Matthew 9:9-13 English Standard Version (ESV)
Jesus Calls Matthew
9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
10 And as Jesus[a] reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
As we look again at the Gospel of Matthew we come to Matthew’s account of his call. We see his account effectively of how we was saved. Now, the beauty of this short passage, is that it encompasses the very heart and message of the gospel. It is a clear teaching of gospel and so I must as a preacher get out of the way of Matthews witness and simply amplify what he is saying. Because if we can get this we have the message of the power of God unto salvation!
So, to see the emphasis of this testimony we must see;
1.The difference between Matthew and the Pharisees
So, Matthew recalls his story of grace, by recounting where he was; he was at his tax booth, this is important; because this would mean that Matthew wasn’t just a tax collector he was a particular kind of tax collector.
A tax collector at the time was a particular kind of individual; someone who the means to making money didn’t matter. You see Israel at this time was occupied territory. The Romans had come along and in about 63 BC, and Israel had been concurred and occupied by Romans. Now Rome used to institute tax to conquered territories. This, effectively, would mean that, after Rome came, you had less money at the end of the month; because Rome had taken it.
Now, the way that Rome implemented these taxes was through the publican (or tax collectors). These were native born people who would sell out to Rome for profit. Because, of this selling out to the enemy; these people were labelled the worst of the worst. Essentially these people were ripping their own people off for profit. They were rightfully considered scum.
Now, these people were bad, but they had a system of hiding themselves in which they would hire others to man the booth, so that they didn’t have to face as much public scorn. Matthew was the kind of individual who manned his own booth. In other words, he didn’t mind ripping people off face to face. This effectively was a mafia style shake down, and the kind of individual that would be involved in this work was no “ministry material” kind of person. He was a sell-out and a thug.
He contrasts himself with the Pharisees. Now, we because we have hindsight have this vision of the Pharisees as being self-righteous people, who were the enemies of the gospel. However, transport yourself back to the first century and you would find no one who would think that. These were the good guys. Pharisees were the people who were fighting to bring Israel back to the Law, they were involved in teaching, they cared for the people (in a way). They were, in almost every conceivable way , the ones who everyone looked up to.
So, we have on one hand a corrupt, selfish, thuggish tax collector and the moral core of society; so…
2.Why Jesus calls Matthew and rebukes the Pharisees
Jesus calls Matthew because Matthew has no misunderstanding of his shortcomings. Church, this is the crazy reality of the gospel it reaches those who are looked down upon, those who are the worst, those who have no hope of salvation within society. The thing that prevents the Pharisees from seeing Jesus as their hope is the very thing that enables Matthew to cling to Jesus as his only hope.
The Pharisees where okay in their own lives. They had done all that was expected of them, they were righteous people in their own eyes. They didn’t need a personal saviour and that is why they rejected Jesus and why Jesus rejected them.
It was Matthew and his friends who welcomed Jesus and were welcomed by Him. The question that must be asked is why? Because unless we get this; we too may fall into the same trap that the Pharisees were in. This is the reality church, it is those who are sinners, who recognise the hopeless state they are in that come to Jesus as their only hope.We, humans, fell in the garden of Eden because we wanted to be our own gods, we wanted to be like God and determine our own destiny, morality and life. This fall, this choice has forever fractured our souls! Every part of our life is selfish indulgent. We don’t want God! Because to have Him would mean that our desires for our lives, our hopes, our wants, would be second to God’s. This doesn’t gel with our hearts. And so we reject the grace offered us, we run away from God so that we can have it our way.
John Milton in his poem Paradise lost has Satan declaring, after being cast out of heaven; “It is better to reign in Hell, that to serve in heaven.” We would rather be the king of our own destruction, rather than have to serve in paradise. This is the difference between the Pharisee and the sinner, the sinner has reaped his hell, he has no hope, he has embraced his chaos, and is now experiencing his hell. He knows he has no hope of being good, of being accepted of being welcomed in by God. The Pharisee thinks, because he lives a good life, and does good things that God owes him paradise.Because of his devotion and commitment God owes him salvation.
Matthew identifies that both the Pharisee and the tax collector have nothing to bargain with; in the words of Jesus;
"13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Those who think themselves as good and those that know themselves are bad are in the same boat, all of them need healing. All of them need mercy. Which leads me to my third point tonight;
3.We all need a doctor
The very thing that kept the Pharisees from accepting Christ is the very thing that keeps us from finding the gospel beautiful, and keeps us from finding God as our salvation. We all think in some way we are okay! If you don’t believe me, think about the last fight you had with someone. You hated them because you couldn’t have been in the wrong! Think about how you process bad things happening to you; “Why me? Why do I deserve this!” think about how you paint yourself the victim of circumstance, how you justify your sin, how you excuse your laziness, how you hate without considering the other. We do this church, because we are convinced that we are not that bad. There are sinners out there, but we haven’t done that much. It is because of this; because we excuse our sin, we justify our greed, and hatred and laziness that we cheapen grace.
Church, Jesus came for the sick! Jesus came for sinners, not the okay, not the slightly out of place; for sinners! The worst of the worst; Matthew and his friends could see this, because they knew their state; they were sinners. The Pharisees hated Jesus because he exposed their righteousness to be false, to be a mask, to be pretend. And church, tonight, we have to take off the mask; we have to drop the pretences, none of us here live up! None of us honour God as He should be honoured. But we pretend to; we fake it! We spend our energy saying the right things; acting the right way and so drive ourselves further and further away from the one who came to heal us!
The Gospel is everything because, we have nothing to bring to God! Sin has so corrupted our being, that every thought, every action, every conversation is tainted. And you will only really understand this when your own righteousness fails, or your sinfulness is exposed.
What do I mean by this? Well, those who find salvation; those who embrace grace completely, are those who have come to the end of their sin or their self-righteousness. My own journey is a great illustrations of this. Growing up I went to church, did what was expected until my teenage years; becoming fat I became very self-absorbed. My journey was one of ever increasing escapism and sinfulness. I stopped going to church and I embrace as much escapism as I could, lots of gaming, I tried drinking I dabbled in as much as I could to numb the sense of meaninglessness that my life had become. I excused my meaninglessness on my weight and my constant rejection by people; I was profoundly unpopular in school. This all changed in my matric year, I got some crazy virus and was so sick I didn’t eat for two weeks. Well to say I lost a lot of weight is an understatement. I emerged out of my sickness a new, skinnier me. With this came confidence, and girls finding me attractive for the first time in my life. So, my excuse of meaninglessness died, I became what I always wanted to be, the problem is that this didn’t last and as I pursued meaning in being liked and popular, so the gaping hole of my existence exposed itself again. To cut a long story short; it was on a summer camp that I was exposed to the real crisis of my being; I was a sinner running away from God! I came to God because I was confronted by the fact that nothing in my life up to that date was worthy of Him and yet Jesus offered Himself for me!
The next aspect of my personal journey is that once I became a Christian; it was a struggle to be good enough that became the next meaning of my existence. And my theology became the meaning of my existence. I had to prove that I was saved, I had to be good enough and live up to the standards, this became my salvation; God let this come to an end, by his grace! I realised, I had to realise, because everything else had failed so dismally; that nothing I could do was good enough for God, but nothing I could do could also make me so bad that his grace couldn’t cover. I finally came to Jesus; I embraced Him as my everything; He is the start and end of my salvation; He is the hope of my existence; and the meaning for my being; He alone is my life and my salvation; and that is the gospel church.
Matthew declares this so beautifully here in his testimony; no evil is unable to be paid for through the death of Christ on the cross; but no righteousness of your own could make God owe you. We are, whether we have lived a “good” life or a “bad” life, sick. Our souls scream this! We are all sinners, in need of mercy, we are all sick in need of a doctor. The only thing that is keeping us ill is our pride! You want it your way; you want to come to Him and remain king of your life, so you won’t come. I plead with you tonight; stop running, give up, come to Him who will heal you; let Him be your salvation; your hope, your joy! Come to the one who welcomes sinners, because church, we are all sinners!