Summary: This sermon relates to the call of Matthew and how it relates to our call from Jesus.
Text Matthew 9:9-13
Title “I see dead people…They don’t know they’re dead….They’re everywhere.”
Grace, mercy and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This past week I read an article about a movie that was released several years ago. It was called, “The Sixth Sense”. The movie was about a young boy, who when he looked at people, could see who was going to die within a short period of time. He kept telling Bruce Willis, the co-star, “I see dead people. They do not know they are dead. They’re everywhere.” As you can imagine, it was a very frightening experience for him, for he not only knew they were going to die, but how they were going to die.
As I was preparing for the sermon this week, it struck me that Jesus, just like the little boy in that fictional movie, saw dead people who did not know they were dead. Jesus saw more than their physical death, he saw their spiritual death. How his heart must have ached as he went about his ministry healing the sick and forgiving sins.
In the passage just prior to our text for this morning, Matthew writes that Jesus had just come from the other side of the lake where he had healed many people. On arriving in town, he had forgiven the sins of a crippled man who was bedridden, and then healed the man’s physical problems.
Well, that was more than the Pharisees could stand. They got really upset with him and accused Jesus of blaspheming God. The crowd on the other hand, praised God for giving Jesus the power to do such great things. However, notice they did not recognize him as being God or even being the Son of God. They just knew that he could forgive sins and heal people.
The people of Jesus’ day did not have any problem with that concept because they believed sins and illness went hand-in-hand. When you sinned, you got sick or had an accident -- it was that simple. When a person was healed, they obviously had to have been forgiven of their sins.
As we look at our Gospel reading, we find Jesus, his disciples, and I am sure, a large crowd of admirers, walking into the town of Capernaum. Jesus sees Matthew sitting in the tax booth doing what he did best, collecting taxes, probably tariffs from the merchants that were passing though on the way to other parts of the country.
What Jesus does next was almost unbelievable, for tax collectors in Jesus’ time were even more disliked than they are today. In the Jewish mind, the tax collector, especially the Jewish tax collector, was a dishonorable person. First, the Jewish tax collector was working for the Roman government, so he was seen as a sort of traitor. Second, the tax collector made his living by overcharging, cheating the people he was collecting the taxes from.
It worked this way. The Roman government expected a certain amount of money out of every region, and all the tax collector had to do was make sure that he turned in the required amount. Everything else he collected above that amount was his to keep. Therefore, you can see why they were not liked.
Well, there is Matthew doing his thing, when Jesus walks past his booth. Instead of looking the other way or making crude remarks, Jesus says just two words to him, “Follow Me” and Matthew’s life was changed forever. It was changed because Jesus had chosen him to be a disciple. Matthew asked no questions of Jesus, as did the rich young man who could not leave his goodies, for our text tells us that Matthew got up and followed him. No questions, no information asked for, just an instant response to Jesus’ invitation.
So what does Matthew’s story have to do with us? After all Matthew really was a sinner. He cheated people; he only cared for himself and how much money he could make. He obviously was not attending the temple regularly, for if he were, he would not have been doing what he was doing.
We do not purposely cheat people, or do we? We do not put our desires and needs first, at least not most of the time. We do not put our jobs above our families, do we? We do not skip church, at least not too often. As much as we think we are not like the tax collector Matthew, we really have a lot in common with him.
First of all, we are all sinners. We have all sinned and failed to keep God’s commandments. Too many times we do cheat people, maybe not by outright cheating but cheating never-the-less, as we take what is not ours. Too many times, we do put our needs first before others. Too many times, we work too many hours bringing money in, while neglecting our families. Too many times, we skip church. If it were not for God, we would all share the fate of unbelievers. We would all be doomed to everlasting hell.