Matthew’s radical decision to follow Jesus, may appear to have been borne out of a hatred for his former way of life as a tax collector; however his bravado in leaving everything and unreservedly inviting friends to meet Jesus reflects a heart change that is hard to resist.
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
What would Jesus do next? After healing the paralytic and then saying the afflicted man’s sins are forgiven (thereby committing blasphemy), he now proceeds to invite a tax collector into his inner circle. This act in itself was seen as breaking the law by the Jewish religious in-crowd, to be associating with sinners and tax collectors.
Being a former tax collector myself, it is understandable why Levi better known as Matthew, would come to a point in his career where it was time to change jobs! However, the call of Christ was so compelling to Matthew, that there was absolutely no hesitation in his decision to follow Jesus. Another translation of Jesus’ famous invitation is “Be my disciple and follow me.” This clarifies his job description a little more, as disciple means student. He made the irrevocable decision to leave his career and lifestyle, little knowing that Jesus would groom him to be one of the 12 apostles, founding fathers of the early church. Matthew’s response to Jesus’ invitation is a powerful picture of repentance, turning away from one’s sin, by the fact that he left everything to follow Jesus.
Matthew was so excited about his decision to follow Jesus, that he threw an extravagant party and invited all his friends to meet his new boss. This shows how enthusiastic he was to share his new found faith with his friends, and of course introduce them to Jesus.
Christ’s response to the self-righteous religious leaders is sobering – “I have not come to call the righteous (those who are “well” in his “health” analogy), but sinners (those who are “sick”) to repentance.” Ironically the Pharisees thought they were well due to their diligent adherence to the law, but this sadly led to pride in their own religious purity. The outcasts and tax collectors knew they were not “well”, and were open to receive their healing (forgiveness of sin). Commentator John MacArthur concludes that salvation cannot come to the self-righteous.
Head: Compare the response of the Pharisees to Jesus mixing with sinners, to the response of Levi/Matthew to Jesus’ invitation. Would you consider yourself to err on the side of self-righteousness or compromise with the culture you live in?
Heart: How did you feel when Jesus called you out of your previous life? Was it a thunderbolt reaction like Matthew, or a gradual process as you were slowly won over to join his family?
Hands: You might not be bold enough to throw a party for your unsaved friends to meet Jesus, but consider challenging someone in your circle who does not know the Lord to look at the life of Christ with you over a coffee as you read one of the Gospels together (see word121.com.au for some excellent material in this regard).
Prayer: Thank you Lord for calling us out of our lives of sin to be your disciples – members of your family keen to know you better. Help us to keep our eyes fixed on you as we in turn reach out to our unsaved friends and share the Good News with them. In Jesus’ name, amen.
A song to listen to: Mercy Mercy