Follow Me!

Bible Book: Matthew  9 : 9-13
Subject: Call of God; Condescension of Christ; Love of Christ
Introduction

Today we are going to look closely at the call of Christ to a sinner named Matthew, who was a tax collector. Mark Twain used to say that the only difference in a tax collector and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist takes only your skin. Actually, tax collectors today are wonderful people when compared to those who lived long ago in Israel. Tax collectors were among the most hated of the population in Israel at the time of Christ, so Matthew was not exactly viewed as an upstanding individual, to the contrary, he was likely looked upon by the people with great suspicion and disdain.

Note our text for today, found in Matthew 9:9-13:

As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. 10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’[a] For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

In looking at the call of Matthew by our Lord, we are going to see afresh the love of Christ for sinners. The songwriter penned, “Christ receiveth sinful men,” and indeed he does, for He receives sinful men and sinful women just like you and me. You will note in our text, however, that some of the self-righteous people had no place in their heart for sinners. It is a dangerous thing to see God's love for yourself and reject God's love for others! This sanctimonious and hypocritical attitude was something that Jesus faced with the religious leaders during His ministry.

Think of the parable Christ told about the lost sheep, as recorded in Luke 15. Ninety-nine sheep were safely in the fold, but one poor, lone lamb had wandered away and was in great danger. What did the Shepherd do? He left the ones who were safe and went out to save the lost one. Interestingly, the Shepherd did not go out to kill the wolves, but to save the sheep. Jesus did not come to destroy but to save. In this He reveals His love and grace for fallen humanity, something we all should appreciate deeply and lovingly, for we are all sinners.

A sign at a church read, "There will be no healing service at the church today due to the pastor's illness." Well, when it comes to sin, we all have the disease, and Jesus is the only one who has the cure it! Those who come to Him in faith and repentance experience the power, love and freedom that comes when sin is forgiven.

In our text today we discover Jesus calling a man named Matthew to follow Him. The text tells us that Matthew immediately left his tax collecting table and followed Christ. Soon after the conversion of Matthew we find Matthew entertaining other sinners in his home where he has invited Jesus. Jesus comes to the gathering, much to the consternation of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. I want us to learn something of the love of Christ through these events in the life of Christ and I pray that we can hear Jesus saying afresh, "Come, follow me!"

I. The Condescension in the Call from Christ

First, we need to take notice of the condescension of Jesus to come down among sinners like Matthew and like us. Jesus passed by where a tax collector named Matthew was sitting and the Savior called him to salvation and service. What manner of love is this!

This seems like such a simple story, but there are profound things going on in the background of this miracle conversion. We need to be reminded of the social and moral standing of the tax collector in ancient Israel. It will help us to look at another biblical story about a tax collector. There was another tax collector who had a horrible reputation among the people, and one day he heard that Jesus was going to pass by his town. He had heard of the miracles of Jesus and about His teaching, so he went out to see this man. When he arrived at the roadway where Jesus was to pass, he discovered that crowds had gathered and, being a man of small stature, he could not view the passing entourage, so he improvised. He climbed up in a Sycamore tree and caught a glimpse of Jesus. To show you how hated and ill thought of this tax collector was, you need to know that a Pharisee would not so much as let the shadow of a tree fall over his body if a tax collector were sitting in it! But look at the difference in the attitude of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke to the man and said, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house." (Luke 19:5)

Tax collectors were hated by the Jews – practically all of the Jews despised those who cooperated with the Romans in gathering taxes. Tax collectors extracted large amounts of money from the people and most of what they collected was illegal. This made the poor even poorer and made the tax collectors ever richer.

But what did Jesus do about this debauched sinner named Matthew, who was a sinful tax collector? He called to him saying, "Come, follow me," and when Matthew complied, Jesus placed Him in the family of God and made him one of the twelve disciples. The Lord went even further, He used Mathew to write on of the four gospels.

How wonderful is the condescending love of our Lord for poor sinners like us. Not only did Jesus call Matthew to follow Him, but He went to a social gathering at Matthew's home where a number of sinful people had gathered. The Pharisees, and the people in general, murmured because Christ went to be a guest with a man who was such a sinner. They were surprised that a man of such ill repute should have the honor of entertaining Jesus, who at the least was considered among the Pharisees to be a rabbi. Our Lord, in His great love, was willing to go in among sinners because that is who He came to save. This is the way in which Jesus still deals with sinners.

Is there a sinner in the House of God today? The Lord has wrought the miracle of grace right here in this place time and time again. And, just as He saved Zacchaeus and Matthew, He can and will save you. He saved me that way. He saved the others who are here that way. He will do the same for you!

Isn't it interesting that Jesus did not choose some religious leader to be His preacher, evangelist and Gospel writer. He chose a rejected sinner named Matthew. Why? Because he saw that Matthew could fulfill the divine purposes of Heaven. Don't ever think that the Lord only calls good people to be His servants, on the contrary, He often chooses the weak things to confound the strong; He chooses the foolish things to confound the wise. Paul said, “Not many noble are chosen.” Indeed, when I think that I am a preacher of the Gospel of our Lord, I am amazed. Truly amazed. I feel as Paul who once said, “I am the chief among sinners.”

A woman once came to Jesus while He was at the home of one of the Pharisees and began to weep at Jesus' feet. When she saw that her tears had dripped upon the Lord, she quickly began to dry them with her hair. A Pharisee there was appalled, asking how it was possible that Jesus could allow a sinner like her to touch Him. But Jesus rebuked the Pharisee. This woman had been forgiven much and was expressing her thanks and Jesus stood up for the poor woman.

Oh, the condescending love of Jesus for sinners. This must be real to us or we will never know how great our salvation really is! The thief prayed, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) Jesus answered him, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) The first saint presented to the Father by our Lord when He ascended into heaven was not an apostle, but a poor sinner saved in his dying breath! Be assured that there are none so great that they can avoid coming to Jesus, if they wishes to be saved, and there are none so low that they cannot come to the Savior in order to be redeemed.

II. The Consideration in the Call from Christ

We must not think that Christ lowers His moral or ethical standards when coming to sinners like you and me. Though He ate with them, He did not sin with them - Jesus was without sin. This makes His consideration of our condition all the more miraculous.

We must not imagine that it is because Jesus was insensible to guilt that He came to the sinners we read about in the Bible, rather be assured that Jesus knows far better than you do what an evil and terrible thing sin is. It is as hateful and detestable to him as anything can possibly be. It is not, therefore, because he is oblivious to our guilt that he seeks the association of lost souls. Why, then, does he desire to be in their company?

He came to us because we needed Him. There is the story of a doctor who fell in a well and broke his leg. The moral to the story is: “The doctor must mind the sick and leave the well alone.” I know, that is sort of corny, but it makes the point. Jesus did not come to show us a better way, He came to heal us of a terminal illness called sin. We needed Him and we were hopeless without Him. He is the Great Physician, who came to save the sin-sick people who call upon Him. He did not come for the "well" but for the "sick." One cannot be saved without admitting that he or she is a sinner. One never becomes good enough for Christ to accept him - no, we must come as sin-sick, deficient, corrupt souls!

A. The Affection of God

Even our sin-sick soul would not have caused Him to come to us, however, unless he had the love to care about us in our awful condition. It is because he has such deep affection for sinners that He came.

There was a little child crying upstairs and some people in the house wished that the noise he was making could be stopped. They felt they could not endure it, but the mother said, “It is my child who is weeping up there,” and she hurried up to comfort and soothe her baby.” When we see a sinner and hear him blaspheme the name of our Lord, we are angry with him. Sometimes we forget where we were when Jesus found us. We become self-righteous! God forgive us! Look at Jesus, however, and you will see how He loves that person and reaches out in love to save him. Jesus sees what the poor lost man is facing in life and what he will face in eternity if he is never saved. Jesus sees what the sinner can be if he will only repent and accept the love and forgiveness offered to him. Jesus sees the sinner not for what he has done or is doing, but He sees him for what he can be and what he can do once he is redeemed. When Jesus looked at Matthew, he saw a gospel writer! What a Savior we have!

Think of it like this. Let us say that you have a child that is rebellious to guidance and indifferent to learning. You can see what he or she could become, but you see that child throwing away every opportunity life can hold. How do you feel about the child? A loving parent will feel far more pain than anger, far more sorrow than bitterness. Multiply that more times than you can calculate and you have the heart of God for poor sinners.

What is the difference in a lost person and a saved person in the eyes of God? In terms of benefits of His love, there is vast difference. In terms of the nature of His love, nothing! God loves the sinner, but the sinner rejects that love and therefore fails to experience all the benefits of divine love. What a tragedy.

B. The Redemption of God

Christ sees the sinner through the eyes of affection, but He also sees you through the eyes of redemption. He sees the price of His precious blood for you, but is willing to pay that price for your salvation. When Jesus called Matthew, He knew in that moment the cost that He would bear to save that tax collector. The price for our redemption is a love that was paid in blood at Calvary. His blood is liquid love and it has the power to cleanse, heal, save, and redeem the least, the last and the lost!

III. The Consequences in the Call from Christ

The only way any sinner can be saved is for Christ to come to him. You cannot get to God on your own. But be assured of this, it is not God’s will that any perish. Every sinner who realizes that Jesus has come near, who hears the heavenly call to salvation through the Lord, and calls out to the Lord with a repentant and belieivng heart, will be saved. Not one sinner, no not even in hell tonight, can say that he came to Jesus and Jesus would not receive him. No one ever asked Him for mercy and was refused!

The fact that Christ came leaves us with no excuse if we refuse Him and perish. He loved you! He died for you! He calls you! His presence on that cross condemns every person who profanes it with denial.

Dr. Harry Ironside told of a church with the motto, “Jesus Only.” He was at first impressed, but then he learned that they were so narrow that they refused anyone entrance who did not agree with them on every minute detail of their church doctrine. They were so narrow, they gave the impression that only those in their church were assured of heaven. Ironside tells that a storm came up and blew so hard that it blew the first three letters of their motto from the building. Thus it changed from “Jesus Only,” to “..us Only.”

It is important that those of us who are saved never get the idea that we are heaven-bound because of our own goodness. We are to be servants of Christ. Matthew was called to “follow” Jesus and to serve. The fact that Jesus left heaven to come and save us, means we have to get off our high horse, serve Him and others with humility and love.

Matthew responded to Jesus and look what the consequences were. His business changed. His home changed. His direction changed. His future destiny changed. His purpose in life changed. Yes, the songwriter was right when he penned,

“What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought,

Since Jesus came into my heart,

I have joy in my heart for which long I have sought

Since Jesus came into my heart.”

Conclusion

Richard Trench, quoting from a Persian moralist, tells a fascinating old fable about Jesus. Of course, it is only a fable, but it contains a truth which we are considering today, especially as it regards a need for all us to love and care about sinners. When Christ, according to this fable, was traveling through a certain region, he stayed at the cave of a religious hermit. It so happened that there was a young man living in the neighboring town whose vices were so great that even the devil himself did not dare to associate with him lest he should become worse than he was before. This young man, hearing that the Savior who could pardon sin was in the hermit's cave, went to him. Falling down on his knees, he made confession of his guilt and acknowledged that he was utterly unworthy of mercy, but entreated Christ in the love of his gracious heart to forgive him for the past and make him a new man for the future.

The monk, who lived in the cave, said to the young man, "Get you gone; you are not worthy to be in such a holy spot as this," and turning to the Savior he said, "Lord, in the other world appoint me a place as far away as possible from this wretch." The Savior answered, "Your prayer is heard; you are self-righteous, so I appoint you a place in hell; this man is penitent and seeks mercy at my hands; I appoint him his place in heaven. Thus both of you shall have your heart's desire." (Notes on the Parables of our Lord, Richard Chenevix Trench, originally published in 1882.)

As Jesus called Matthew, so He calls you today. Jesus will never reject the humble person who turns in faith to trust Him as Lord and Savior. If you have never place faith in Jesus as your Savior, listen to His voice. He came down from heaven because He loves you and desires that you be forgiven. He died on a cruel Roman cross to redeem you and me of our sins. He is calling you to follow Him. When you follow, He leads you in a life of purpose and peace. When you follow, He leads you to a home He has prepared for you in heaven.

Now, let all those who have made that decision to follow the Lord, think upon His love for us. He came to us when we were lost and hopeless. Do you sense a need today to renew your commitment to Him? Do you feel a desire to express your gratitude for His grace? Can we see that we are not saved by who we are or what we have done? Only Jesus! Only Jesus saves! Then let us respond, each one, as we hear His voice calling, “Follow me.”