Jesus has just called Matthew the tax collector as the final member of his somewhat cantankerous band of 12 disciples when Jesus took a break. He relaxed at a table in Matthew’s home, presumably with some of Matthew’s most notorious and skeezy friends – sinners. Louses. Leeches. Low-lifes, every one of them.
The Messiah didn’t mind. Others did, however. The Pharisees were roaming about, trying to catch Jesus in any kind of misdeed. Eating with sinners and seemingly disrespecting Jewish customs were enough for the Jewish leaders to question some of Jesus’ disciples about his strange behavior.
If Jesus were truly to be a leader in the Jewish church, he would certainly have no fraternizing with these delinquents. Why is Jesus doing such things? the pharisees asked the disciples.
We were reading these verses in Matthew Chapter 9 on Sunday evening in our youth group Bible study session. My youth were already suffering from MEGO (My eyes glaze over), which was slightly unusual. Most nights, pure Bible study was one of our best catalysts for discussion.
I tried coaxing them into applying these words of Jesus’ into real life:
“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 9:12-13)
Blank looks were directed toward the ceiling, signifying they were thinking, but not willing to contribute.
I tried relating the metaphor that the church shouldn’t be a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners.
More blank looks.
And then sometimes the Spirit speaks in your language*. In their language.
“OK, you’ve all seen or read ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,’ right?”
My small band all nodded their heads now with surprised looks on their faces.
(* To further illustrate this was the Spirit speaking, while I am a giant fan of Harry Potter, I had not been thinking of HP for weeks, had not read HP or watched any movies in several months. Nothing about HP had jogged my memory for such a time as this. Enter: the Holy Spirit.)
I then began to relate the plot of the fictional book and ensuing movie on witches and wizards and a character named Professor Horace Slughorn.
When Harry Potter, our boy hero, first met Slughorn, Slughorn was disguised as a giant armchair in the upturned house of a Muggle (non-magic) family, trying to hide from bad witches and wizards.
Hogwarts headmaster and professor Albus Dumbledore had brought Harry with him to meet Slughorn, but with an ulterior motive. Dumbledore needed Slughorn to return to Hogwarts to be its potions teacher.
“Sir, exactly what was all that about?” Harry asked Dumbledore in the screen version.
“You are talented, famous and powerful,” Dumbledore said. “Everything Horace values. Professor Slughorn’s gonna try to collect you, Harry. You would be his crowning jewel. That’s why he’s returning to Hogwarts. And it’s crucial he should return.”
Slughorn would turn out to be a crucial cog in discovering how to defeat deranged and uber-evil wizard Voldemort. Dumbledore, Harry’s mentor and idol, wanted Harry to become a part of Slughorn’s select group of overachieving students — The Slug Club — and try and coax out information from the professor. In Slughorn’s previous stint as a teacher at the wizard school, he had met and earned the adoration of several talented students, all of whom were able to build the professor a power-packed list of friends who could do him favors or grant him added prestige simply by being acquainted with them.
The feather in his cap would of course be Harry Potter — the Boy Who Lived. Harry was the first person ever to survive the Avadra Kedavra, or killing curse, used at the time of infancy by Voldemort.
For all his fame, however, Harry had remained a level-headed and discerning young man. He befriended Ron Weasley, a red-headed muppet of a boy who came from a humble wizarding family. He befriended a wildly intelligent female named Hermione Granger, who was considered by some less-than due to her status as Muggle-born (no wizarding ancestry). He befriended Neville Longbottom, whose name speaks for his lack of prestige. Harry befriended the nutty giant Hagrid, the looney Luna Lovegood and chose to distance himself from the powerful Malfoy family.
In essence, Harry ate with sinners in Hogwarts’ Great Hall. And Slughorn, well, he was all about pharisaical appearances.
Slughorn desired to be surrounded by the Cream of the Crop.
The Dream Team.
The Fab Five.
The Magnificent Seven.
You get the picture.
So did we Sunday night.
The pharisees were collectors of Slughorn-like proportion. Jesus, well, he fellowshipped with the measly Weasleys.
After we broke down the allegory, the MEGO was gone. My adrenaline was up. The Bible was real once again.
We continued on through Matthew 9 before closing up again with prayer. I thanked God for the Harry Potter books and movies, and speaking to us all in ways that we would learn and understand.
Through witches, wizards and measly Weasleys, oh my.
P.S. Here’s a clip from “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” featuring a dinner with Slughorn. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyRS04EVlvQ
P.P.S. Thanks to Allie, Kevin and Kyle for being willing to follow me down the rabbit hole of Harry Potter.