Summary: God has called me, a poor sinner, to be His disciple in His creation.
Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
Harry Truman is said to have loved telling a story about a man who had been hit on the head at work. The blow was so severe that the man was knocked unconscious for an extended period of time. His family, convinced he was dead, called the funeral home and asked the funeral director to come and pick up the man, which the funeral director did.
Well, early the next morning the man suddenly awoke and sat up straight in the casket. Puzzled, he blinked several times and looked around, trying to put the whole thing together.
The man thought to himself, “If I’m alive, what in the world am I doing in this soft, satin filled box? And if I’m dead, why do I have to go to the bathroom?”
Clearly the man was confused. Well, as you can probably figure out, our Gospel text for today concerns the call of the disciple Matthew and how we humans sometimes can be confused as to how we might follow and obey the Word of God.
Now to begin with, Matthew would probably not be the type of person most of us would recruit for ministry if we were looking for someone to serve in this function.
And the reason being, Matthew would not meet our expectation of what a good disciple of Jesus Christ would be like in our ministry setting.
For you see, Matthew was not a very well liked person because he collected taxes for the Roman government. And everyone at the time knew that the moral behavior of tax collectors in the Roman Empire was certainly not one that most people would like to imitate because tax collectors were greedy and had their little fingers in every aspect of their daily life.
For example, we know that Matthew was a tax collector in the town of Capernaum, a small fishing village. Well did you know that when the local fishermen returned to port from a fishing trip, Matthew was there, ready to tax their catch; and tax the number of nets that they had on their boat to catch their fish?
And of course Matthew would tax more than what he would give to the Roman government so he could put the money in his own pockets. And so it is no wonder that tax collectors were hated and that Matthew the tax collector would not meet the approval of the Pharisees who were watching Jesus when He called Matthew to “Follow Him.”
So when Matthew got up and walked away from his tax collecting booth and was seen in the presence of Jesus and other tax collectors and sinners the Pharisees naturally asked the disciples: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
After all this is not how good and proper followers of the law behave. For you see the Pharisees did not like anything less than the very perfection they thought they personified. We know this because their very name set them apart, for the term Pharisee literally means: “The Separated Ones.”
Scripture informs us that the Pharisees separated themselves from the common folk; and that the Pharisees separated themselves from the tax collectors and other public sinners; and that the Pharisees separated themselves from anyone that was not like them.
And so the question we must ask ourselves is “Why did Jesus eat with these sinners, and why did Jesus associate with these social outcasts?” And the answer Jesus provides is: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
And the fact of the matter is we are all sinners. St. Paul’s letter to the Romans states:” All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Paul did not state that just the tax collectors have sinned, or the thieves or murderers or adulterers have sinned. Paul said ALL HAVE SINNED and that means everyone.
Unfortunately the Pharisees were unable to understand that nobody (including themselves) could be made right before God through there own efforts.
The Pharisees were so caught up in all the things that they did for God that they believed that God was in debt to them. And as a result they were so caught up in themselves that they had no time, and no place or purpose for a person such as Matthew.
But that is not how Jesus viewed things when He was with us because Jesus went to Matthew, and looked him in the eye, and said to him, “Follow me.” And Mathew got up and followed Jesus.
And that, my friends, is the same call that Jesus gives to you and to me. And if anyone should ever ask you “How God has called you?” you too can proclaim that God has called me, a poor sinner, to be His disciple in His creation.