The Calling of Matthew
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.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
– Matthew 9:9-13
The artist who painted the picture above, Caravaggio, would have deeply understood the meaning of the scene. Caravaggio was hot headed and notorious for getting into fights. His sexuality was also in question (note the fact he had very few attractive women in his art, but a lot of girlish looking boys). None of us can draw any conclusions about the artist’s relationship to God, but we can see he was moved by the Lord’s statement, “‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Associating with notoriously wicked people often indicates a person’s wrong intentions. But it can also mean that person is going where God has sent them and sewing the seeds of redemption.