A Willingness to Reach the Lost

Matthew 9:9-13 GBFC August 11, 2019

Jesus Calls Matthew 9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 9:9–13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

I am going to state the obvious and say that we are a polarized nation right now. I have heard recent studies that indicate we are more polarized as a nation that we were even just prior to the civil war. I am not predicting civil war, I am just saying this is a problem for us. Some indicators of this include the number of states where one political party controls the governorship and its senate and house of representatives is at all time highs. It used to be that there were relatively small numbers of the population that were strongly on the right and strongly on the left and then there is this vast majority of people that were somewhere in the middle. That middle apparently is disappearing very quickly.

It used to be that people could disagree politically and even socially on many topics but were still able to have conversation, friendly debate and genuinely care for each other as people. We are seeing this less and less. To disagree politically, or socially on issues today means, too often, means cutting people off, refusing to associate, demonization and in the worst cases resorting to violence. There is very little, reaching across the isle any more, listening to the opposing view, coming to a consensus that can work out differences.

This is and is becoming more and more the landscape of our country. What does this mean for us, for those of us who are believers?

Does the current political and social climate in our country effect our Christianity or should it affect our Christianity? Well, it may.

We have in our passage this morning a beautiful example in Christ of the working our of Christianity in real life. The Bible is a very practical book full of not only hope and salvation but also of how to live in a world that in many cases opposes its teaching. Controversy is not a reason to cower down and cease to be a light in the world but is a time to shine brightly, in a world that needs Jesus.

Christ Jesus does at least three things in these verses. First of all He calls a sinner, an outcast into His family. Second He reaches “across the isle” so to speak involving Himself with sinners and lastly, He rebukes the self-righteousness.

First of all we have a very brief account of Jesus calling Matthew to be one of His disciples. This is strange and fascinating.

Matthew was a tax collector. This is not the same as an IRS agent here in the US. Being an IRS agent, a tax collector in the US may not be a very popular position but it is not like being a tax collector as a Jewish man for Herod an enemy of his people. This would make Matthew a traitor, or considered a traitor to his people. He would be unpatriotic at the least and a full out trailer at most. There were two types of tax collectors at this time. One was what Matthew was which was like a customs official collecting taxes on shipments coming into a port. He would sit in a booth and collect taxes in imports. This job was still seen as a traitor, siding with a political enemy for sure but not as bad as other tax collectors who basically extorted taxes from the common person.

Now, why is this so interesting, at least to me? Well, there is a religious hierarchy in place already. There are scribes, teachers of the Jewish law, experts in the OT, there are priests in place who are experts in all things Jewish. There are schools, institutions that teach OT literature and practices. These people were all in place, trained men.

Jesus could have gone to these people, these places to recruit the finest and most capable to be His disciples. He could have gone to Nicodemus the Teacher of the Jews, or to Saul a Pharisee of Pharisees.

And yet what does Jesus do? He goes to this tax collector in his tax booth, a traitor to his people, a despised man and says…follow Me.

We can’t take from this that only the despise and uneducated should be followers of Jesus but we can see from this the Jesus can transform anyone to be His and follow Him.

Jesus is not restrained by anyone in whom He choses to follow Him. And very often He choses the undesirables in this world.

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 speaks to this: 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 1:26–29). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

There reason for chosing people like Matthew is found in verse 29…that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

God takes people and transforms them from the inside and they become His instruments of ministry in this world.

When Jesus called Matthew there was no hesitation on Matthews part. “He rose and followed Him.”

That too is amazing. Many that Jesus talked with and excuses for not following. A few verses back, one man said, but first let me bury my father. The rich man could not part with his wealth, others thought His message as too hard, too demanding. Many found excuses, but Matthew just followed Him.

The Spirit clearly worked in Him to bring about such a response. He just gave up his job, his income and followed Jesus. This is such a picture of faith, devotion and change.

We know from Luke 8:11 that Jesus then went to Matthews house and this is where they reclined at a table for a meal.

And since they went to Matthews house it makes sense that those who would join them would be the type of people that Matthew would hang out with…other tax collectors and sinners. These were Matthews people so to speak. It would have been odd to find, like, religious or pious people there. This is what would be expected, these would have been Matthews friends, others who had chosen similar paths in life as Matthew had. In the New Testament tax collectors would be synonyms with sinners often times. This is how they were described.

10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.

This behavior, eating with tax collectors and sinners would have been unheard of for the religious elite. For them there were clean and unclean people. Those you associate with and those you don’t. Jesus was breaking the rules of the religious leaders here by associating with such sinners. But Jesus did not come to conform to man’s rules He came instead to do His Fathers will, to glorify Him which includes saving those who are lost.

Jesus is doing something here that we are also called to do. I spoke first thing this morning about how we have gotten to such a bad place in our country that many people are unwilling to even speak to those who don’t agree with them. Tensions are high. But for Christians we can’t go there, this is not our calling, that is to ignore or write off people who are different than we are.

If Christians are unwilling to associate with non-believers and even God haters then who will lead them to Christ?

Later in Jesus ministry, just before His crucifixion He explains something that is relevant to us today as we live in this divided world of ours.

John 17:14-19

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 17:14–19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

We are not of the world but we are in the word…that is a popular phrase. I like the way John Piper has said it thought from this verse. We are not of the world be we are sent into the world.

Being not of the world, then we are and it’s ok to be uncomfortable in the world and more specifically uncomfortable around people who are of the world or lost people. People who are lost will be people who are opposed to many things we hold dear. They may be opposed to what we love and even who we live that is Jesus Christ. We can expect that. But, they are not an enemy in that we write them off or ignore them. We are not of the world, means we are different. Our hope is in heaven, this is not our final home. We are not of the world.

But…we are sent into the world. That is what Jesus said. “I have sent them into the world.” Sent into the word, we are in the world and in this world we have a mission and part of our mission is to reach out to those who may look like and act like our enemies. It means associating with people who are not like us.

This is exactly what Jesus is doing at Matthews house. He is associating with people who are of the world, not just in the world, right?

This does not mean that Jesus was of the world only that the Father sent Him into the world for a purpose and that is to glorify the Father, making the Father known to the lost.

Paul addresses this too for us in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 5:9–13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

And in Romans 10 Paul drives home this obvious, really, point of how we must interact with the lost in the world -

Romans 10:14-15

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 10:14–15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Someone must interact with the lost, speak truth, be in their lives. Jesus chose to do this we are to do the same.

He was doing His Fathers will. But the Pharisees, the religious leaders were surprised by this.

11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

To the Scribes and Pharisees, according to their law, tax collectors were unclean and so were the others who would have been there. This was not a real question it was a statement of accusation. They were accusing Jesus of being just like those he was with.

Jesus response?

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

Jesus makes a good point that only the sick need a doctor and that He came not to call the righteous but sinners.

Jesus is not necessarily calling the Pharisees righteous but this may be a reference to their self righteousness. He came to save sinners. And this meant associating with them.

Jesus’ fraternizing with disreputable people remains a scandal in the predominantly middle class, suburban, Western church. And maybe even more so in our divided political cultural climate. Many of us, like the Pharisees, at best ignore the outcasts of our society and at worst continue to discriminate against them. We do well to consider substantially increasing our spiritual, evangelistic, and social outreach to minorities, the homeless, prostitutes, addicts, gays and lesbians, AIDS victims, and the like, as well as to the more hidden outcasts such as divorcees, single parents, the elderly, white-collar alcoholics, and so on. We must get to know them as intimately as Jesus did—only close and trusted friends shared table fellowship over meals. We don’t not join with sinners in their sinning, and we need to be wise and discerning in how and when we interact.

But even more than those who are outcasts and disreputable in some ways there are also those that we simply my despise due to their beliefs. Those to need Jesus, need a freind, need the truth of salvation. Jesus has set an example for us. And more than what we see in this passage, the truth is we were all these things too and Jesus chose not to pass us by. He reached out to us and for that reason, we can reach out to others on His behalf. Who do you and who do I need to reach out to for the sake of Christ and for the sake of their souls? Will we do that for His name sake?

Jesus Calls Matthew 9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”