Summary: When people come to know Christ it is worthy of celebration
What comes to mind when you hear the word party? Some mental pictures are good and some are not so good. Parties are places where people gather just simply to be together. Parties have the ability to bring people together like nothing else seems to.
There are a number of different kinds of parties that we might attend. We have parties for birthdays, Christmas, graduations, weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, New Year’s Eve and anniversaries. There are parties for sporting events like the Super Bowl and for little league games. Parties can be big or small, elaborate or simple. Parties do have one common thread that seldom we think about: a reason.
Almost every party that we might think of has a purpose if nothing more than getting people together. What would happen if we attached spiritual purposes or reasons to the parties we hold? Can parties actually be used to promote the gospel? The answer is yes.
The Bible is filled with celebrations and parties.
When the armies of Egypt were destroyed at the Red Sea
Israel celebrated when the Ark was brought back to Jerusalem.
When Nehemiah finished rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
The father celebrated when the prodigal son came home
If you have your Bibles, open them with me to Matthew 9:9-13. This morning I want to look how a changed man threw a party to celebrate and invited his friends to meet Jesus.
9 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. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and `sinners’?" 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Matthew 9:9-13
Who was Matthew?
Matthew is one of the most interesting of the Twelve apostles because he seems the least likely to have been called by Jesus. Matthew would have been unlikely to be accepted even by the other disciples.
The Life Application Bible describes the central lesson from Matthew’s life in this manner. The gospel is not for people who already think they are good, it is for people who know they have failed and want help.¨ p. 1735 (NIV Edition)
Matthew is another story of dramatic life change. Once Jesus called Matthew to follow him, a change took place.
Tax collectors were hated among the Jewish people for several important reasons.
1.) They served the Roman Government
Tax collectors were hired by the Roman government to assess the citizens of an occupied country on taxes. Romans hired locals to do this work to ensure that everyone was taxed.
Tax collectors were seen as traitors to their country and should be treated as such. Tax collectors were viewed as lower than unclean animals. Jewish people were more likely to socialize with a leper than a tax collector. Tax collectors were stripped of all their religious rights and were not permitted to practice the Jewish faith.
2.) They cheated people on taxes
Tax collectors were given no salary from the Roman government. Rome sent payroll shipments to pay the salary of the soldiers serving in foreign lands. Rome sent no payroll to pay the tax collectors. Instead, the Roman government allowed the tax collectors to add a percentage onto the taxes required by Roman to provide a salary. Rome did not provide a percentage for the salary but left it to the discretion of each individual collector to set their salary. Tax collectors could decide to tax the people whatever they wished.
Tax collectors often raised heavy taxes on the poor and used the threat of debtors prison to collect. The collectors would also accept brides from the wealthy to falsify tax records and lower their taxes.
3.) Spiritual Issues involved
Another issue with the tax collectors was also spiritual. Jewish people believed that their government was a theocracy meaning that God ruled over them. Jews believed that paying taxes to any other country was an insult to God. The tax collectors were seen as insulting God with their behavior.
Three different kinds of tax collectors
Gabbai collected general taxes on various occasions and often collected lower amounts of taxes
2.) High Makhes
High makhes were wealthy enough to hire other men to collect the taxes for them. This often allowed them to save some face with the community. Zaccheaus would have been a high makhes.