Matthew 9: 9-13
By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Jesus the Physician
General Idea: Jesus was calling His follows to Follow Me! In so doing, He called the common laborers of Jewish society, such as fishermen, and then He sought after the most hated person in Jewish society at that time, a tax collector, who collected duties and fees like a troll under a bridge. He took the hard earned monies of the people, and gave it to the invading foreign oppressors, the Romans. This was such an act of treason and unspeakable evil that the average person called these tax collectors the worst of sinners.
Jesus called this hated man, and was scorned for doing so, yet He comes to we who are sick to heal us in ways we cannot fathom. He seeks us out, and we sinners become His friends by His offering us fellowship, and an invitation to turn our sickly selves to healthy, and be robed in His righteousness. The Pharisees were puzzled by Jesus' excellent teaching, and by His bizarre behavior of hanging out with sinners. They did not realize He was the Great Physician, who came to heal, and that one cannot heal another without seeing and touching that person.
1. Follow me. Jesus saw Matthew, and called him with two simple words, follow me. Two words, when powered by the Spirit, will change a person to the core if he makes the response by his faith. Matthew made such a response, and showed great faith to permanently leave his prestigious job, and with overwhelming gratitude, throw a big feast in Jesus' honor so his friends could see for themselves this most incredible God-Man.
a. A man named Matthew. Mark and Luke call him Levi (Mark 3:18). Levi/Matthew is the same person as the name given to Him.
i. Perhaps Matthew was a surname, as he was called Levi, son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14).
ii. Matthew means a "gift of the LORD". He is also called Levi. Most scholars also believe that "James, son of Alphaeus" is the same as "James, the younger" (Mark 15:40).
b. Since this is the Gospel that bears his name, and he compiled it without any superfluous words to describe himself, we see that he was also a humble man and did not want to draw attention to himself. He rather pointed to the One who deserved the attention. How many authors do you know who would do that?
c. Tax office /booth. These were tollhouses (Mark 2:14) set up by roads, bridges, harbors, and lakes to collect and gather revenue for duties, and tolls even for "fish tax," (Luke 3:13). It was then just as it is today-everything, and anything was taxed. A major international road went from Damascus through Capernaum to the Mediterranean coast and to Egypt (Isa. 9:1).
d. A Publican (KJV) is a tax collector (NIV/NKJV). There were different types, as there are today, from the IRS, to duty agents at the airport. Instead of having a vocation that farmed the land, or the sea in an aquaculture-centered society, Matthew was a Publican, a tax farmer, similar to a modern day customs agent who colleted taxes. He did so on Herod's behalf in an office in Capernaum. His duty was to charge tax on imports, or what we call "duties" today. Capernaum was smack on a major trade route. This was a very lucrative profession, as he could levy his own percentage, as well.
2. He arose. Matthew responded to Jesus' radical command to leave all and follow Him. He could never return to his job, as he would be viewed as a traitor. For us, as well as for them, it required steadfast faithfulness, obedience, and trust to undertake His path.
a. Matthew actually got up and followed! A man, with so much to lose by the world's standards, left it all. Yet, he gained so much more.
b. Matthew showed great faith by being willing to leave his prosperous position, to follow Jesus to a life of the unsecured and unknown-from his perspective. In reality, there is nothing more secure than following Jesus!
3. Jesus sat at the table. After a time, Matthew invited Jesus, his friends, and his business associates to dinner. This was a response of great gratitude for what he had gained. Most people only see what will be left behind; Matthew saw what he was to gain!
a. Why does, some of the local religious leaders came too and scorned Jesus at his disciples.
b. They were filled with hate towards the tax collectors who were in collaboration with the Romans, an invading occupying army, and were thus considered traitors. They were not allowed to serve as witnesses or as a judge. They were even expelled from the synagogue. They were totally shut out from Jewish society, with only their wealth to give them comfort. Perhaps Matthew saw how fleeting wealth was, and missed having relationships and a real mission for which to serve.
c. The tax collators made their own bed, so to speak, as most of them also demanded extra and unreasonable payments, even from the poor. The tax collectors gained a bad reputation, and were hated. They were regarded as heinous enemies, and were hated by the people. Matthew was a person who found favor with very few people. So, their scorn would seem justified--or was it? Perhaps those religious leaders were not familiar with Hosea 6:6, as what is really pleasing to God honoring Him with mercy and giving Him glory or being stuck up by sticking to the letter of the law with no mercy?
d. It was a big deal, culturally, to be invited to dinner by a man of wealth-just as it is today.
e. To dine with a person was a sign of friendship, and a sign of agreement with their philosophies and behaviors. So, when Jesus was found eating with a tax collector, society would interpret that He approved of Matthew's world, but that was not why Jesus was there! Jesus countered their piety with a real ministry of love and kindness.
f. Jesus was not affected by the presence of sinners, since He did not take part in their sin. For us, it means we are to build relationships with them, but are not to be contaminated or influenced by them. We are to be the influences, showing godly character to those who do as they see fit, yet without our doing as we see fit.
4. Sinners in the Bible, often refers to disgracefully evil people who did everything from refusing to follow the Mosaic Law to just not eating Kosher. As the book of Judges stated, they did as they saw fit (Judges 17:6).
a. Sometimes it can refer to those who did not follow the Law as interpreted by the teachers of the Law. This is why they called Jesus a sinner.
b. This term was commonly used by the man on the street for adulterers, thieves, and tax collectors.
c. In the context of the Word here, this meant the Pharisees, who would have been outside the house looking in the window since they could not go in, used the term sinners to mean these people who did not care what they (the Pharisees) thought of them! Their attitude was, "how dare they do that in front of us!" They assumed that since Jesus was a righteous Teacher, He would share their views of who to eat with, and who to avoid (Psalm 1:1).
d. According to a Pharisee, to eat with sinners makes you a sinner. To the sinner, it was seen as a gesture of friendship, and earning their respect, acceptance, and ear.
e. Those who are well…. Jesus gives them a humorous response-- a repartee in the form of a rhetorical comeback--to make His point. This was a popular form of response, used by Jewish teachers and Greek philosophers, to make a point. Jesus used two needed and common professions of His day, as they are for us today, to illustrate His point.
f. Jesus makes it clear that the sinners are indeed sick (Psalm 14:1-3; Mark 7:1-8), and need redemption, but ignoring them does them no good. The healthy Pharisees (Luke 18:9-14), refers to the health in their own minds, not in reality. Jesus is breaking down the works-earned righteousness philosophy of the Pharisees, and giving us a glimpse of Grace (Psalm 51:1-18; Luke 19:9; Rom. 3:22).
g. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. This is a retort that a self-righteous person will not realize their need for salvation, because they are too full of themselves to see a need. However, an admitted sinner will see their depravity when the Spirit points it out.
Follow me are two very powerful words, yet are so easily blocked when we are too puffed up with ourselves. If you think you do not need a Doctor, you are very mistaken, for you would be the sickest of all. Jesus did not come for the righteous, because there are no righteous people. There are only those who think they are. Their invitation to join His Kingdom will never be opened and read, because there is too much of them in the way, so the words cannot be seen; the faith to respond will never grow in the shallow soil of pride.
1. What would you do if all of the sudden your salary was cut to one-third? Would you leave a "six-figure" job, to work at a nonprofit agency, helping the poor? Why, or why not? What would be your motivation to stay at your "good job?"
2. Why would Jesus seek the most hated person in Jewish society to join His mission?
3. Can you think of a profession today, that if someone from that profession came to your church, they would be shunned? Why would they, or why would they not, be accepted?
4. Why would the Pharisees be puzzled by Jesus' excellent teaching, yet bizarre behavior of hanging out with sinners? Can you think of some contemporary "bizarre behaviors" that would be radical, but Scriptural, and still not accepted in most churches? What about hanging out with, even sleeping with, the homeless?
5. How would you be treated if you left a "six- figure" job to work at a nonprofit agency in your family or church?
6. What is it about Jesus' words, Follow me, that cause some to respond with passion, and others to flee in anger?
7. What do you think motivated Mathew to show great faith by permanently leaving his prestigious job?
8. How many authors, celebrities, and such, go out of their way not to draw attention to themselves? What about big-name pastors and church leaders? How many of them, other than Billy Graham, just give glory to God, rather than draw attention to themselves?
9. What requires steadfast faithfulness, obedience, and trust, for you to undertake His path? What is in the way of your responding to the Follow Me call?
10. Matthew actually got up and followed! What is the cause and motivation for you to get up and follow Christ?
11. What do you see as important in your life that you just could not lose? Compare your list to the world's standards, versus God's.
12. Do you really believe, with confidence, that there is nothing more secure than following Jesus? What does secure mean to you, considering eternity versus the material?
13. Have you ever made a big response of gratitude for what Jesus has done for you? If so, what was it? If not, what could it be?
14. Matthew saw what he was to gain! What did you see when you came to Christ?
15. Why do you suppose that most people only see what they will leave behind?
16. Read Hosea 6:6: The tax collectors gained a justified, bad reputation, and many were filled with hate towards them. So, were the Pharisees correct? What would be a modern parallel?
17. How can you seek out people whom the church would call sinners, or unworthy to approach (remember we all are sinners), so you and your church could build a relationship with them, yet not be contaminated or influenced by them? What would that mean to the mission of the Gospel, as Christ taught and modeled for us?
18. How can you be the influencers of godly character to those around you who do as they see fit, without your also doing as you see fit?
19. What are some of the "ways" a "self-righteous" person will not realize their need for salvation? How can you develop the skills to counter their "ways"?
20. Follow me are two very powerful words, yet are so easily blocked when we are too puffed up with ourselves. How can you make a commitment so this will not happen to you?