Did you know Luke and Mark who wrote their gospels of Jesus were not among the first 12 disciples? Just a cool reminder that even outside the circle of the 12 many became passionate, faithful disciples of our Messiah, witnessed Him, and testified of His divine Sonship. I am one. Are you?
We’ve studied Peter, Andrew, James & John, Philip, Bartholomew, James son of Alphaeus, and Jude so far. Let’s talk about Matthew, the tax collector turned Jesus fanatic who helped turned the world upside down by spreading the good news of Jesus.
Matthew, also known as Levi, was a greedy, corrupt tax collector in Capernaum, but Jesus came and changed his life forever. From what we know, Matthew (Mathias) never looked back.
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “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 9:9-13
WOOH! What a great scene. I’m sorry but it excites me every time I read it. The story reminds me that Jesus loves ragamuffins like me – scalawags, sinners, tax collectors, whores, drunkards, outcasts, misfits (whatever you want to call us). A sinner like Matthew became a disciple of Jesus Christ who had dinner at his house and chose him to write the enduring book of Matthew to account for Jesus’ life and the salvation He brings. And what a party it must have been during this dinner!
One of the key elements of this passage to me is when Jesus says, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. Figure out what this means.’ I’ve written about this sentence before using the Old Testament reference. But again I just want to emphasize this reminder. Jesus gives mercy to sinners who admit they need Him. He doesn’t measure them up by sacrifice, He measures them up by how much MERCY they confess to need. AND HE GIVES THEM MERCY WITHOUT END. So when you’re measuring yourself up by how much work you are doing for the Kingdom, your busy lifestyle, how much money you give, what sacrifices you make for Him… try to recollect that Jesus isn’t impressed. He wants you. And yes, we should obey and do what we need to, but it doesn’t impress Him. Simply being His is what He wants from us. Resting in Him is where we find the same kind of mercy that Matthew and these other dinner guests found. Jesus isn’t judging you. He’s accepting you and He wants to be your dinner guest.
Matthew witnessed many miracles during the life of Jesus, including the Resurrection. He was also present with Peter and the others in the Upper Room where they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Another thing to remember about Matt, is that Jews hated tax collectors. Although he was reformed, I guarantee the Jews often questioned why he was preaching to them and I’m sure they thought it was scandalous that Jesus would choose such a sinner to be a faithful follower. But it just goes to show that it doesn’t matter who we are, what matters is that we follow Him and are filled with His Spirit – if we do this, we will be used to change the world.
Historians believe Matthew was martyred though we don’t have a good account of how or when it happened. Either way, Matthew is another one of my favorites. And I hope you’ll remember along with me that Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners.