. We are not all there is in the world and our world is not all there is. There is more to us and the world than we might care to gaze upon!
I think Paul would appreciate glass mirrors and the principle which allows them to be reflections of one’s self. In order for a piece of glass to become a mirror there has to be a backing. The light we reflect is actually reflected back. The more clear the surface the more defining the image. But, when the backing is removed, the image begins to fade. In some fashion, we can “see” that the glass then becomes a portal through which we can see the other side. This is what Paul was alluding to when he wrote “One day we will see the truth face to face.” What is on the other side of the “looking glass”? I am not speaking of “Alice in Wonderland” as she passed through the looking glass into a fantasy world of Charles Carroll’s making. I am speaking of the reality of the world as it will be in the very eyes of Jesus. He is on the other side of the glass looking back at us. He is waiting for the veil to be removed by us and our willingness to see ourselves as we are and for who we are. We have been, after all, created in His image. This is the value of having the Word of God before us to help us see what we have not seen because we did not live in the first thirty years of what is now reflected upon as Anno Domini or “in the year of our Lord.” Some scholars have preferred to call it “A.C.E.” or After the Christian era. However, if that were a true designation of time, then the calendar would not have “started” at “0” but at 29 or perhaps at 26 since it would be after the life of Christ. But, even that is a poor reflection because aren’t we still IN the Christian Era? Aren’t we living IN the age of the Church? And didn’t Jesus promise to be with us always until the close of the Age? Does that mean that He won’t be with us after that? Of course not. What it means is that when the Age closes there will be no more mirror imaging or solemn reflections or false projections which veil the truth so that its message is dimmed and dulled to serve us better than it serves God. On that day, taking our lead from Paul’s writing, we will see ourselves as we truly are and Jesus as He truly is…”face to face.” Won’t that be a reveal unmatched by anything we have yet seen?
So, Jesus invites His “inquiring mind accusers” to go and learn what it means to pursue compassion rather than sacrifice. I believe He is asking them to truly become introspective, as He was Himself, about who they were and what their true intentions were. Jesus even models the challenge by sharing His own reflection on such a perspective when He said “I have come to redeem the sinners because those who are truly righteous should have no need of redemption…they should already be fully engaged in the true work of God which is LOVE!” What would we see in our reflection if we used that “Jesus paradigm” to see ourselves? Do our actions reveal more about a concern for self or a concern for others? Isn’t that, after all, what it means to be compassionate? Whether we are sympathetic or empathetic, if we are truly compassionate we are not pathetic. Pathetic really highlights the consumption of self by one’s self. Nothing in the world should truly be all about us; not even us. Our true selves are best seen when we reflect the needs of others and the resourcing of meeting those needs which God Himself provides physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. We become the mirrors in which others are able to see their true selves not in our eyes but in the eyes of Jesus who is the Christ. Didn’t He say to His disciples “If you have seen Me, then you have seen the Father; that should be enough for you to see yourselves in view of the past, present and future.” (paraphrase of John 14.9f) Even with that Jesus presses the disciples further in that what is seen is not about one’s physical appearance (who among us truly knows what Jesus looked like) but about one’s physical presence interacting with the world and doing the work of the Father who has sent us all into the world according to His will.
What does our own introspection reveal about us and the God we serve in the image of Jesus whom we call Savior, Christ, Messiah, Lord and friend? When Jesus was confronted by ten lepers on the road who called out for healing and restoration, He told them to “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” All ten turned to do what they had been told. Nine continued down the road waiting for someone else to tell them what they saw. One took a look at himself and realized what had already happened to him. He stopped in his tracks and turned to see Jesus. He wasn’t satisfied with seeing Jesus from a distance. Know that when the ten were spotted by Jesus or Jesus was spotted by them it was from a distance. Staying at a distance was the “safe practice” and expectation of lepers and the rest of the population. This one had to see Jesus as he now saw himself- up close and personal. He ran down the road much like the father of the prodigal son did when he saw his son step over the horizon. Imagine the skepticism of the disciples and possible fear for one who proclaimed himself to be a leper drawing near to them. You see, the disciples were still not fully believers in the Word of God which was Jesus. There were lessons yet to experience before that moment would be reflected in their own lives. Even after the resurrection we know that some still doubted. So, now I see the disciples huddling behind Jesus as the man approached. But, Jesus saw the man as He saw Himself. He is whole, clean and made right with God. The man saw himself as unworthy yet blessed. He falls at the feet of Jesus and begins to worship Him. When do we hear of the disciples “worshipping” Jesus? Only in Matthew in the moments before He ascended into Heaven and then, as I just mentioned, only with the truth that some still doubted while the rest worshipped. He saw Jesus for who He was. The disciples had to ponder this for themselves. What image were they now projecting about Jesus and the Word and their own lives in accordance with it. Jesus said to the man, “Rise and go your way because your faith has made you well.” Understand, the man was given permission to go home and not stop at the local synagogue to be verified as “clean, saved and redeemed.” He would have been the challenge to his community to believe that Jesus is the Christ who has done this. He alone is the true priest of all believers. And what is it that others see in us? Are we “clean, saved and redeemed”? Are we acting in compassion toward others or seeking others to validate who we see ourselves as? Are we directing the view of the world to see Jesus and to worship Him alone or to see our faith and faithfulness? The benchmark of assessing our true learning and mastery of the concept of salvation has been set. The mark is Jesus who took up His cross and followed the Word of God because He so loved God and us. He asks us to do the same for there is no greater love [compassion] than this that a man would [take up his cross and] lay down his life for the sake of another [whether friend, neighbor or enemy.]
Father, may Your word be alive in us and through us so that all may see Jesus, believe in Him and be saved. AMEN.