“He ate with sinners so that you may
know His grace and power”
section relates the call of Matthew. In accordance with the modesty of writing
of the time, Matthew gives us little detail about himself. In this account it
is not even clear that Matthew is the one holding the reception for Jesus; the
writers Mark and Luke give us more detail. One thing Matthew does not withhold
– his occupation. It is comforting to note that a man who was a tax collector
– for the invading, conquering Romans – can go from such a despised life to
being an apostle of Christ. Indeed, of the twelve, we know the call of only
five (the others being the fishermen Andrew, Peter, James and John). In each
instance the occupation was at the bottom of the social ladder.
when such a man as Matthew is saved, what is his reaction? He throws a party!
It is no somber event; Matthew celebrates it by giving a banquet – and inviting
all his low life friends, too. It’s a lesson for us: the angels rejoice when
a sinner comes home.
Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax
collector's booth; and He *said to him, "Follow
Me!" And he got up and followed Him. Then it happened that as Jesus
was reclining at the table in the house,
behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His
disciples. When the Pharisees saw this,
they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax
collectors and sinners?" But when Jesus heard this,
He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those
who are sick. "But go and learn what this
means: 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the
righteous, but sinners."
(Mat 9:9-13 NASB)
the healing described in Matthew 9:1-8, Christ does not stay in that place –
but rather moves on. Why? Why is this man always without a place to lay His
he’s made his point – the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins.
second reason is this: He does not want to provoke the Pharisees; rather
He gives them time to think. He came to seek and save the lost. Even
those lost in hypocrisy.
He has a little recruiting to do. Matthew no doubt was familiar with the
reputation of Jesus; perhaps even made himself noticed by Jesus. No
matter; the Son of Man has chosen him; he can accept both forgiveness and
call, or reject. Christ’s terms; not his own.
call of Christ
we examine the call of Christ and Matthew’s reaction? Learning from them what
call is simple and direct. Simple enough to appeal to the smallest of
minds; its directness comes from the power of Christ Himself, and
therefore beyond true comprehension by the greatest of minds.
call rescues the sinner. Matthew’s employers will certainly not like
this; indeed, this move may have been with some danger in it. The sinner
cuts the past life off; Christ calls him to move forward in the kingdom.
call requires courage – especially on the part of those who are called to
a specific role.
call is cause for celebration.
Indeed. But remember the younger brother in this.
have noted how God’s timing is perfect – even if we don’t see it. Matthew
would not have responded with the fishermen; it was too early in His ministry
for this. But now that Matthew has seen and heard the grace and power of the
Christ, he’s ready.
a curious thing. “Levi” means adhesion, or clinging to something. “Matthew”
means “given” or “a reward.” The one who used to be stuck in the tax
collectors tent is now both giver (in his Gospel) and gift receiver. The
transformation happens quickly, for the power of Christ is great.
eats with sinners
story is told from the American Civil War. A sergeant in the Union Army lived
in a boardinghouse. As was the custom of the time, everyone in the boarding
house ate at the same, large table each night. One night the sergeant was
surprised to see that the boarding house had taken in six new guests – all of
them generals. After the military formalities, one of the generals remarked to
the sergeant, “You don’t often get an opportunity to dine with generals, do
sir. Before the war I was particular about who I ate with; now, I’m obliged to
eat with just about anybody.”
church has had a conflict from its very founding. We are told to make
disciples, with no qualification other than that they are sinners.
That says we should not at all be “particular” – because there’s a war on.
That’s evangelism. But we are also to nurture the Christian; as part of this
process the Christian grows away from worldly things. We are not to associate
with a “brother” who refuses to repent. The net result is an organization
which will go anywhere, no matter how vile, to preach the good news. And yet
wants to be a collection of virtuous souls, too. Are we the hospital of
sinners or the health club of saints? Worse, why do we want to choose between
mean we can do both? Sure. But there is one thing that needs be recognized to
do this: all of us are sinners. We may be sinners who can help rescue others;
we may be the rescued – but we all need rescuing. The church is both, you see;
but only sinners would recognize that.
is interesting to note that the Pharisees direct their questioning to the
disciples, though clearly the question is aimed at Christ.
It’s a back door approach. The intent is to use the pressure of social gracefulness
(don’t answer what you weren’t asked) to keep Christ silent and attack His
disciples. There are two reasons for this:
the Pharisees have learned by now that it’s not easy to spar with Jesus of
they hope to separate His disciples from Him.
reply is short and to the point.
tells them to go. If you’re not comfortable in the house of this tax
collector, then leave. You have better things to do anyway.
things? Yes, like “learn.” To learn is to change, preferably for the
better. When commanded, it is required. Change is difficult – especially
when you think you know it all.
please, just how pragmatic Christ’s response is. He gives them a simple
illustration (the doctor) which is easy to understand but yet makes the
point clearly. He then follows it by a command – taken from the Old
Testament about which they were supposed to be such experts.
teaching, followed by command. There comes a time when the debate must stop
and the action must begin. A pure heart produces acceptable sacrifice.
the disciples of John *came to Him, asking, "Why do we and the Pharisees
fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long
as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the
bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. "But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old
garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. "Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins
burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new
wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved."
(Mat 9:14-17 NASB)
person and power of Jesus
is an extraordinary nature to this. Look at it from the point of view which
asks, “Just who is this Jesus?”
mere presence sets aside the regulations given in the Law of Moses.
Therefore one greater than Moses must be here – and Moses was indeed great
in God’s kingdom.
presence alone is a cause for rejoicing! The mere fact that He is
physically present is reason for a party.
note that the disciples of John ask why the disciples of Christ do not fast –
and Christ replies by telling why they cannot mourn. To be fasting in His
presence is indeed mourning; He came that we might have life, and have it more
we take a moment to see Jesus teaching technique?
begins with a couple of homey metaphors – things that everyone of that day
would quickly understand. It may be deep, it may be profound, but Christ
puts it into a word picture that is easy to understand.
we point out that He used two such metaphors? Repetition has its
place in learning.
is part of the condescension (in the good sense) of Christ. Despite Who He is,
He still knows our weaknesses and leans down from the heights of heaven to
reach those of us on sinful Earth.
it is clear that the new covenant is greatly superior to the old one. Gone are
the animal sacrifices and rituals. But it is still true that the old wineskin
holds some good wine, and so we treasure the Old Testament as well, for it is
full of wisdom for us. The old and the new meet each other and kiss.
day is coming, however, when we shall see this metaphor of marriage before our
eyes. The wedding of the Lamb of God
is coming; soon, Lord, soon.
came to die for all sinners, including the lowlifes of this world.
has commanded the church to call the lost and make disciples – with no
limitations on who.
our own righteousness stands as a barrier to this; especially when we
take great pride in it.