Summary: Jesus strolls past a tax office and sees a man named Levi. He must see more than what we might have, H called Levi to follow Him. Levi was named Matthew and followed the Master. Matthew introduces Jesus to his old friends.
A. There is an old, old story about a pilgrim standing outside heaven, longing to enter in, watching as others were welcomed through the gates of pearl, onto the streets of gold. As he stood there, he saw a group clothed in white robes and waving banners approaching the gates. He turned to the gatekeeper and asked, "Who are they?" The gatekeeper answered, "Those are the prophets who prepared the way for the Christ who told of His coming and of the great joy that would be experienced at His birth." The man said, "Well, I'm not a prophet, so I cannot enter with them." Soon he saw another procession coming. It was a smaller group, but a glorious one nevertheless. They, too, were clothed in white robes. Again he asked, "Who are they?" "Why, they're the apostles who walked with Jesus - Peter and James and John and Andrew and Bartholomew and all the others. They're the ones who preached the Gospel, and established the church." The man said, "Well, I'm not an apostle, so I cannot enter with them, either." But as he continued to watch there came yet another procession much larger than the first two. They, too, were clothed in white and carrying banners of victory. Once again he asked, "Who are they?" "Why," said the gatekeeper, "Those are the missionaries and ministers who went into all the world with the gospel, inviting the lost and dying to come to Jesus." The man bowed his head and said, "I’m not one of them, either.” But then he heard the sound of many footsteps in the distance, and when he looked up he saw a vast throng of people, more than any could possibly number. And what a motley mixture they appeared to be. He didn't understand exactly how he knew, but these were obviously the rejects of the earth, the refuse of mankind, publicans and sinners and harlots. He thought to himself, "Surely, the gates of heaven will not open for them." But to his amazement the gates swung wide open - and he heard the heavenly choir singing songs of joyous welcome. Dumfounded, he asked, "Who are they?" The gatekeeper responded, "These are those who have sinned greatly, but who have been forgiven and saved through the grace of Almighty God." The man leaped for joy and said, "I’m one of them. I can enter with them." And he, too, walked through the gates of pearl and received the welcome of the heavenly choir.
B. John Haddington of Scotland said, "I have been comforted for more than 20 years by the thought that Jesus welcomes, not only sensible sinners, but stupid ones as well."
1. Lets turn to Matthew 9:9
A. The call of Matthew
Matthew 9:9 NKJV
As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me." So he arose and followed Him.
1. The old King James called Matthew a publican
a. A publican was a Jew who worked for the Romans as a tax collector
b. They were generally hated by the Jews for several reasons
(1) They were collaborators with the Roman occupying force
(2) Many were thieves
(a) The Romans demanded a certain amount of taxes to be collected and some tax collectors would demand more from those from who he collected taxes and there was nothing the tax payer could do about it because the publican had the power of the Roman army behind him
(3) Most Jewish people hated these tax collectors
c. Matthew was a man whose name was Levi and he was a publican, a tax collector
(1) When people had dealings with Levi or when they just passed him in the streets they saw not a man, they saw a tax collector
(2) But what did Jesus see? What did Jesus see?
(a) Jesus saw a sinner
(b) Jesus saw a man
(c) Jesus saw potential
(3) Jesus gave Levi a new name to indicate that he was a new creature
(a) Levi means attached
i) Perhaps Levi had been attached to the Romans
ii) Perhaps Levi had been attached to money
(b) But, Matthew means a gift from God
i) Jesus considered Matthew a gift from God
a) Lets turn to Matthew 9:10
B. Matthews dinner party with Christ
Matthew 9:10 NKJV
Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.
1. Look at what happened
a. Matthew opened his home to many of his former friends and acquaintances
(1) Sinners possibly prostitutes, drunks, and thieves
(2) Then Matthew mentions specifically tax collectors
b. From time to time we hear statistics about how people first came into church membership. These figures trace back to the Institute for American Church Growth, which asked 10,000 people about their pilgrimage. What led them in? Answers were: Special need, 2 percent; Walk-in, 3 percent; Pastor, 6 percent; Visitation, 1 percent; Sunday school, 5 percent; Evangelistic crusade, 5 percent; Program, 3 percent; Friend/relative, 79 percent.