Summary: To show the Lord's love for sinners.
A Supper for Sinners
Text: Mark 2:13-17.
Introduction: Have you ever been to some social function, perhaps a wedding reception or anniversary meal or something of that nature where all the guests don’t quite click? Many years ago I was officiating alongside another Pastor at a wedding in Dublin. It was an unusual gathering of guests. On the one side were the few members of the groom’s family who were arty types, and on the other the brides family, a huge clan who resembled the Mafioso, albeit they turned out to be very nice people indeed. I remember as someone was singing, or there was some kind of interlude in proceedings that the other pastor, who was quite a posh type, leaned over and asked, “Are you going to the reception?” “Yes,” I replied. “Rather you, than me,” he said. Well the reception turned out to be a very nice affair and all the people concerned were a pleasure to be around.
But we have all been at functions where some people don’t seem to fit. Maybe there has been a divorce and a former spouse is there with their new family, or there has been a falling out and there is awkward conversation. Perhaps, a young couple is tying the knot and she is from a rather well-to-do home, but he is considered to be from the wrong side of town, and the two families just don’t mingle well.
In our text this evening we come to a similar such occasion. I have labeled it a “Supper for Sinners”, for that is what it is. It’s the occasion when Matthew (or Levi) as he is called here, determines to introduce his friends and colleagues to Christ by means of a meal. We might call this a “pre-mission event.”
Let us begin then by considering:
I. A Conversion – vss 13-14
A. You will recall from our previous studies that Jesus was living and ministering in Capernaum, a town in Northern Israel that was situated along the banks of Galilee.
1. This was also home to Levi (indeed it was home to many publicans or tax collectors).
2. You see, outside of Jerusalem, Capernaum was the second most important town in Israel for raising revenue.
a. It was a border town between two tetrarchies, on the main route north from Jerusalem, and it had a healthy port life with many ships docking at the city harbour.
b. Consequently it was ideally placed as a customs post, thus we find Matthew at the receipt of custom – effectively he was a customs officer.
c. Of course taxation and customs duty was regulated a little differently than in our day.
d. Today a civil servant working for the Inland Revenue receives a set wage, regardless of how much tax his work raises, but in Bible times the Romans set a certain quota, and anything over that limit went to the tax collector.
e. Naturally tax collectors then were highly motivated to exact the last possible penny from the working population, and oft times they would be guilty of excess, overstating the necessary payment and pocketing the difference.
f. They were Jews, Israelites, but they were serving Imperial Rome and pocketing a handsome reward for it.
g. They were considered swindlers, cheats, extortionists and traitors.
h. Indeed, such was the antipathy towards them that their tithe was not accepted in the synagogues, being considered as dirty money, and their testimony was not admissible in a religious court.
B. So this was the situation Matthew was in, he was an outcast in his own country.
1. Not only that, but he may well have been a disappointment to his own family.
2. You see his name is Levi, and many of the Levites went on to become the nation’s lawyers.
3. In all likelihood this was the expectation on young Matthew’s shoulders, his father Alphaeus probably looked to him to become one of the legal guardians of the land and its heritage, but no, Matthew instead followed after money, and that at any cost.
4. So he was more than likely a let down to those who loved him most.
C. This was the man Jesus encountered as he ministered at the banks of Galilee.
1. Now understand, Jesus has been busy in this area, he has been preaching and teaching there and healing in that place.
2. He was a celebrity in the region, and undoubtedly Matthew knew of Him, had heard of Him and possibly even had heard Him preach or witnessed his miracles.
3. So, when the Lord happened by Matthews’ post that day, the tax collector was not totally unacquainted with Him, and when Jesus said “Follow me,” there was something in Christ and something within Matthew that made it so he wanted to follow him.