I don’t know about you, but reading about each of the disciples these past three weeks and learning more about them and their backgrounds just makes me fall more in love with Jesus.
I love that He chose men no one else would.
Men like Matthew, who was by far the most notorious sinner of the chosen disciples because he was a Jewish tax collector by trade.
“Matthew was a tax collector, and tax collectors were on the same level socially as harlots (Matthew 21:32). For a Jewish man like Matthew to be a tax collector was even worse. His occupation made him a traitor to the nation, a social pariah, the rankest of the rank. He would also have been a religious outcast, forbidden to enter any synagogue.” – John MacArthur
And yet all it took was for Jesus to walk by Matthew’s tax collector booth and say, “Follow me,” just two small words that changed Matthew’s life forever!
The Bible states in Matthew 9:9 that Matthew “got up and followed him.” From the very beginning, Matthew did what Jesus said.
Here was a man, I imagine, who despite his job had a heart to know God. For reasons unknown to us, Matthew was in the most despised job a Jewish man could hold; a very lucrative job that was hated by his people. We don’t know what drove Matthew to take this job and become an outcast to his own. But what we do know is when he had the chance to be near Jesus he willingly left everything.
And I wonder, how many people do I dismiss because of their occupations? Who do I prejudge based on what they do for a living, automatically making the decision for them that they would not be interested in hearing about Jesus?
I’m so glad Matthew was not like me.
The VERY next verse we read, Matthew has Jesus and the other disciples to his home for dinner, and he has invited all his friends! They are friends who are in the same social standing as Matthew – tax collectors and “sinners” – the only type of people who would associate with a man like Matthew.
As soon as Matthew met Jesus he wanted all of his friends to do so as well, so he provided a way to make that happen. He opened his home and fed them.
And Jesus and His disciples ate with them in Matthew’s home.
Oh how I LOVE this nugget of Scripture! I LOVE that Jesus went to Matthew. He went to the part of town where Matthew’s tax collecting booth was located. He went to Matthew’s part of town to eat, and He sat at Matthew’s table with his friends.
Jesus and the other disciples went to Matthew’s “kind” and in Luke 15:1, Luke says that “all the tax collectors and sinners drew near to Him to hear Him (Jesus).”
The God of the universe, cloaked in humanity, went to their side of town and ate with them.
Besides Matthew, no one else had turned from their lifestyles, their addictions, their sins… yet Jesus still went to them, sat down at a meal with them and because of that, they drew near to Him.
I wish I could say I can identify with Jesus and His disciples in this story. But to be honest with you, I can’t. I haven’t made it a priority in my life to purposefully go to the wrong areas of town. I haven’t make it a priority in my life to make sure I’m “rubbing elbows” with people who don’t know Jesus. I’ve allowed myself to get busy with raising my kids, chauffeuring them from one activity to the next, taking care of my family, and running a ministry, that I’ve failed to see the ministry just outside the walls of my home.
Looking at Jesus’s example, it doesn’t take much. It’s just a matter of where I choose to travel or shop, or just do my everyday activities. But I need to do these everyday activities with eyes like my Lord’s – seeing how He sees people and then reaching out as I go. An invitation and a meal and Matthew’s friends drew near to Jesus. Oh, how that humbles me. I want to be more like Jesus and His disciples.
So many times though I feel like I can identify more with the Pharisees in this story than Jesus’s disciples…
When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”- Matthew 9:11
How many times have I held judgment in my heart for people who I viewed far from God? I’m convicted as I read that verse and hear the prideful judgment in their question, knowing I’ve asked Jesus the same question at times.
Jesus answers, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.”- Matthew 9:12-13
Ironically the very ones who were questioning Jesus needed Him just as much as the “sinners” Jesus was eating with. They just didn’t know it. As long as the Pharisees insisted on keeping up their religious elite appearances and hypocritical veneer, there was nothing Jesus could do for them. They didn’t realize that they, too, needed a doctor. They needed to share a meal with the Great Physician as well.
When it all comes down to it, we all need Jesus – tax collectors, ‘sinners,’ and those who deem themselves the ‘religious elite’. We are all in need of a good meal with our Lord so that we may draw near to Him.
Let’s Talk: What do you think Jesus means by “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” and how is this lived out in our lives?
Love God Greatly!
Week 4 Challenge: Look for opportunities to open your home and share a meal with someone you wouldn’t usually invite over. Maybe it’s the neighbor down the street who is going through a hard time and doesn’t know the saving grace of Jesus. Or maybe it’s the co-worker who is lonely and has no family in town. Maybe it’s a family in need in your community who needs a good meal and someone to love them. Whoever it is, wherever the location… let’s make it a point to be more like Jesus and the disciples moving forward in our lives. Reach out to others not like us and share a meal, giving them opportunities to be near to Jesus too.
Week 4 Video: We’ll resume our weekly videos this fall!
Week 4 Reading Plan:
Week 4 Memory Verse: