As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9 : 9 – 13 (NASB)
Do you know anyone who defied the odds, they achieved things that no one expected them to achieve? I know a couple of guys who did just this, they went on to have great careers. Both of them came from a mining village and had not excelled academically at school. I also know a friend who had a wild background who years later went on to be a worship leader, no one saw that coming. Matthew in our scripture was this type of person, no one expected Matthew to excel in the things of God. My friend the worship leader had something in common with Matthew; God was working in both their lives to achieve His purpose.
Matthew was one of the most detested men in Capernuam, he worked for the Roman occupiers collecting taxes rom the populace. Tax collectors of this time were notoriously crooked, charging more than the required tax and pocketing the extra for themselves. The only friends Matthew had were other tax collectors. His booth was nothing more than a small mobile table that could be set up where needed, to collect fees from folk. Living and working in Capernuam Matthew would have been familiar with Jesus; he would have heard stories of His miracles, particularly the latest healing of the paralytic in town. It would not be unreasonable to assume that Matthew may have been present at some of Jesus’s earlier works. Thus when Jesus approached Matthew, he knew who He was.
“Follow Me!” was all that Jesus said, and Matthew obeyed without question. Was Matthew’s conscience already pierced by a previous sighting of Jesus? We don’t know but it would not be beyond possibility. What we do know is that his obedience was immediate, can we say the same in our Christian walk? What Matthew did next was significant, he held a dinner in Jesus’s honour inviting all his friends of ill repute. Here was a sinner who had found salvation, or was it that salvation found him? He wanted to share it with his friends, some would rejoice with him and others may have told him he was crazy. I remember having similar conversations with my friends after my conversion, some things have never changed since Matthew’s day. When people find Christ there are always those who find fault, be they misguided friends or self-righteous Pharisees. Such are the unwitting agents of the devil. In this particular story we see the redemption of a man who then followed Christ, and took up the mantle of a true disciple of the Messiah.
Dear reader, we have seen our Lord choose uneducated fishermen and now a crooked tax collector. He goes on to mould them as only a potter can, to be the foundation of His church and to spread Good News. In the same manner He accepts us today, and can achieve His purpose through us. He says to us now “Follow Me!” We need to immediately follow, just as Matthew did.