Jesus Chooses Matthew
(Mark 2.13-17; Luke 5.27-32)
9As Jesus was leaving, he saw a tax collector named Matthew sitting at the place for paying taxes. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Matthew got up and went with him.
10 Later, Jesus and his disciples were having dinner at Matthew's house. Many tax collectors and other sinners were also there. 11Some Pharisees asked Jesus' disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and other sinners?”
12Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don't need a doctor, but sick people do. 13 Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’ I didn't come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.”
The Pharisees devoted themselves to the rules of ritual purity and to turning the nation to righteousness – something they believed would prompt God to deliver them from the Romans.
Jesus’ purpose in his teaching was to reveal the heart of God. He distilled the entire law into two principles: to love God supremely and to love others as much as we love ourselves. While the Pharisees looked for outward conformity, Jesus looked for inward change.
Fearing the sin of others would contaminate them, the Pharisees maintained a spiritual buffer zone between themselves and those they saw as “sinners”. So they were scandalized when Jesus, whom they recognized as a man of spiritual insight and influence, shared a meal at the home of his newest disciple, Matthew the tax collector, and some of his sinner friends.
They challenged Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and other sinners?” Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do.” Then, he went on to explain that God wanted a relationship with his people that reflected him to the world in their attitudes and actions. “I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers,” Jesus told them. “I came to invite sinners.”
With these words, Jesus rebuked those who were concerned with their self-righteousness, and opened the door to those who did not depend on their iron-willed observation of rules and regulations, but rather their soft-hearted acceptance of the purposes of God in their lives.
To the casual observer, Jesus chose unlikely followers – people who didn’t appear to be good candidates. They were all sinners, but sinners with a disposition to truly follow. God uses the same criteria today, not accepting us on the basis of our outward appearance, but looking deep into our heart.
Father in heaven, thank you for opening the way for me to draw near to you in spite of my weaknesses and short-comings. Help me to respond to your call as eagerly as Matthew did – not content with merely looking good, but embracing deep inner change. In Jesus’ name, Amen.