How Jesus Turns Trash into Treasure
The Gospel of Matthew
Sermon by Rick Crandall
(Prepared September 29, 2021)
*Today in Matthew 9, we will see how Jesus called the man God used to write this book of the Bible. His name was Matthew Levi, and he was a much-hated tax collector for the Romans. Matthew was considered to be among the worst of the worst sinners, but our merciful Savior died for all sinners! And Matthew was saved by Jesus Christ. His sins were all forgiven, and his life was transformed when he put his trust in the Lord.
*That's what Jesus wants to do in all of our lives. He wants to turn us from trash into treasure for the Kingdom of God. And Matthew's story shows us how. Let's begin by reading Matthew 9:9-13.
*Back in 1996, Craig Randall was 23 years old, and he drove a garbage truck for Waste Management up around Boston. Sometimes Craig liked to bring his work home with him: There was an old-fashioned sewing machine he salvaged, also some books that he got from the trash.
*Then one day, Craig lifted a cup off a pile of trash. It was a contest cup from Wendy's. The week before, Craig had found another cup, and when he peeled the sticker, he won a chicken sandwich. This time, he figured he'd win some fries to go with it. But this time the sticker said: "Congratulations -- You have won $200,000 toward a new home." Church, that would be almost $350,000 in today's money! (1)
*Craig turned trash into treasure. And that's what Jesus Christ wants to do in our lives. How does the Lord do it?
1. FIRST: JESUS FINDS US.
*In vs. 9, Jesus found Matthew sitting at work in the tax office, and that stirred up the Lord's enemies because Matthew was certainly considered to be a piece of human trash. Again, he was a hated tax-collector for the Romans.
*William Barclay explained that "There was never a more unlikely candidate for being an Apostle than Matthew. He was what the King James Version calls a "publican." That's because these tax collectors dealt with public money, and they were hated by almost everybody because they served their country's Roman conquerors. Tax collectors were also notoriously dishonest. Not only did they cheat their own countrymen. They tried their best to swindle the government. They also made a thriving income by taking bribes from rich people who wanted to avoid paying the taxes they owed." (2)
*John Phillips added that this type of tax collector also had great power to take out "his spite on people, play favorites, and inflict hardship. They could force merchants to stop their journeys, unload their animals, and open every package. They could ransack through it all, read private letters, and generally make life miserable for people. There were bridge tolls, road taxes, harbor dues, and property taxes, as many taxes as greedy imaginations could invent." (3)
*Matthew may have been a piece of human trash, but in vs. 9 Jesus found him sitting at work in the tax office. Jesus finds us. He meets us right where we are. That's because in Luke 15 and John 10, Jesus truly is the Good Shepherd who goes into the wilderness to find His lost sheep. Thank God!
*In Matthew 4, Jesus met Peter and Andrew after they had been at work fishing in the Sea of Galilee. Then a little while later, Jesus met James and John as they cleaned their nets. This was not the first time Jesus had met these men. But He met them at work to call them into His service, and in Matthew 4:19, Jesus said, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." In John 4 Jesus met the Samaritan woman at a well, and in Luke 19 Jesus met Zacchaeus when he was up in a tree!
*Jesus met people where they were. And remember that the Lord wants us to do the same thing. Jesus wants us to go to people where they live, work, shop, play, and go to school. In Luke 14, Jesus told a parable with this message: "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled."
*God always wants us to be inviting people to His church, but you know that the next few Sundays are special times to invite. Keep asking the Lord to show you who to invite, and then invite as many as you can. Again, Jesus said, "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled."
*Jesus finds us where we are. But this is not just a matter of the highway. It's a matter of the heart.
*In Acts 9, the Lord met Paul on the Road to Damascus. But the real story is about Paul's heart, because at the time, Paul was as far away from Jesus as you can get. Paul certainly did not know Christ as his Savior. He did not believe that Jesus was the Christ. And Paul was doing everything he possibly could do to persecute Christians. Acts 9:1 tells us that Paul was "breathing out threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord."
*But the Lord found Paul right where he was. That means we can come to Jesus just as we are. We don't have to clean up our lives to come to Jesus. We come to Him just like we are, and He cleans us up.
*One of the hymns that has meant the most to me over the years is "Just As I Am." We were singing that hymn 46 years ago on the day I made my public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. We were singing it in Macon, Georgia 8 years later on the day I went forward to answer God's call into the ministry.
*"Just As I Am" was written in 1835 by an English woman named Charlotte Elliott. Charlotte was visiting some friends in London, and there she met Pastor Cesar Malan. While seated at supper, the preacher said he hoped that she was a Christian. Charlotte was offended by that and told him she would rather not discuss that question.
*Dr. Malan said that he was sorry if he had offended her, that he always liked to speak a word for his Master, and that he hoped that some day she would become a worker for Christ.
*They met again 3 weeks later at the home of a mutual friend. Charlotte told the preacher that ever since he had spoken to her, she had been trying to find her Savior. And she asked him to tell her how to come to Christ.
*Dr. Malan answered, "Just come to Him as you are." Charlotte did right then! And she went away rejoicing. Shortly after that, she wrote the hymn with these words:
"Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come." (4)
*When Jesus finds us, He calls us to come to Him just like we are. He turns trash into treasure by finding us.
2. THEN JESUS URGES US TO FOLLOW HIM.
*We see this truth in vs. 9, where Jesus saw "Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, 'Follow Me.' And he arose and followed Him."
"Follow me." The original word picture here is "to walk the same road." It's the same word Jesus used in Matthew 16:24 when He said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
*In Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul tells Christians to "Be followers of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma."
*Jesus urges us to follow Him. And one of the wonderful things about following Jesus is that it turns us into what Bill Hybels called "contagious Christians." Following Jesus makes other people want to follow Him too. That's why in Matthew 4 Jesus told Andrew and Peter, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
*This is also why Paul was able to write these great words to the church in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-8:
2. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers,
3. remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,
4. knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.
5. For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.
6. And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit,
7. so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.
8. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.
*Following Jesus turns us into "contagious Christians" who draw other people to Christ. Richard Wurmbrand was a Christian hero who served the Lord during the dark days of Communist oppression in Romania. Richard was put into prison by the Communists simply because he was a follower of Jesus Christ. He was released from his first imprisonment in 1956, after eight and a half years.
*Although he was warned not to preach, Richard resumed work in the underground church. He was arrested again in 1959 and sentenced to 25 years. During this imprisonment, he was beaten and tortured. Richard later told of having the soles of his feet beaten until the flesh was torn off. The next day, his feet were beaten again to the bone. Richard never fully recovered from that torture.
*At some point in prison, Richard shared a cell with a young Communist. At first, that young atheist wanted nothing to do with Christianity. But food rations were very low in the prison, and Richard began to share his bread with that young man.
*One day Richard was telling his cellmate about a Christian man who was like Jesus. Then the young man turned to Richard and said, "If Jesus is like you, I would like to know Him." (5)
*That's what happens when we follow Jesus. We become more like Him, and people begin to see the Lord in our lives. Jesus turns trash into treasure by urging us to follow Him.
3. HE ALSO TURNS TRASH INTO TREASURE BY HIS FELLOWSHIP WITH US.
*Verse 10 gives us an example of the Lord's fellowship. Here Matthew wrote, "And so it was, 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." Then in vs. 11, when the hard-hearted, unbelieving Pharisees saw this, they asked Jesus' disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
*The reason why Jesus fellowships with us is because He loves us. He draws close to us to help us and change us. Jesus comes close to us to turn our darkness into light, and to transform us from the inside out.
*Hugh Redwood told about a time years ago when he was at the breaking point. He was physically exhausted, emotionally drained, confused, and under severe nervous strain. On top of that, Hugh didn't know which way to turn on some highly important decisions he had to make.
*He was staying at a friend's house prior to speaking at a big meeting. And his friend said to him, "Hugh, you look tired. Would you like to escape all this chatter, and rest in a room upstairs?" Hugh said that he would like that very much, and to his delight, he was led to a beautiful, peaceful room.
*A bright fire was burning. An easy chair was sitting nearby. And at his elbow there was a little table with a Bible on it. The Bible was open to Psalm 59, where the first part of vs. 10 says, "My merciful God shall come to meet me." But in the margin, someone had written this interpretation: "My God in his loving kindness shall meet me at every corner."
*Hugh Redwood said that when he read those words the message came to him as light in a dark place. It was light from the very heart of God. That light lifted him, consoled him, encouraged him, and revitalized him. It also gave him the strength to do what he needed to do. (6)
*This is the life-changing fellowship of Jesus Christ: "My God in his loving kindness shall meet me at every corner." Jesus turns trash into treasure by His fellowship with us.
4. BUT JESUS ALSO FUNCTIONS AS A DOCTOR TO HEAL US FROM OUR SIN.
*God's Word points us to this truth in vs. 11-12:
11. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?''
12. But when Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
*Good doctors are gifted by God to do a great work in our world. And we thank God for everyone who works in the medical field. They help bring healing. But Jesus Christ is the Great Physician. The Lord proved that when He miraculously healed thousands of incurable people.
*But infinitely more important, Jesus is the only one who can help us with the deadly disease called sin. If you need open-heart surgery, you don't want me cutting on you. No! You need to see Dr. Keith White or one of the other skilled surgeons around here.
*But when it comes to the deadly disease of sin, no one else can help us but Jesus Christ! Jesus knows exactly what is wrong with us, and He knows exactly what to do about it. Jesus will apply His life-giving mercy medicine to your heart. He will forgive all of your sins!
*Don't miss the mercy of God! The Pharisees in this Scripture knew all about the law. But they completely missed the wonderful mercy of God, so in vs. 13 the Lord pointed them back to Hosea 6:6. And Jesus said, "Go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."
*God's mercy is the medicine that will save you from sin, IF you will turn to Jesus Christ, and trust in Him as your Lord and Savior.
*But like many medicines today, mercy doesn't come cheap. In fact, there has never been a higher price ever paid for anything in the world. Jesus Christ paid for our salvation with His life! He died on the cross so that we could be healed forever from sin and death.
*That's why 700 years before Jesus was born, God's Word gave us this prophesy about the coming Savior. In Isaiah 53:4-5: "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed."
*By the stripes of Jesus Christ, we are healed! What kind of healing is the Bible talking about there? The best answer is: All kinds! -- Physical healing, emotional healing, spiritual healing, and the eternal healing believers get when we go to Heaven. But this everlasting healing can only come through the mercy of God.
*Don't miss the mercy of God! Did God's mercy make a difference in Matthew's life? This Book of Matthew is more than enough proof that it did!
*There was a time in this country when the dreaded disease of polio stalked our land. People lived in terror of this paralyzing disease. Many people died, and many more were left disabled by its swift and merciless attack.
*I worked at Robins Air Force Base with a man who was struck with polio as a child. His legs were deformed, bent all out of shape at the knees. And virtually all of the muscles in his legs were ravaged by the polio. It was a terrible disease. But through the tireless work of dedicated doctors and researchers, a vaccine was eventually found to protect against polio.
*I remember lining up at our elementary school to take the new vaccine on sugar cubes. Now, the polio threat is in our history books, rather than a terror in our communities.
*The man who is credited with creating the first polio vaccine is Dr. Jonas Salk. Dr. Salk's devotion to his work showed up, not just in his long hours and painstaking research, but also in a very courageous act. Once he was as sure as he could be that his vaccine was safe and effective, Dr. Salk tested it on himself, his wife, and his three little sons. If the vaccine turned out to be defective, Dr. Salk and his family could have come down with polio. (7)
*That was a great gesture, but only a shadow of what Jesus Christ did for us. Jesus knew that He would suffer and die to heal us from the sin disease. But out of His merciful love, He was willing to die on the cross for us. And more than anything else, this is how our risen Savior turns us from trash into treasure.
*The man who worked at Robins Air Force Base with me was Johnny Williams, and the polio vaccine came too late for Johnny. When I worked with Johnny, he was very hard against God. He didn't even want to talk about it. That's because when he was younger, he went to a service held by a very well-known faith healer. Johnny got in the long line of people waiting to get help. But when he got to the front of the line, they just waived him on by.
*I stopped working for the Air Force in 1983, when I answered God's call into the ministry. About 10 years later, I got a call out of the blue with the amazing news that Johnny had started going to church, and he got saved! God did not heal Johnny's body. But He healed Johnny's soul for all eternity.
*And Jesus Christ can transform any life like that! Let Jesus turn your life from trash into treasure. Then do everything you can to help more people come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
-"Lexington Herald Leader," Lexington KY, Oct. 27, 1996, p. A8 - Source: Sermon: "The Cross We Do Not Want to See" by King Duncan - Passion/Palm Sunday, Matthew 26:14-27:66 - Source: "Dynamic Preaching" - March 1996, Vol. XI, No. 3
(2) BARCLAY'S DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES (NT) by William Barclay, Revised Edition - Copyright 1975 - First published by the Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland - The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - "The Man Whom All Men Hated" - Matthew 9:9 - https://www.primobibleverses.com/view/william-barclay/the-growth-of-opposition-matthew-91-34
(3) EXPLORING THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - "Matthew - The Willing Disciple" - Matthew 9:9 - Downloaded to "Bible Study 6" from Olive Tree Bible Software, Inc.
(4) "Just as I Am" - Words: Charlotte Elliott - 1835 - www.cyberhymnal.org
(5) SermonCentral sermon "Abide in Me" by Martin Dale - John 15:1-17 - 05/18/2003
(6) Sermon by Dr. Jim Moore: "There is No Spot Where God is Not", May 28, 1989 - Source: Sermons.com sermon "Singing In The Rain" by Maxie Dunnam - John 15:1-17
(7) Harold and Doris Faber, American Heroes of the 20th Century - New York: Random House, 1967 - p.135 - Source: Sermons.com sermon "Heroes" by King Duncan - Rev 7:9, 14-17 - Dynamic Preaching, 1st Sunday in May 2001