Third Sunday after Pentecost
"As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ’I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."" Matthew 9:9-13, RSV.
The first paragraph of our gospel lesson this morning is a beautiful picture of a journey, a journey of Matthew from his life as a sinner, to a life as a saint, or a follower of Jesus. In those four lines, we have a picture of each our lives, as we take that same journey, from one who is called to be with Jesus, a saint, and at the same time a sinner.
The journey begins with Jesus seeing or confronting Matthew, or Levi in the tax office. Jesus was passing by, saw Matthew and called out to him saying, "Follow Me."
Now can you imagine what went through the mind of Matthew at that point? What did he think? What did he feel?
First, I think, we need to understand who Matthew was.
He was a publican, a collector of taxes for the Romans, and he was a Jew. In the eyes of the Jewish religious authorities, he was a sinner because of the job he was doing. He was an outcast, someone who did not belong.
So, Jesus is walking by seeing Matthew at his window working away, and calls to him, "follow me."
Maybe Matthew was startled by the call. Maybe he was engrossed in his work and looked up and said to himself, "Was that Jesus calling me, calling me to follow him?"
"Why me, I am an outcast, a sinner in everyone’s eyes? But I have heard Him preach, I have heard Him reach out to sinners, and He wants me? "
"What did he say, follow me!!" Well, why not. Things can’t get any worse and hey they just might get a whole lot better. Yes I will follow Him."
"Hey he is going into that house and there are a whole lot of "other sinners" there. Yes, Jesus I will follow you!!"
I do not know if that was the thought process of Matthew, but in my mind I think it could of gone something like that. It was just a few simple of words of Jesus that propelled Matthew to leave his job and follow Jesus, period. Notice, Matthew did not ask any questions, did not find out more information, he just left.
Now, many people have asked me why Jesus doesn’t do that today, why doesn’t he come face to face with us today. Why don’t we have a voice from heaven, a bolt of lightning, why doesn’t Jesus walk by my desk in the office or by my kitchen window or my field as I am out plowing and call me? Why don’t we have that physical presence of Jesus today?
That is a difficult question to answer!!
But I think that Jesus does call us to follow Him but in different ways. He calls to us through our worship, through the word and the sacraments and through out neighbor as that neighbor shares his or hers faith with us.
We are called people of Jesus but just not in the same way. We are called and chosen through our Baptism. We are called each time we come to church and encounter the word of God. We are called each time we take communion.
Peter says in 1 Peter 2:9
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
10* Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.
We are called and chosen people and we must live and act like it.
Some times I think we are like the fish in the following:
"There is a legend about a little fish who overheard a fisherman say that fish needed water to live.
The little fish became worried and started hunting for water. He swam from creek to river from river to the seven seas.
One time he met a big, old wise fish who saw how worried the little fish was and asked what the trouble was.
The little fish said that he was looking for water because he heard the fisherman say that fish cannot live without water.
The big fish laughed and said, ’Oh, little fish why are you worried, don’t you know that you are in the water all the time?’’
Our status as called people of Jesus has been taken care of, we are in the water and we must be busy going about living like we are.
We need to continue to grow our faith, to share that faith with others. We need to constantly enhance, our relationship with Jesus. We must be present where that relationship will flourish. We must come to the house of God and encounter Him each week.
A seminary professor of mine said, "God is a God who is every where, but He must be somewhere and that somewhere is here in worship."
Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered in mine name, there I will be."
Yes, we are called and chosen people, not in the same way as Matthew was called, but never the less, called into a relationship with Jesus.
Jesus calls us to a relationship with Him, a relationship where we trust Him as we walk our journey of faith!
Matthew trusted Jesus, got up and followed Him. We too, must trust and follow. We must have faith enough to be in that relationship where we and Jesus can go through our faith journey together.
This can be demonstrated by the following:
"During a hike in the woods a troop of Boy Scouts came across an abandoned section of railroad track. Each boy, tried walking the rails but eventually lost his balance and tumbled off.
Suddenly, two boys after considerable whispering, offered the challenged that they could both walk the entire length of the track without falling off. Encouraged to make good their boast, the two boys jumped up on opposite rails, extended their hands to balance each other, and walked the entire section of the track with no difficulty whatsoever ! "
Jesus is calling us into a relationship with him that is similar to those boy scouts. He wants us to walk arm and arm with Him through our faith journey.
Jesus says, come follow me. Follow me, give me your self, your all and I will take care of you. I will comfort you, I will give your courage to face the trials of life. Come follow me.
A closing story says it well.
"A woman carrying a heavy suitcase managed to catch a crowded, bus. When she was safely aboard, the driver noticed that she stood in the aisle clinging tightly to her suitcase. He said, "lady you can put your case down now. The bus will carry it for you."
Jesus says, come follow me and put your life in my hands.
Written by Pastor Tim Zingale June 3, 2002