Many lessons can be gleaned as we reflect on the account of the call of Matthew. From these we gain precious insights into the heart of God and His mission.
He calls sinners
Jesus specifically sought Matthew the tax collector out and asked him to follow Him. Jesus “saw…and He said.. Follow me”. It was not a coincidence. Rather, it was purposeful, intentional and personal.
Tax collectors belonged to a despised segment of society, as they were seen as traitors to their own people, representatives of Roman oppression and often unscrupulous and dishonest in their dealings. Yet from this despised and hated class Jesus called Matthew to be one of his beloved disciples.
Similarly, we are all sinners, lost, like sheep going in our own separate ways. The Lord intentionally seeks and calls us. It is comforting and assuring that God has a special plan and purpose for each one of His people, no matter how wretched we are. No one is too far to be called by the Lord.
Equally important is the response to the call. Matthew “rose and followed Him”. Matthew’s response showed immediate obedience and repentance. He left his old life behind and started a new life following Jesus, no turning back.
No matter how far we have strayed; no matter how steeped in sin we have become, the Lord in His love and mercy, reaches out to us and calls us. The question is, how do we respond to the Master’s call?
He eats with sinners
Jesus’ association with ‘sinners’, the ceremonially unclean is well documented in the Bible and this instance was one of many occasions. Matthew, possibly joyous at being called by Jesus, threw a banquet for his new master. The guest list included tax collectors and sinners. Jesus was completely at home with these people. He reclined at the table and they reclined with Him. He welcomed their presence. The Pharisees were incensed that Jesus had ‘violated’ the law and remarked to the disciples “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus’ response gave wonderful insights into the heart of God and His mission “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” “For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” v12,13.
This is a wonderful analogy of a doctor and his patients. Jesus is the Great physician and we are His patients. The church is a hospital and a hospital admits, receives and treats sick people. A physician’s mission is to treat the sick.
We are all spiritually sick and diseased with a very poor prognosis, headed to certain death. We therefore are in urgent need of a Physician and Saviour. Only the Lord can treat this disease called sin, and bring full healing to our bodies, souls and minds.
Additionally, just as a hospital admits and treats sick people, the church is meant to be a hospital for sinners. It welcomes and receives all sinners in need of healing and restoration.
He mandates us to go and do likewise.
The Lord’s mandate is for us to be the salt of the earth. We are to be in the world yet not of the world. Jesus associated with sinners because He loved them and had compassion on them. He loved the sinner but hated the sin. We can strive to do likewise.
God desires for His people to show mercy. Just as we, who know God, are privileged to have received mercy by God, we are to show mercy to people who have yet to know God. The Lord Jesus’ mission was and is to save sinners. As Christ followers, we are to be His ambassadors for this same cause.
As YCKC celebrates its 65th anniversary, it is apt to evaluate where we are in our journey as a missional church.
Are we inclusive, welcoming and non judgemental in our attitude towards our neighbours? Or are we an exclusive club? As we look back on 65 years of goodness from the Lord, let us not forget to pass on this goodness to people around us, and in doing so, live out our mission: “To glorify God by living the gospel and making disciples to reach the world for Christ”.
By Dr Samuel Ang (YCKC Bulletin 13 October 2019)