Church of Christ
at
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2) Matthew 9 - Matthew's call
Matthew 9:9

Matthew's call.  Mark (Mark 2:13) and Luke (Luke 5:27) both report that Jesus left the crowded house in which that
cure occurred.  Perhaps it was precisely because of the pressing crowds that He went outdoors, in order to have
more space.

We too must learn to see people, not for the clothes they wear, the position they occupy, the relationships they
represent to us.  This latter only hides the individuality of that person.  We must see the man or woman as human
beings in need of God.  We must see, as Jesus saw Matthew, the individual possibilities they have to grow into the
image of God.  Jesus was not afraid that the moral filth and contamination, of which the Pharisees were so afraid,
would cause Him to lose His own purity.

The official position of the tax official in Jewish social life, regardless of the education, wealth or power of the
individual who exercised that office, was despicable beyond belief for those unaware of the peculiar religio-political
situation that existed in Palestine during this period.  Religiously, the Jews owned no king but God and to Him alone
should they bring proper tribute (though for convenience' sake, they acted otherwise more often than not, as for
example, John 19:15; yet this was their religious ideal).  Politically, they were a small political unit of the Roman
empire to which they owed tribute, custom, and duty.

In the period previous to the Roman imperial era, the taxes were collected by wealthy men who purchased the
privilege from the Greek kings the right to collect them.

The Roman system encouraged greed and graft by selling the collection of taxes at auction, from which the publican
repaid his work and risk by collecting all he could.  The tax collectors naturally enriched themselves at the expense
of their own nation.

Jesus could have eased tensions between Himself and the "orthodox" by selecting His disciples more discreetly.  By
Pharisaic principles, Jesus should have prudently passed right on past Matthew, but He chose not to.  These two
words of invitation are Jesus' deliberate demonstration of His determination to show what He could do with a man
who completely surrendered to Him, regardless of background or lack of previous religious virtue.  Jesus intend to
take this dull, bough, crude sinful man and help him to be transformed into His own image.  Jesus could see Matthew
as he could become, so invited him to follow.

One interesting problem is why and how Matthew should respond to Jesus' invitation so promptly without any
apparent or at least recorded psychological preparation.

His soul was in the speechless surprise of unexpected love and grace; but he rose up, left the custom-house and
followed Him.

Apparently Matthew planned this feast with the specific purpose of introducing Jesus to all his former associates.  He
cared enough to invite all his old cronies to a feast where the issue of his own former life and present association
could be faced head-on.  Certainly Matthew invited his friends to the feast; who else COULD he invite?

Matthew 9:11 - and when the Pharisees saw it.  What were THEY doing there?  It is not too likely that they had come
to the feast of publicans in order to take part!  The opposition to Jesus' ministry had already begun to form,
because Jesus had already begun to succeed at the very business He had come to earth to do.

Notice the sheer cunning in this approach made to Jesus' disciples, although the cunning might be motivated by
moral cowardice, or that fear to face Jesus directly.

This question has perhaps less point for us Westerners.  Peter too violated this Jewish taboo (by eating with
Gentiles - Acts 11:2-3) - to break bread together pledged each to solemn friendship and mutual help (would for an
oriental to whom a meal was a sacred matter).

Matthew 9:12 - But when He heard it, He said, they that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are
sick.  This vital question, so important because it involved the fundamental direction and purpose of Jesus' mission
to earth, was asked of the disciples, but answered by Jesus.  From Jesus' answer we get His own view of the work
He came to accomplish.

The Pharisees, in short, are here exposed as common sinners, whose best attempts at separation from sin had only
left them miserable and in need of repentance.

There is a solemn crisis in any man's life when he first departs in the first from the religious opinions and practices
of his age.  The first steps in the process are generally the most difficult, the most perilous, and the most decisive.  
Custom is a god to the multitude, and no one can withhold homage from the ideal with impunity.
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