Rules and regulations live with and live by; we are very lucky to live in a western democracy a free society where we enjoy freedoms around who we are and what we want to do with our lives.
But there is still rules and regulations around us that surround us every day, rules in the law, rules in our work, rules in our homes and communities. It can seem like there are quite a lot at times however our society is nothing compared to that of the society and culture of Jesus’ time.
Ancient Jewish society was strict to say the least, and that’s a massive understatement. There were rules and regulations, societal expectations, things you did do and things you didn’t do surrounding every single aspect of life.
Don’t get me wrong some of these regulations made sense in ancient Jewish culture cleanliness paramount in all aspects of life. That’s not a bad thing in many ways. This is two thousand years before we had antibiotics and the wonders of modern healthcare. So it makes sense that cleanliness would be emphasised in order that people would stay healthy and disease wouldn’t spread.
But it didn’t stop there, that was the problem. Cleanliness moulds and turns into purity which isn’t a healthy thing, it’s actually quite a dangerous thing when its persuade relentlessly as it was. The need to be pure flowed throughout all of society, if you weren’t pure you were an outcast.
Our Gospel reading today again shows Jesus at his most radical. When we look back at Jesus’ life and ministry it is easy not to realise how radicle how different he was. Without knowing how strict society you was can’t really see how radicle Jesus was.
Tax collectors were among the lowest of the low in Jewish society they would take tax from the locals and give it to the occupying Roman Empire. Plus it was very common for them to take more than was required and skim off the top. They were complete outcasts in society.
We then have the woman who is describe as bleeding for twelve years she as well was a complete outcast. Women when menstruating were considers unclean un-pure and to be avoided at that time. So to have that for 12 years meant she was completely outcast form society.
Finally, you have the little girl who has died. Dead bodies were one of the major no’s no’s when it comes to cleanliness and purity. It was one of the ultimate things that were unclean and to touch a dead body was an insane prospect.
Jesus has broken every single one of these deliberately to prove that there is no clean or unclean pure on impure in Gods eyes. Only the beloved children of God which we all are.
Jesus sits and dines with tax collectors. Being invited into someone’s home and having a meal with someone was extremely important in Ancient Jewish culture. It was an honour and you identified with that person.
What’s more Jesus doesn’t just eat with them nut he calls them to follow him to be his disciples. So far they have propped up the Roman Empire and themselves now Jesus is calling them to prop up Gods empire and God.
Then he sits with them with the unclean, the sick, the outcasts and he eats with them. I wonder who the outcasts are in our society now? Do we sit and eat with them?
Finally he touches both the haemorrhaging woman and the dead girls body. Touches the most unclean things in society and by such they are both healed.
You can see why the disciples and those following Jesus are often shock and have no idea what he is going to do next. Jesus is unpredictable, radical, and standing up against the injustices of the world. Standing up with those who suffer or are in need whatever that may look like and that can be vastly different for different people and each of us.
At the moment in the life of the church there are many factions, and groups, and movements. Divisions and fallings out between colleagues, parishioners, and fellow children of God.
It isn’t going to stop anytime soon and divisions are likely to get more profound especially with General Synod discerning the future path of the church. What’s important is what we see from Jesus in this reading.
What we see is there is no in or out. No clean or unclean nor pure or impure Jesus came and did away with all of that for good reason. We are all equal under God, we are all beloved children of God. The same way a devout ancient Jew was, an ancient tax collector was, and the haemorrhaging woman and dead girl were.
So there is no out only in, and as such as we travers this time let us always remember and hold onto that. If we feel isolated, alone, on the fringes or outcast remember that Jesus came into the word for us, out of love for us, and as such we are not and can never be on the fringes or outcast.
Let us remember this in our own church also as the inevitable divisions and politics emerges and unravels itself as it almost certainly will over the coming months. Let us remember that no one is outcast or on the fringes none of us nor anyone else. So let us travers this time as Jesus di and as we seen him do this morning.
Sitting and eating with others different to us in politics, views, culture and so on. Let us walk with them towards and with Christ on the journey we are all called to be on. Let us invite them into our homes and our lives. And in doing so let them tough our lives, our story, our journey, and we theirs.
Let us all walk together following Christ, living Christ, and proclaiming Christ.
So I ask you:
Who are the ones who are different to you?
Who are the ones who seem outcast?
Will we welcome them, sit with them, eat either them, and live with them?
Will we be to them as Christ was to the people in our Gospel and to us?
Will we follow Christ?
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.