Summary: Matthew the tax collector was interested in following Jesus while the Pharisees saw him associating with the Lord and criticized Jesus for eating with sinners.
THE MESSAGE OF MATTHEW
1. Matthew 9:9-13 (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. 10 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. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 "But 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."
2. This incident shows the difference in the outlook of Jesus and that of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were looking for something to criticize about Jesus. The fact that He associated and ate with tax collectors and sinners was a mark against Him in their eyes. Jesus, however, was more concerned about ministering to the spiritually sick than He was about meeting the expectations of these religious hypocrites.
a. Their approach was "Don’t allow yourself to be contaminated by any association with sinful people." They were able to ignore the fact of their own sinfulness. To understand this way of thinking, consider the attitude of the Pharisee who prayed in the temple described in Luke 18:10-14 (NKJV) "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ’God, I thank You that I am not like other men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 ’I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 "And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ’God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
b. Jesus had a heart filled with compassion for the needs of people. He showed that compassion by healing the physically sick, but His greater role was as a physician treating the souls of sinners . . . calling sinners to repentance.
2. The author of the gospel of Matthew does not identify himself by name in the text of the book. However, "the early church unanimously ascribed this gospel to the apostle Matthew" [Thiessen, Introduction, 131]. You can read modern scholars who challenge this conclusion, but it was universally accepted by early church fathers. Papias, as early as A. D. 125, attributed it to Matthew. This text is Matthew’s only autobiographical section except for listing his name among the apostles in 10:3. Luke calls him by the name Levi [Luke 5:27-32].
3. Let’s consider a lesson on "What Jesus Did For Matthew," then we’ll talk about "Lessons Matthew Teaches Us."
I. WHAT JESUS DID FOR MATTHEW
A. Jesus spoke to a tax collector [Matthew 9:9].
1. Religious leaders of the day would have passed on by, ignoring Matthew sitting at the tax office. It was amazing that Jesus stopped and spoke to him.
2. Tax collectors were hated by the Jewish population.
a. Since people don’t like paying taxes, this has never been a popular occupation.
b. Jewish tax collectors in Jesus’ time were especially detested because they were seen as traitors who had betrayed their nation to serve the Roman occupiers.
(1) Jesus taught that it is right to render unto Caesar the taxes that are owed [Matthew 22:17-21 (NKJV) "Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, "Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 "Show Me the tax money." So they brought Him a denarius. 20 And He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" 21 They said to Him, "Caesar’s." And He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s."]
(2) The Roman authorities dealt with the tax collectors on a basis which encouraged them to extort as much money as possible from the people. Tax collectors were expected to collect a certain amount of tax money for the Romans. Whatever they were able to collect in excess of that amount went into their own pockets. Zaccheus is an example of a tax collector who repented for his dishonesty [Luke 19:8 (NASB) And Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much."] Zaccheus acknowledged a fact of life for tax collectors . . . they were out to get as much money as they could by whatever means they could use to get the money. After the prophet Nathan told King David the parable of the man who stole his neighbor’s lamb, David insisted that the man must restore the stolen property four-fold [2 Samuel 12:6]. So by offering four-fold restitution, Zaccheus appears to be admitting having been a thief in taking money which did not belong to him.