September 14, 2022 Peter Brown

Matthew 9

Matthew 9

In this text we see two major events happen, the call and conversion of Matthew the tax collector and Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees, for their understanding of righteousness. Both of which give us a deeper understanding of Christ's call on our own life and our responsibility in our conversion.


The passage opens with Jesus passing by and seeing Matthew at his tax booth. Then without a conversation, meeting him, or having anything to judge Matthew by except his occupation, Jesus calls Matthew to follow him. As we read later on in this text (9:11), to the Pharisees and those watching Jesus, this would have been a strange call. Matthew was a tax collector, and this would have indicated to the Jewish people that Matthew was a sinful man, because in first-century Palestine, tax collectors were notoriously corrupt. Therefore because of his occupation, Matthew would have been seen by most as a sinful and corrupt man.


In the conversion of Matthew, right away we can identify two things.


First, Christ Jesus calls the sinful to be his disciples. By all conventional understanding, Matthew should not have been called by Jesus. He was seen as sinful and he was not actively seeking Jesus. He didn't deserve to be a disciple, which is exactly what the Pharisees saw when they looked at him. But praise be to God that we don't have to deserve salvation through Christ to be called to follow him.


Second, we see that Matthew doesn't put up any sort of opposition to Jesus. He was ready. He dropped his lucrative job as a tax collector to follow Jesus, no questions asked. Upon being called by Jesus, Matthew followed, in the same way when the Holy Spirit calls to each of us we swiftly follow.


Then we read that after being called by Jesus, Matthew invites him to his own house where other tax collectors are also brought to meet Jesus. Matthew’s focus when telling his own conversion story is not on his actions, in fact, Matthew does not even mention that it was at his house that Jesus and the tax collectors ate (although the other gospel writers do). He just tells us that it happened. The focus is solely on Jesus and his actions. This is a reflection of all of our conversions, it has very little to do with our actions and everything to do with Jesus saying to us “Follow Me.”

 

Seeing this meal happen the Pharisees ask the disciples “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Their question reveals their narrow understanding of righteousness. Jesus hearing this responds, and his answer tells us more about who the gospel of Jesus Christ is for:

 

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mat 9:12-13 ESV)

 

The Pharisees did not get it. They equated holiness with a set of “do’s and don’ts.” Their righteousness came from ritual observance and sacrifices that have never been powerful enough to forgive sins. They looked upon sinful people like Matthew and his friends as evil people because they did not possess their understanding of righteousness.

 

Jesus’ response is simple, those who are self-righteous and believe they do not need a saviour don't want him. But for those who know they are in deep need of help, Christ is there calling them to follow him. May we never believe that we are more righteous, or deserving of Christ’s love than someone else because of their actions. May we be like Matthew, knowing we are sinful, knowing we don't deserve Jesus but following after Christ when he calls us to follow.

 

Prayer

 

Lord God, we thank you for the gift of salvation, that has been given to all who believe. We thank you that you call the sinners to be saints and that in Christ all may be forgiven regardless of our past.

 

Please help us to see others as you see them. And help us not get boastful or proud in our religious knowledge or acts, but to remember that you came for the sinful and broken. We pray for the loved ones in our lives that don't know you but think like the Pharisees did, that their good deeds will make them righteous. We pray that you would call them to yourself.

 

In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

 

Timo Stubchen