This week’s devotions are based on the Week 9 “Explore God” – Relationships that Matter! (WATCH HERE)
Relationships that Matter: People like Matthew
Matthew 9:9 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.
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
With this brief paragraph, Matthew recounts his call to follow Jesus. He doesn’t embellish or make it about him, but rather keeps the focus on Jesus, as his whole Gospel does. But the “matter-of-fact” account of his calling to be a disciple and the following meal he hosted does not lack in the truths he wants to teach about Jesus.
Jesus was willing to get to know him and his friends.
As with Zacchaeus of yesterday, Matthew was a Roman government agent who was tasked with bringing in revenue from the citizens of Israel. He was a “necessary evil” in the land and grouped together with ones who were viewed as liars and cheaters. Perhaps like government jobs today, Matthew found a bit of security in his profession, even though he was socially outcast from his Jewish community.
We don’t know if Matthew had heard about Jesus or this was their first encounter, but one can only imagine the shock that a Jewish rabbi would call him, a tax collector, to follow him. Perhaps the only words he had heard from other rabbis and Pharisees were, “Sinner! Sinner! Cheater! Cheater!”
From Jesus he says, “Follow me.”
And Matthew does.
So impressed and struck by Jesus’ willingness to not only spend time with him, but to mentor him as a disciple, Matthew couldn’t help but introduce Jesus to the rest of his tax collector friends. There WAS someone in Israel who had a love and concern for those outside the religious elite and cultural norm. Matthew wanted them to meet Jesus.
And Jesus was willing to bring his disciples and hang out with them.
Was Jesus concerned about being “polluted” by the “uncleanness” of the meal participants? Nope.
Was Jesus concerned about his reputation with other religious leaders in the community? Nope.
Jesus was concerned about changing hearts and lives with the power of his saving love and glorious Gospel. The crowd around the table knew they were not right. The Savior around the table was there to bring forgiveness to sinners.
Hanging out with people who need Jesus is risky and can be uncomfortable. Others may question or raise objections.
However, remember the viewpoint of Jesus. He came for all people, but was more than ready to hang out with individuals that realized their righteousness was lacking and were ones that were receptive to hearing of his love and grace.
To be clear, Jesus was there for the Pharisees too. The setting caused a question from them as to why Jesus would hang out with them…Jesus used it to prick their consciences to realize that their self-righteous hearts were just as bad as the heart of a cheater. Jesus was for them if they would only realize they too were sinful in need of his forgiveness.
Every encounter is an opportunity to capture a relationship for Christ. Sometimes they are out of our comfort zone. Sometimes they are in our confronting zone. But either way, they are people that matter to Jesus…and therefore, matter to us.
Apply: What risk do you perceive hanging out with the “unrighteous”? How about the “righteous?” What common need do they both share?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for your heart of love that is for all people whether they realize it or not. Continue to form in us your heart of love for “sinners” to bring them to repentance and to enjoy a life of following you. Use us to reach souls for you. AMEN.