Follow Me - Matthew

Scripture - Matthew 9:9-13

Overview

This week we turned our attention to Matthew, the fifth disciple to be called by Jesus.  In studying his life we realized that it is not beyond Jesus to call even the lowest of the low to follow him.  As a tax collector, Matthew would have been despised because he collected taxes from his own people for a foreign government, and had a propensity to steal part of the money in the process.

In calling Matthew, Jesus was giving him the chance of a lifetime to have his character transformed.  He also would become part of his mission remove burdens instead of laying them on people which led to a transformation of his community and what would eventually become the church.

Discussion Questions

1.  We learned that following Jesus transforms our character.  How has your character changed since you decided to follow Jesus? Matthew 9:9 

2.  Matthew invited his tax collector friends to a banquet in honor of Jesus.  Share a story about the last time you introduced someone to Jesus.  If you held a banquet for Jesus today, who would you invite to meet him? Matthew 9:10 

3.  Jesus taught his disciples and critics (Pharisees) that his salvation is even for the lowest of the low.  How does adopting his attitude affect our mission as the church?   Matthew 9:11-13

Full Sermon Notes

 

Good Morning. What a blessing it has been to worship together this morning by singing our praises of God together. And, now we enter a time of worship by submitting ourselves to God’s Word in such a way that we live our lives according to what it says.

 

I originally planned on preaching from Luke Chapter 5 as it shows in your copy of The Current, but over the past few days I have felt led to preach from the same story, just in book of Matthew. So, I invite you to turn in your Bibles to Matthew Chapter 9:9-13.

 

Before we read, I know that many of you started school this week. My daughter is about to start kindergarten and she is thrilled. She can’t wait to meet her teacher and see her new classroom. I asked her the other day, “What are you most excited about when you think of kindergarten?”

 

Out of all of the things to pick from, she says, “I can’t wait to each lunch at my new school.” It makes me thrilled to know she is so excited about something that is so routine for the rest of us.

 

I’ve talked with some of our high schoolers, and the excitement level is diminished considerably from that of a kindergartener. I say, “Man, you excited about school starting?” They say, “Ugggh!” Not so much, huh! “There has to be something!” One of them responded, “Yeah, when that bell rings at the day, and I get to go home!”

 

Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I share with high school students that one of my greatest regrets was the way I lived during high school. My parents are here today, and I’m sure they are wondering what I am talking about.

 

I wasn’t involved in terrible things. I did my best to do the right thing in certain situations, but it is what I did not do that makes me think back sometimes and wonder, “What if?”

 

Most of us attend or attended relatively large schools. I don’t think I have ever been around that many people, in that close of proximity, since high school ended. I graduated with 400 other students. My school had close to 2000 students when I attended there.

 

Yet, every single day, I was focused on the routine, and doing every thing I could just to make it to the end of the day when the bell rang. I know I didn’t fully understand my purpose while I was there. I also think about how I was lazy with what I did understand about my purpose.

 

We have learned in this series, Follow Me, that Jesus’ invitation to to the early disciples, was coupled with a lifelong purpose. Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.

 

I feel I missed those opportunities to fish for people. As a result, I believe that many of my classmates missed out on an invitation to follow Jesus because I wasn’t engaged in my purpose that accompanied my call to follow Him.

 

Now, I’m not one to get stuck in the past, and allow regret to turn into guilt and shame, because that would disable me to press forward with the mission God has for me. But, it is healthy to have an understanding of your mistakes in the past so that your present situation can be shaped by God.

 

So, my encouragement to students is to not miss out on the opportunities that God has placed before you to reach out to that vast number of people, right there, every day, every week, every month, every year that you are with them.

 

And, as leaders in this church, it is our hope for all of us, that through this Follow Me series you will equipped by God’s Word and his Holy Spirit to follow Jesus right where you are. Your school, your work place, your home, wherever you find yourself.

 

Throughout this series we have learned various truths and life lessons by studying the life and calling of some of the early disciples. As we enter our story today, Jesus has already invited 4 other fishermen to follow him: Peter, John, Andrew and James.

 

Now we turn our attention to Matthew, the 5th disciple invited by Jesus to join what would eventually make up his 12 disciples. And by studying his story, we are going to answer the question, “How will following Jesus transform my life?” So, let’s begin by reading in Matthew 9, starting in verse 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.

 

So, how will following Jesus transform my life? We see first, that following transforms your character.

 

Following Jesus transforms:
1. Your Character (9:9)

 

Here, we are introduced to Matthew the tax collector. His story is found in three of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. If you didn't know, the first book of the New Testament is written by this tax collector.

 

In Mark and Luke he is referred to as Levi, but of course, he calls himself Matthew in his gospel. We know that Matthew and Levi are the same person because all three of the stories are basically identical.

 

Most likely, Jesus gave Levi the name Matthew to commemorate his inclusion as a disciple. The name Matthew literally means “the gift of God,” which would be a reminder to him that his salvation and calling were a gift from God.

 

Jesus did this on other occasions. He changed Saul’s name to Paul, and Simon’s name to Peter. So, today we call him Matthew just as our Savior did.

 

We see Matthew sitting at his tax booth. Matthew was a tax collector. In Jesus’ day, it would be difficult to find someone hated more than a tax collector. There are two main reasons why a tax collector was hated. These are some side notes, some background information that will help us understand these Scriptures better.

 

Reasons tax collectors were hated:
1. They were notorious thieves

 

They were known for stealing money. You can imagine that in their day, accountability for tax collectors was not good. They didn’t have computers or email. I’m sure the mail was slower than it is now. Maybe not though. But the people weren’t able to receive statements of their taxes.

 

They just had to rely on the word of the tax collector that what they owed was the correct amount. But the tax collector couldn’t be trusted, because one of the ways they would steal is by increasing the actual rate of the tax a person owed. The person being taxed doesn’t know any different.

 

They could say, you own $500 when you really owe $400. They would then pass the $400 on to the government and pocket the rest for themselves. So, most of them had acquired substantial wealth by dishonesty and thievery. That is why the gospels are full of references of them being completely despised.

 

They are despised so much that they couldn’t even worship in the temple because they were considered unclean due to their evil practices. The religious leaders hated them. Businessmen hated them. The common people hated them.

 

And Jesus comes to Matthew, this tax collector, and says, "follow me." Jesus had been doing ministry in Matthew’s town for a few days now, and Matthew would have heard about this man who was performing miraculous sign and wonders. People were already calling him the Messiah.

 

So, this man, the Son of God, Jesus, offers him a chance of a lifetime. Follow me! Walk with me! Journey with me! I want you. No one else wants anything to do with you, but I want you. I choose you. No one else loves you, but I am not everyone else. I love you! Follow me!

 

And Matthew gets up, and leaves everything behind and follows Jesus. His old life of evil practices, he leaves behind, to follow the one who will give him new life and acceptance.

 

Isn’t this the very essence of a change in character. We are not simply talking about behavioral changes. Not external change, but internal. We are talking about the core of who you are being completely changed not because of what you do, but because of who you follow. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says,

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

 

If you are in Christ, the new creation has come. Your character is completely altered by the saving work of Jesus. Your sin is redeemed. Your salvation is sealed. You walk in new life. He is no longer Levi, he is now Matthew because of this gift from God. Let’s continue in verse 10,

 

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.

 

When you follow Jesus he first transforms your character, and then secondly he transforms your community.

 

Following Jesus transforms:
1. Your Character (9:9)
2. Your Community (9:10)

 

Matthew writes that Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's home. In Luke's Gospel, it says that Matthew holds a great banquet for Jesus at his house. This reaffirms that Matthew had acquired great wealth because he had a home big enough to throw a huge party and invite all of his friends.

 

This is just amazing to me. The first thing he does is throw a party in honor of Jesus. And who does he invite? He invites his friends, of course. If you were a tax collector in that day, some of your only friends would have been other tax collectors or outcasts.

 

The outcasts in society typically group together because they have the common bond of being an outcast. And Matthew wants to introduce them to one who has given him a chance at a new life. We do the same thing when we know of something that could be great for someone else.

 

A couple of months ago I received an email from Southwest Airlines that said they were offering a three day window to purchase airline tickets to a bunch of destinations for $49. I was able to get airfare for a conference in the fall for a third of the normal price.

 

So, what did I do. I became Southwest Airline's spokesman. For the next the three days, I was telling everybody about it. You want to get cheap airfare for a vacation? Even if your not planning one, just go on their website, and pick a place. Boom. Vacation planned.

 

I just wanted share that discovery with my friends so they could experience the similar opportunity I was able to have. We all have done things like this before. If we have great news we want to share it.

 

So, Matthew invites his friends, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others get to spend time with Jesus. He introduces them to Jesus in hopes that they would get the same invitation to move from outcast to the inner circle.

 

Here's a question: When is the last time you held a banquet for Jesus? In other words, are you actively introducing the people you care about to the one who cared enough for you to change your character? Going back to that passage in 2 Corinthians 5,

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

 

We are Christ’s ambassadors for reconciliation, his mouthpiece to declare that salvation has come in Jesus Christ. When you follow Jesus, he will use you to transform your community. So, church LET’S GET TO IT.

 

Invite your lost friend to church. Have them over for dinner. Invite them to your community group. Go visit them at their house. Call them on the phone. I encourage you to do something that will give you the chance to introduce them to Jesus.

 

Pastor Craig Groeschel of Life Church in Oklahoma, one of the largest church in America, tells his church to do anything short of sin to introduce people to Jesus. When we follow Jesus, he will transform our community if we allow him to work in and through us. Let’s move on to verse 11

 

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

 

When you follow Jesus, he transforms your character, your community, and third, he transforms your church.

 

Following Jesus transforms:
1. Your Character (9:9)
2. Your Community (9:10)
3. Your Church (9:11-13)

 

Let’s get back to those side notes now, that background information about tax collectors. We learned first that tax collectors were despised because they were notorious thieves. The second reason is because they collected taxes for a foreign government.

 

Reasons tax collectors were hated?
1. They were notorious thieves
2. Collected taxes for a foreign government

 

A first century tax collector in Israel worked for the Roman Empire which was the world power of that day. Matthew was a Jew, an Israelite, and his job was to collect taxes from other Jews to support this foreign government.

 

The Romans had taken over roughly two centuries prior to the time of Jesus. They ruled by setting up governors over various nations or territories now under their rule. The governors would appoint chief tax collectors over the region to collect taxes from citizens of other nations to support the Roman Empire.

 

Some of you know the Bible story of Zacchaeus. You know, that song some of us learned as a child: Zaccheus was a wee, little man, and a wee, little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see. That man, Zacchaeus, was a chief tax collector over an entire region of Israel.

 

Matthew was not a chief tax collector, but he would have worked for a chief tax collector in his area. Also, Matthew is from Capernaum, which is a town right on the sea of Galilee.

 

Historical sources reveal that the Romans taxed goods along trade routes, specifically along waterways. Therefore, most of the goods that were sold along the sea of Galilee would have been taxed, and this includes the sale of fish.

 

Since Matthew’s tax booth was right there on the Sea of Galilee, we can reasonably conclude that one of his main jobs was taxing fishermen. Why is this so important? Because, the first four disciples that Jesus calls are fishermen.

 

In the previous passage, those disciples have just witnessed Jesus heal a paralyzed man. Then they walk out of this house where they’ve just seen a miracle, and it is in this area where Jesus sees Matthew sitting at his tax booth.

 

This is a tax collector, one of their own people, who is notorious for stealing their hard earned money and collecting another portion of it to send off to support a foreign government. What do you think these fishermen thought of Matthew?

 

I can just imagine Peter elbowing his brother Andrew, “Hey, Look at that scum of the earth tax collector over there.” They can’t stand him. And then Jesus goes up to him and asks him to be one of the disciples. This must have completely shocked them.

 

Later, they find themselves at party with Jesus, sharing a meal with not just one, but multiple tax collectors. They must have been confused and trying understand what Jesus was doing.

 

And at this point, the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the Jews, who wouldn’t allow tax collectors to worship in the synagogues, come up NOT to Jesus, but to the disciples and say, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

 

In their own way they were trying to say. Remember, these are the people that steal your money. These are the ones who you despise so much. These are the ones who aren’t even allowed to worship God because they are so unclean and filthy in their sin. And you are associating with them.

 

A fisherman would have respected a spiritual leader such as a Pharisee, and to hear a Pharisee ask this must have affirmed their confusion even more. Why are we doing this? These people are filthy and evil, and this one gets called to follow Jesus and now he’s trying get his buddies in too. What is going on?

 

At this point Jesus turns to answer the Pharisees, and also to teach the disciples an important lesson. Verse 12-13,

 

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 

This is one of the very first lessons that Jesus taught to his disciples and to his critics. He reveals the attitude of his heart for those he is calling. It is not the healthy who need a doctor, it is the sick. And Jesus defines who the sick are in this scenario.

 

Sinners are those with an understanding of their unworthiness before God and realize their need for healing. The sick are not the righteous who follow the letter of law, those who believe they are perfect, but are disgusting on the inside, and actually point their fingers at others in judgment as if they are God.

 

Now, religious rituals can aid people in a better understanding of God and help to deepen their relationship with him. God is in fact the one who implemented the sacrificial system in the old testament and the one who still calls us to observe the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper in the new testament.

 

But without a love for God in our hearts and a yearning for obedience to him based on that love, then rituals actually mock God. You see, God wants our hearts, not just a blind devotion to a religious checklist.

 

Jesus quotes a verse from the prophet Hosea, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." I desire to be merciful and save sinners who follow me and have a love for me. I don’t just want to pat people on the back for following a set of regulations.

 

I desire mercy for even the worst of sinners like the tax collector. Listen to this parable Jesus shared later in his ministry, Luke 18:9-14 says,

 

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

 

Some may say that this attitude is a problem that isn’t as prevalent today. But, I believe this is the very attitude that brings churches into decline, cripples their mission, and eventually closes their doors.

 

It’s that attitude that breed conversations like this: “Hey man, did you see that person in church today. If only people knew who that guy is and what he’s done. There’s no hope for that guy. I just can’t see them turning their life around.”

 

Or, “if only they knew how that person has treated me and others, they would shut the door of the church in their face. I don’t think I can go back there if they continue to be there.”

 

Jesus is saying, my mercy is for tax collector, the thief, the murderer, the backstabber, the raging alcoholic, the adulterer, the porn addict, the outcast.

 

Our church will continue to be transformed if we take on this attitude of our Lord. What a genuine place Northshore Church is and will continue to be if we are focused on doing what is right, loving mercy, and walking humbly before our God

 

We can share with the world that it doesn’t matter what you have done, Jesus still holds out his hand inviting you to follow him. The reason I know he will is because he did it for me and I feel like I was the worst of the worst. Even at my best, I still fall short of his glory. But Jesus desires mercy.

 

Jesus invited Matthew and he got up and left his tax booth. And his character was forever changed. Jesus used him to transform his community when he introduced them to the One who showed him love when everyone else showed him hate.

 

His new band of brothers learned a crucial lesson: that Christ’s invitation is extended to the lowest of the low. These men would later become the first leaders of His church. With this new message, that Christ’s salvation is for all, the church expanded, multiplied, and was transformed forever.

 

Jesus gave Matthew a chance of a lifetime. A tax collector, who’s entire life is focused on laying heavy burdens onto people. Follow me, and your new life will be consumed with lifting burdens off of people.

 

The same opportunity is available to us today. Jesus is saying to all of us, Follow Me, I’ll transform your character, I’ll transform your community, and I’ll continue to transform this church as we partner in his mission not to lay burdens on people as the righteous, but to lift burdens off as the redeemed.