Summary: A narrative about the calling of Matthew. At the end of the narrative several observations are made about Jesus' calling to our lives
JESUS WHAT A FRIEND FOR SINNERS
Who would have thought it? Anybody but him. He's the last to come to mind.3
Who is the least likely person you can imagine who would become a Christian?
Or who would be one among the least likely to follow Jesus. Can you see him?
There he sits in front of his business. Right on Main Street on prime property. Because he has a monopoly, he can charge whatever the wants. And because he can, he does.
Behind his back they call him traitor, turncoat
He is among the least respected people.
His parents hoped he would choose a higher road.
Jesus and his disciples had just amazed the town by telling a paralyzed man to take up his bed and walk home. And the man did just that! But what was MORE amazing is that Jesus forgave His sins, which started grumblings of blasphemy. For who would claim authority to erase the record of a person’s sin. Only God could do that. But, then again, that was Jesus’ point: He WAS God.
But what he would do next would was almost as jaw dropping:
Sometimes you across a lost sheep for whom you were not necessarily looking.
(And the one telling this story, is Matthew himself)
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9 NIV
There he was… the LEAST likely person you would ever think that would join with Jesus.
But the greater surprise of the invitation is NOT that Matthew would walk away from a profitable civil service job to follow an itinerant preacher.
No, the surprise of the invitation is that Jesus would ask one of the likes of Matthew to follow him in the first place.
A tax collector.
Combine the greed of a Wall Street Executive,
The audacity of an ambulance chasing lawyer, and
The warm fussiness of an Internal Revenue Service agent, and you have a tax collector.
A real “low life” to the community, socially hated.
He set his booth up anywhere in town and and set up shop.
Not only was he a Jewish man working for the hated Romans,
It is assumed that he extorted extra money for his own gain.
Caesar permitted a tax on almost anything – your boat, fish you caught, your house, your crops. And as long as Caesar got his due, the collectors of the tax could keep the rest!
Mark and Luke tells us his given name was Levi. It was a priestly name.
It makes you wonder, if his parents wanted him to be come a priest.
If so, he surely turned out to be a disappointment.
Yes, he had a big bank account, but not much else.
He either had everything or nothing.
Don’t be stunned that he was shunned!
Not invited to the neighborhood cookouts or the community events.
He was avoided like the plague, except by other tax collectors….and Jesus.
Jesus came up to him and said, follow me.
You know the easiest produce to pick is the fruit that is ripe on the vine. Well Matthew must have been ripe because he acted like Jesus meant for this offer be taken literally.
In THAT moment, God gave Matthew an opportunity, and he took it!
It is interesting that Matthew follows Jesus to Matthew’s own house for dinner.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. Matthew 9:10 NIV
The Bible does not say exactly how this gathering came about. But it is no leap of the imagination to think that Matthew was so grateful and amazed that he had the honor granted to him, he wanted to express his appreciation to Jesus and to establish some goodwill with the rest of the disciples.
If that were not enough, Matthew invited his friends to all come out before hitting the road with Jesus. But remember, Matthew didn’t have any real respectable friends. So he did what he could do, He invited the friends he had. And these were the assortment of friends our mothers warned us about. They used salty language and had shady morals. Not one of them among the local church going crowd.
So it was an interesting combination. Disciples, a gang of tax collectors, with some local religious types watching it all from the fringes. And Jesus and Matthew smack dab in the middle loving it all. Sinners and saints in the same room. The Saturday night ramblers are with the Sunday morning worshipers. And none of them seem to care who is who.
But about the time the party was really getting fired up, in steps the Pharisees and it is like all the air goes out of the room. It is said that you can learn a lot about the kind of company a person keeps. And these Pharisees were ready to pass judgment onto Jesus for the company He was keeping. It was scandalous to hand out with these folks. So they asked the disciples a question full of scorn.