This chapter has the calling of two of the Apostles (vv. 1-11; 27-32), interjected with two healing episodes (vv. 12-16; 17-26), and concluding with a teaching moment (vv. 33-39).
Let’s start with the last first. This teaching moment, on the surface about fasting, is actually about Jesus’s identity. There this talk of wedding guests, bridegrooms, wine an wine skins: there’s the old and the new. But this particular passage is actually about Jesus: he’s the New and the Old ways of fasting and the Old Law is about to superseded and fulfilled by the New Covenant, contained in the person of Jesus Christ.
Let’s look at the calling of Simon Peter and Levi, aka Matthew. We’ve heard these stories before and we are familiar with their sequence. Notice Jesus calling Levi, a tax collector by trade, and how a meal is involved (v. 29). Those that follow the Lord are invited to eat with him. There is something intimate about dining with someone, and something even more intimate about dining with and there will be something earth-shatteringly intimate about the Eucharist- a meal to which you and I are invited on a weekly and even daily basis. Simon’s call is interesting: there is this tension between Simon Peter being called and then Simon doubting the fact that Jesus is even calling him. Simon’s impetuousness is even more striking (v. 5). This is something that Jesus will pray out of Peter over the course of their three years together. But again, notice Peter’s response to Jesus’s miracle of the fish: Peter’s response comes from a place of contrition (v. 8), but underneath that contrition is a latent realization that Jesus is someone special and his invitation to Peter given in v. 10 will ultimately lead the Peter’s own martyrdom.
And finally, let’s look at the two healing miracles. Again, remember our definition of a miracle: God breaking into the laws of nature, which he created, to bring about good for his people. Here, Jesus does this for the leper (vv. 12-16) and then for the paralytic (vv. 17-26). The healing of the paralytic is of particular interest. Notice the way in which Jesus not only performs the miracle, but the meaning of it. Jesus is explaining that the healing for the man is not just physical (v. 24) but is, predominantly, spiritual (v. 20). The healing that Jesus brings is made manifest most clearly in the forgiveness of sins- this is the essence of Jesus’s healing ministry and it is the essential mission of the Church today: to forgive sins and restore God’s people to Him, themselves and to the community.
Point for Prayer
(Deviating from McBride’s book for the day)
What would you do if Jesus was coming to your house for dinner? Imagine Jesus approaches you in the same way he did Levi (aka Matthew)- what would you do? What would you say? What kind of ‘house cleaning’ would we need to do if Jesus was coming to dine with us? Now, what can this teach us about our Sunday worship and Eucharist?