Summary: Matthew wouldn’t be on the short list of people some congregations would invite to join them, but there are things we can learn about him that can help us bring people to Jesus.
OPEN: Leonardo da Vinci was once at work for a long period of time on a great masterpiece. He had labored long to create this work of art and it was near completion. Standing near him was a young student who spent much of his time with his mouth open, amazed at the master with the brush. Just before finishing the painting, da Vinci turned to the young student and gave him the brush saying "Now, you finish it."
The student protested and backed away, but da Vinci said, "Will not what I have done inspire you to do your best?"
APPLY: Last week we talked about the Andrew – how he came to Christ and how he, in turn, brought his brother Peter to Jesus. Among the things we learned in that sermon last week was
• in a survey of 300,000 church goers, ¾’s of them came to church the 1st time because somebody invited them.
• And that fewer than 3% of unchurched people will ever just walk into a church building.
This week we’re reading about another disciple and how he came to follow Jesus.
His name is Matthew, or (in the text we’re reading today) Levi. Matthew was - of course - the author of the Gospel of Matthew.
And church tradition has it that he spent about 15 years in Holy Land after Christ’s resurrection - working with the early church in Jerusalem. After which he went to Persia and perhaps Ethiopia, and it’s said he suffered martyrdom by being slain with a sword.
Now, whereas Andrew and Peter had fairly respectable jobs as fishermen, Matthew was the only man whose job was absolutely despised by everyone.
He was a tax-collector.
The Gospels reflect the low esteem Tax collectors were held by twice comparing them to prostitutes, and eight times referring to sinners - and then saying that tax collectors were a separate special classification of a sinner.
These men were regarded as traitors to Israel because they collected taxes for the hated Romans. And not only were they seen as traitors, but also as thieves, because Rome only required a fixed sum but allowed the tax collectors the right to charge people any amount above that sum for their own pay… and sometimes they would charge exorbitant amounts. The people had to pay whatever the tax collectors demanded because these were the representatives of Rome.
Matthew was the only one of the 12 disciples who had this despised occupation.
Now along comes Jesus - walking down the road - and he stops right in front of Matthew’s table. And He says nothing more than: “Follow me.” Matthew jumps right up, closes shop and leaves everything to follow Jesus. In fact, he gets so excited about following Christ, that he holds a meal and invites all his friends (he ain’t got many)… to come and meet this Jesus.
That’s the story - now what can we learn from it?
1st, Jesus went LOOKING for Matthew
Jesus only had 12 disciples… close followers that would eventually become His apostles. These were men who would shepherds and primary builders of His early church. And here Jesus hand-picks Matthew to be one of those followers.
A lot of people wouldn’t have picked Matthew.
There are some congregations who only want ‘respectable’ folk coming to their church. In fact the Pharisees saw Jesus eating with Matthew and his friends and they were offended that a supposed rabbi would stoop so low.
But folks like Matthew were the people Jesus looked for. Not the folks who felt they were better than others, but those who were sick inside and who wanted to change their lives.
ILLUS: One man told about when he was a teenager, there was this very tough girl in town; a biker-type female who wore leather, swore like a sailor, loved to instigate fights, drink, do drugs, and generally, just scare off people with her frightening behavior.
“Admittedly, I was afraid of her because she had harassed and assaulted a friend of mine, and I had heard the stories of how she had threatened this guy, or hit that girl.
“Several years later, I met this same young woman in a restaurant I was working at. She looked so different, I didn’t immediately recognize her. It turns out she had become a Christian and said it had made a wonderful change in her life.
My mistake was that I wrongly assumed she could never be interested in spiritual matters…. I never made that mistake again. I should have known better; understood that with God, all things are possible! sermonfodder.com – 2/25/08
That rough hewn, profane, dangerous biker woman eventually came to a point in her life when she was ready to change.
And Jesus looked for Matthew… because He knew Matthew was ready to change.