Summary: When Jesus called Matthew as a disciple, he followed without hesitation. But, we often bring a lot of baggage alongside our faith. How can we work towards dropping our baggage and following Jesus more freely?
Opening and Introduction
In our text today, we heard of a tax collector named Levi, more commonly known as the disciple Matthew. Matthew was working in his toll booth and left everything behind to follow Jesus. He left without hesitation, without conditions, and without negotiating how he would follow.
Following Jesus without restrictions is something that we’re not that good at. We carry with us thoughts, ideas, and philosophies from the secular world, and keep them along-side our faith. Sometimes habits form that don’t line up with God’s will. Other times, we carry problems with us that we try to deal with ourselves, yet we have a hard time with those burdens.
Sometimes, we get in the way of our faith and carry baggage that we don’t need.
Tonight, we’re going to take a closer look at Matthew and what he left behind to follow Jesus. We’ll also look at our baggage, and see how that impacts our faith. Finally, we’re going to look at ways to help us lay these burdens at Jesus’ feet, and reduce, or get rid of, our baggage, so that we can follow God more freely.
Our text today probably happened in a city called Capernaum. It was a commercial center on the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee, placing it between a number of important trading areas including Damascus, Jerusalem, Asia, and the Mediterranean coast. As an important crossroads, there was a lot of money that came from customs and tolls that flowed through this area.
The people that controlled those taxes would have been, of some importance in the local government. With all the money they handled, it was a lucrative job that paid quite well.
Although Matthew and his co-workers were in a special position of trust to boost the government coffers, they weren’t trusted by everyone. There was a social stigma attached to tax collectors, so that even the Roman elite, wouldn’t accept such a position.
Most considered them dishonest, corrupt, people who abused their authority by collecting extra tax for themselves, and as snoops who always watched what was going on. They were today’s social equivalent of thieves, embezzlers, and informants.
This combination of qualities put tax collectors in one of the lowest of social status. Jews, especially the Pharisees, felt that no honorable person should be spending time with THESE sinners.
As Matthew collected the tolls for the area, Jesus was already well underway with His ministry. He’s exercised demons, healed people, and amazed those in the synagogue with his wisdom. Jesus is starting to become well known and already has a small following of disciples.
It’s likely that Matthew heard about Him. As a tax collector, he was exposed to a whole lot of people, and while they stand in line waiting to take care of their tolls, Mathew hears the news and rumors of the day.
Yet, it’s this untrusted, sinner that Jesus approaches. This worker who’s hated and unpopular by the general public, and considered one of the worst of people; in the same category as the gentiles.
Then Jesus shows up while Matthew is working:
“He (Jesus) went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.” (Luke 5:27-28, ESV)
I wonder if there was a bit of soul searching for Matthew. Should he leave his job, his income, his career? Should he just walk away from everything he knows, and follow this preacher who shows no signs of being able to support Himself or Matthew.
But Matthew doesn’t waste any time. He stands up. Leaves his counting table behind. Leaves everything, and follows Jesus. He doesn’t run home to take care of a few errands first. He doesn’t pack a bag and meet Jesus somewhere. He doesn’t even say goodbye to his friends or family. No conditions. No hesitation. Matthew didn’t bring any baggage along. But that’s not always so true for us.
Holding Our Baggage
Have you ever gone on a trip where you needed to pack luggage or take a bag with you? The more that we pack, the slower we move from one place to another. That’s true with other kinds of baggage too.
Going about our life, we carry lots of stuff. We carry opinions, biases, and beliefs about a variety of topics. Some of these are innocent ideas and there’s nothing wrong with them. God hasn’t given us advice on our favorite color, or where we should live. These concepts shouldn’t slow down our faith journey. But there are some ideas that do.
When Jesus asked others to come along, sometimes folks chose their baggage over following Him. To one man:
“Jesus said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-60, ESV)