Summary: Sermon explores our attitudes toward sinners. Clip from movie "Simon Birch" used as illustration.
Loving & Accepting What God Loves & Accepts
Our text this morning is Matt 9:9-13
“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.
10While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and `sinners’?" 12On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13But go and learn what this means: `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." NIV
In our text we found Jesus developing some new friendships—friendships with people you would not normally expect a rabbi to associate with.
First, he met Matthew. It is not easy for us to feel the contempt most Jews felt for tax collectors. I’m not saying that IRS agents are particularly popular in America. But a tax collector like Matthew was far more despised than an IRS agent. He was considered a traitor and a crook. Good church-going Jews viewed tax collectors as extortionists and apostates and would have nothing to do with them.
Rome had control of Judea at that time. They hired local Jews to do their dirty work of collecting the taxes. And these tax collectors often cheated and overcharged their fellow Jews and then pocketed the money. They were known and hated for their unscrupulous behavior.
Jesus is walking down the road and he sees one of these despised tax collectors. Most religious people would have just walked a big circle around him and gone on about their business. But notice in the story who initiates the friendship. Matthew doesn’t fall on his face before Jesus and cry out for mercy. Jesus walks up to him. I think scripture only gives us a summary of the conversation. But the gist of the conversation was Jesus inviting Matthew to follow him.
Every time I read something like this in scripture I think of how easy it is to just walk past people who may be more ready for God than we could imagine. One of the greatest enemies of evangelism is the assumption that everybody who would serve God is serving Him. That’s an easy mindset to fall into. When you think about it, it is very prideful. For me to think I would choose to serve God but “they” wouldn’t has to be prideful. What makes me any better than them? What makes them any worse candidates for God’s mercy than me? When we stop and think it through we know that we’re no better than the Matthews and other tax collectors. By the grace of God I am what I am. And that same grace can change others as well.
This Matthew became one of Jesus twelve disciples. He is the person God inspired to write this book that carries his name. Matthew is an outstanding example of what the grace of God can do in a life. I wonder what Matthews will intersect our lives during the next few weeks. Will I initiate the conversation the way Jesus did here? Will I take a personal interest in a Matthew?