As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, “Follow me,” and he got up and followed him.
While he was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came to eat with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Now when he heard this, he said, “It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
These five verse in Matthew give us a glimpse of why Jesus came to earth. In these five verses we see the calling of Matthew, sometimes called Levi, but this is not the interesting part of this story. The interesting part of this story is the fact that Matthew/Levi was both Jewish and a tax collector. Which means he was hated and despised by his fellow Jews because he was working for the Roman government, whom they despised and viewed as oppressors, but more importantly than that tax collectors during this time period were known to charge more than they were supposed too, which made them thieves as well as traitors in the eyes of their fellow Jews. All of this made Jesus’ calling of Matthew to be one of his disciples surprising to those who were following him and especially to the religious leaders of the day.
It was because Jesus offered Matthew grace, that Matthew then decided to make this available to all his friends and neighbors. And it was this action that really drove the religious leaders of his day crazy, because he invited Jesus to come and Jesus came. Why did Jesus come and why did Matthew invite Jesus to come? Jesus came simply because that was his mission and he had compassion on those who were living in spiritual darkness. And Matthew invited Jesus because Jesus had done something to him and for him that nobody else had and that was show him kindness and compassion. So then what was the religious leaders of Matthew and Jesus’ day problem with this?
The answer to that question can be found in what Dr. Tony Evans writes in his study Bible notes for Matthew 9:11:
“The Pharisees” couldn’t conceive of understanding, religious Jews socializing and eating “with tax collectors and sinners.” Tragically, many modern believers turn all of their focus inward to their Christian club and forget the reason Jesus came to earth: to invite new members into the family. When was the last time you connected a sinner to the Savior?
Dr. Evans gives us both reason why “the Pharisees” were so upset and some practical applications of this in our lives. Because we as modern day followers of Christ still want to treat “the Church” like a country club, were membership is only available to those who think like us, act like us and talk like us. Which is exactly why “the Pharisees” were so upset that Jesus dared to go and spend time “with tax collectors and sinners.”
However, Jesus himself rebuts this argument in verse 12 when he said, “It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick.” Jesus here is not talking about those who are physically sick and those who are physical well, but he is talking about those who are spiritual “sick”. In other words Jesus is telling “the Pharisees” that he didn’t come to offer empty and hollow religion, but that he came to offer a lasting relationship with God based not your actions but on your heart. Dr. Tony Evans says it this way in his study Bible notes for Matthew 9:13:
By quoting Hosea 6:6, Jesus essentially told the Pharisees to go back and study their Bibles: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” The Pharisees offered plenty of religious sacrifices, but their hearts weren’t merciful. Similarly, if your praise and worship isn’t making you more compassionate toward the lost, you’ve missed the point of church.
We must remember that the Church is to be place where the least, the lost and the lonely of society come to find the healing and saving power of Jesus.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Genesis 28-29, Matthew 9:18-38, Psalm 11:1-7 and Proverbs 3:11-12