Dear Savior, what a blessing it is to know that You can see into our hearts! You can peer inside of us and see the plague of sin that affects us. So, You also know exactly what we need at just the right time to fix that problem. Forgiveness coupled with repentance is the answer. Today, use Your power to fix us and make us happy, grateful, and content. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR FORGIVING LORD!
TEXT: Matthew 9: 9-13
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Every one of us belongs to the category of: little people. We’re not world famous. We’re not movers and shakers in society. We’re just all common folk. So was St. Matthew. His name literally means: a gift of Jehovah. With a name like that, you’d think he was naturally pious and very religious among the Jews. You’d think he was a natural to become a follower of Christ. But, then there’s his profession: a tax collector.
Matthew lived in Capernaum, Christ’s adopted home town and also hard on the shores of the sea of Galilee. So, he had heard of Christ and probably collected taxes from some of the disciples over the fish they caught. In fact, Christ spies Matthew in his tax booth when our lesson occurs. So far, so good, until you add the tax collection to the mix. You see, the Romans had a unique way of collecting taxes. The “big bosses” were usually Romans who employed natives, like Matthew, to do the grunt work. The Romans would come up with an amount in taxes required from a city or a person, and then the little people would have to collect it and turn it in. If they could forcefully collect more, they could pocket the additional revenue. Everyone took their cut and so it was a license to steal—legally. This tells us that Matthew basically forgot or ignored the 7th commandment. So, he would have been roundly hated by pious Jews.
The fact that Christ singled him out and called him to follow the Savior, and Matthew obeyed, tells me that he also had a troubled conscience. Jesus can read hearts. He knows when we’re struggling with sin. He knows when Satan is gaining influence in our lives. It also reveals that God is concerned over all the “little people.” And it reveals that He really does care for everyone—including those that “fall short of the glory of God.”
With this as a backdrop, Christ walks up to him and says: “Follow Me” and Matthew does exactly that. He immediately leaves the past, the money, and the guilty conscience, behind. So, what is bothering your conscience today? What hidden sin are you carrying around that plagues you? Could it be that the reason you came today, or tuned into this video today, be because Christ’s all-knowingness has arranged it? I think so.
We know that Matthew’s conscience was changed by this situation. Jesus always changes people from sinners into saints because of His love and compassion, or grace, a free gift from God. Hence, soon after this Matthew invites Christ to his home to have dinner with him. There “many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples.”
Ah, we learn more. Jesus was already a well-known figure. So were His disciples. So, naturally Matthew would invite them to come. But he also invites many other tax collectors and other notorious sinners to attend as well. First, it shows us that it must have been a big dinner! It must have cost him many shekels! Greed gets let in the dust of his new-found change of heart. Second, Matthew is genuinely concerned over other’s consciences. He wants something better for them and Christ has it. He’s not concerned about anything but their soul’s salvation. And it also teaches us that Matthew finally was living up to his name! He finally was becoming a “gift from Jehovah.”
Recall St. Peter’s passage: “Cast all your anxieties on Him (Christ) because He cares for you.”? Matthew was now living that truth and it was glorious! Hence his grace-filled response. He wanted it for co-workers, too. If Christ could change his attitude, He could change anyone’s attitude. But some of the pompous “religious” leaders didn’t like this and complained to Jesus’ disciples: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collector’s and sinners?”
Humans should always care about their own hearts, or “sweep ourselves clean of sin” but not these men! They thought God plays the same comparison game that they did. It’s called: self-righteousness.
Jesus overhears all this and bluntly addresses it: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor. But the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’ (from Hosea). For I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.” The point is clear: the self-righteous don’t have time to Christ’s forgiveness, but sinners who are struggling do.
No one likes a “know-it-all” especially an arrogant one. That’s because it reveals a prideful heart. We humans, like Matthew, need to have our conscience humbled and cleansed by God’s forgiving love revealed on the cross, where He had to die to save us, and the empty tomb where He announced that glorious truth to the world for all time. We need His help, He freely gives it, and gladness replaces anxiety. It did for Matthew and it will for you. No sin is too great for Jesus to overcome. So, fellow “little people” follow the lead of this often overlooked disciple and sleep tonight with joyous serenity. Amen
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH….
Pastor Thomas H. Fox