The Call of Christ (Matthew 9:9-13)
In college, we were required to attend a “campaign” every semester in order to graduate. We would travel to work with a small, struggling church. We would knock on doors, conduct Bible studies, and we’d often see conversions. The first guy I ever baptized, I baptized as a result of working in such a campaign.
I was in Menifee County, Kentucky, working with the small church where Dad now preaches. I was studying with a lady, and I discovered that she was living with a man who was not her husband. I don’t remember now how I came to know that; it must have been something I picked up on in our conversation. However, it was blatantly obvious that this man and woman were simply living together without being married.
I and my partner continued to study with this lady. We talked with her some about repentance, and what repentance would mean in her situation–viz., that she and this guy could not continue to live this type of a life. The Word of God had profound impact on this woman, and she determined that she would sleep on the couch until she and her boyfriend were married. It was my privilege to take this woman and to baptize her into Christ where she found the remission of her sins.
I have no doubt that you have encountered individuals who have come to Jesus as “sinners.” Yes, I know that we all come to Jesus as sinners. Yet, some come to Him who have committed very public sins. You’ve undoubtedly known Christians who had to come forward and confess very public sins. I once knew a man who left his family for another woman; he came forward, confessing that sin and finding forgiveness. I knew another man, a police officer, who was being interviewed on the local TV station and said some highly inappropriate things. He publicly confessed to that sin.
You undoubtedly have sins that you don’t want anyone else to know about. Some of you weren’t raised by godly parents–you may have lived a life of debauchery before you found forgiveness in Jesus. But, I’m very confident that every one of us has done things we want no one else to know–Maybe some thought we just can’t believe that we entertained, maybe some word uttered in anger, maybe a moment of pleasure that haunts us still.
Whatever we have done, we have found forgiveness through the blood of Jesus. The blood of Jesus is so powerful that even very pubic, very sinful people can find forgiveness in His blood. In this morning’s text, Matthew finds forgiveness in Jesus’ blood.
Through His interaction with Matthew, Jesus teaches us an important lesson: “Jesus wants sinners to come to Him.” We desperately need to hear that message. Vacation Bible School begins Friday evening. Prayerfully, we’ll have many “sinners” come and hear the word of life. Next Lord’s Day is “Friend and Family Day,” and we will have 100 “sinners” here. We don’t care about packing this auditorium for the sake of packing it. We want to pack this place, because “Jesus wants sinners to come to Him.” We don’t care about numbers–we care about souls. This morning, we wish to hear Matthew’s account of his own call that we might fully understand that “Jesus wants sinners to come to Him.”
Text (Matthew 9:9-13)
Jesus saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. If anyone was despised in ancient Palestine, it was a tax collector. Taxes were collected by persons who were the highest bidders for the contract. In Palestine, these contracts were usually given to locals, since they knew the people and the customs. They had to collect a certain amount to send to Rome, but anything over that amount the tax collectors were free to keep. In order to get rich, tax collectors, by and large, used excessive extortion. Tax collectors were also considered very public sinners because they had close contact with Gentiles and even supported a pagan government, and they were willing to work on the Sabbath.
Jesus finds one of these despicable sinners and says, “Follow Me.” Jesus is calling this man to discipleship. That was radical. The Messiah is willing to have something to do with this man and call him to discipleship.
Jesus eats a meal at Matthew’s home.
While Jesus is there, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and His disciples. Have you ever thought about why so many tax collectors and sinners came to eat with Jesus?
- They understand that Jesus can give them forgiveness.
- They understand that Jesus loves them.
- They are so beaten down by everyone else that they rush to the One who will love and forgive them.
The Pharisees see it and ask Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Table fellowship was very intimate and important in the ancient world. When you ate with someone, it said you greatly valued that person. The Pharisees just could not believe that Jesus would value sinners. Notice that Jesus doesn’t push these “sinners” away. He is more than happy to surround Himself with “sinners.” He wants these “sinners” with Him.
Only the sick have a need for a physician. Read it this way: Only those who realize they are sick have need for a physician. The Pharisees are certainly sick. They’re self-righteous. They have everything together. They can look down their noses at those who gather around Jesus. They refuse to acknowledge just how sin-sick they are.
Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. Jesus cannot call the righteous–they refuse to recognize their need, their deplorable state before God. Jesus came to call those who are fully cognizant of their sin to repentance.
We must remember: “Jesus wants sinners to come to Him.”
We need to be intentional in our evangelism.
Jesus is intentional. Yes, He makes friends, but He never loses sight of what’s really important in that relationship. The Lord is not simply enjoying a good meal at Matthew’s house–He has come to call sinners to repentance.
Friends are wonderful, and they make our lives more full. “A friend loves at all times” (Prov 17:17). “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov 18:24).However, we must seek to bring our friends to Jesus. If we never say a word about Jesus to our friends and neighbors, what kind of friend and neighbor are we? If you pass your neighbor’s house and it’s on fire, are you going to stop and see if someone’s inside? When it comes to the souls of people, their houses are not on fire, but their souls are headed for a devil’s hell.
Speak a word for Jesus to at least one friend this week. Invite him/her to worship. Invite him/her to a Bible study.
We need to recognize sin.
Jesus says in this text that He has come to call sinners to repentance. If He never recognized sin, how could He call sinners to repentance?
Jesus never once turned a blind eye to sin. When a sinful woman anointed Jesus’ feet with fragrant oil, Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Lk 7:48). When Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, He said, “Go and sin no more” (Jn 8:11)–He did not ignore the fact that this woman was sinful.
We must understand that people are full of sin. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Why is it important to recognize sin? If people have no sin, why bother reaching out to them? If everyone is okay apart from Jesus, let’s not do VBS, Friend and Family Day, and Monday Night for the Master!
We need to love those in sin.
It is quite obvious that Jesus loves those who are at the table in Matthew’s home. He’s being their friend, and “A friend loves at all times” (Prov 17:17). He’s going to die for them. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).There are a couple ways we can show people we love them.
- We can serve them. The old axiom is true: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Jesus set the example of service when He washed the feet of His disciples.
- We must teach truth in love. There are many Christians who want to live on one extreme or the other: They want to teach truth and show little concern for love, or they want to teach love and show little concern for truth. God wishes for His people to do both: We are to speak “the truth in love” (Eph 4:15).
We need to see what people can become.
Jesus has a long history of changing lives. Matthew was a tax collector; Jesus took him and made him an apostle. Peter was a coward; Jesus made him a gospel preacher.
The gospel has great power to change. Notice what Paul writes about Onesimus, that runaway slave: He “once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me” (Philem 11). Paul himself is an example of the power of the gospel: 1 Timothy 1:12-16.Look at your own life. How has the power of the cross transformed you? Don’t you believe with all of your heart that the gospel still has that power? Won’t you, therefore, share that message today?
Do you need Jesus to change your life this morning?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.