Lifting up the Lowly

“But when [Jesus] heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)

Greetings, Fighter,

The statement from Jesus that appears above came in response to grumbling from the local clergy on account of the company He kept. I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded so much if Jesus had restricted Himself to preaching to those they considered disreputable. Jesus partied with them!

This Sunday’s reading from the ninth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel features a series of encounters between Jesus and people who lived on the margins. We begin with Jesus recruiting Matthew, a tax-collector, as a disciple, after which Matthew invites “many tax collectors and sinners” to join them for dinner (Matthew 9:10). The dinner party is interrupted by a call for help for a little girl who is near death, and Jesus drops everything and leaves (Matthew 9:19). The journey to the little girl’s house though is also interrupted, this time by a woman “who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years” (Matthew 9:20).

By the end of the reading, the little girl is alive and well and the haemorrhaging woman has been healed. Whether or not they then went back to Matthew’s house with Jesus to continue the party, we don’t know. What we do know is that it was this prioritising of people on the periphery that alienated Jesus from the establishment and that would ultimately lead to Him being targeted.

Stories like this make me wonder why today’s Critical Social Justice (CSJ) theorists haven’t picked up on Jesus as an advocate for their cause. If you’re not familiar with CSJ, it’s a form of activism with its roots in the thinking of Karl Marx, where history is interpreted in terms of power differentials between rich and poor people, black and white, queer and straight, etc. The goal of CSJ is not simply to understand the way these power struggles work but to correct them – to bring down the mighty from their thrones and to uplift the lowly, so to speak (Luke 1:52).

The problem with depicting Jesus as a CSJ advocate is that not all the marginalised people Jesus dealt with can be easily identified as oppressed. The sick girl and the disabled woman fit that description but the initial target of the establishment’s ire – Matthew, the tax-collector – was a cisgender, white male. Moreover, he was rich and powerful! Yes, he was despised by most of his fellow countrymen and women, but he had chosen power over popularity when he decided to work for the Roman occupying forces. It’s hard to feel sympathetic towards him, though Jesus evidently did – “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13)

This quote from the prophet Hosea – “I desire mercy, not a sacrifice” – turns up twice on the lips of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel (the other being in 12:7). It’s the prophet’s verdict on what makes for genuine religion. Being true to God means showing compassion to the weak. The God of Hosea and Jesus is indeed at work in history, ‘bringing down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly, but weakness comes in a variety of forms, some of which are more easily recognised than others.

Our Sunday Eucharist

We had yet a very special Trinity Sunday Eucharist last Sunday. With our Muslim brother, Tom, sharing in our Bible banter, I was hoping to hear him grapple with the doctrine of the Trinity from an Islamic perspective, but it seemed to be the other Christians with us who were most keen to debate the issue! Either way, it was a fun and insightful time. The recording is below.

This week I’m privileged to have our friends Sam and Robert join me, along with activist and journalist, Joel Jammal. Tune in from around 11.45 am this Sunday via, or on Facebook , YouTubeTwitter or LinkedIn.

Let me work your corner

Thank you once again to all of you who support Fighting Fathers Ministries through your prayers and through monthly financial contributions. If you’re not contributing financially and you can afford to, it would be greatly appreciated if you could go to and sign up to either:

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What’s On?

Let me close today by highlighting a couple of extra posts I’ve made this week:

Firstly, for fans of Rev. Dr Stephen Sizer, I’ve published his recent homily on Psalm 8 to our member site – Yes, you can hear it as a part of the recording of last Sunday’s Eucharist below but the version on the member site also includes a written transcript. Click here.

My plan is to begin to upload copies of each of the pre-recorded homilies that our guests share with us each Sunday, complete with written transcripts. Stay tuned. 😊

The other post I want to share is published on, and was written by my friend, Dr Chandra Muzaffar – the President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). The paper, entitled, “Christians and Muslims – and the challenge of hegemonic power”, was first presented at Pax Christi’s Asia Pacific Consultation in Thailand in 2006. Dr Muzaffar tells me that this is the first time it has been published online. I’m sure you will gain as much from it as I did.

Finally, a big thank you to my dear brother, Tom Toby, for the amazing photograph he gave me (featured below). Yes, this is the same Tom who was with us for last Sunday’s Eucharist, sharing with me a priceless image of a moment we had together in Syria in 2016. The picture is of the amphitheatre in Palmyra, taken during our time there with the Syrian boxing team from Homs. It may have been the last photo taken of the amphitheatre before the area was retaken by ISIS and the amphitheatre extensively damaged with explosives (you see a more recent image of it here). Thank you, dear brother Tom, for preserving this memory for me so beautifully.

May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

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