‘Who does Jesus welcome?’
This is the question that dominates this section. There are many following Jesus, but who does Jesus accept as true followers. Who does he welcome?
As a former tax-collector, Matthew himself was once an outcast among the Jewish people, and yet he was welcomed by Jesus (Matthew 9:9-12), despite his shady past and corrupt lifestyle. He wants to show his readers in chapters 8-9 that the people we least think Jesus would have time for, are the very ones he wants to welcome into his eternal kingdom.
The leper (vv.1-4) was an eye-sore, contagious and spiritually unclean and excluded from Jewish religious life. The centurion (vv.5-13), a Roman soldier, was an enemy of the Jews. Peter’s mother-in-law (vv.14-17), was a woman, and so in those days was overlooked, disrespected and on the fringe of society.
Through these people, Jesus wants to show us who he welcomes and what he desires from those who want his blessing. The person we least think Jesus would welcome, is the FIRST person Jesus wants us to bring to him. That person might be a neighbour, the homeless you see at the train station, the person addicted to drugs, the person whose lifestyle disgusts you the most… AND that person might be you!