As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed Him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when He heard it, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:9-13 ESV).
On Sunday, the Church commemorated St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. St. Matthew, of course, is the writer of the Gospel by that name. And we give thanks and praise to God for that wonderful inspired Gospel which shows us Jesus so clearly! But in so many ways, Matthew is just like us! A sinner, in need of forgiveness. Matthew was a tax collector. As a Jew, he was basically a turncoat in the employ of the Romans. Tax collectors were notoriously unfair and robbed the people, often taking a cut above the actual tax. It was a beneficial position, wealth-wise. Not so much on a social level. Everyone hated them.
And this is the man Jesus calls to serve Him, to come and follow Him. Matthew gets up and goes! He leaves behind the lucrative position, and his likely cheating ways to follow the Lord of Life, who will give everything away for free. As Jesus and His disciples, including Matthew, sit down to a meal with tax collectors and other sinners (notice that the tax collectors are singled out), the Pharisees have something to say about it. “How can He eat with these low-lifes?” But Jesus says these beautiful words: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
That is good news for Matthew, good news for those other tax collectors and diners at the meal, and certainly good news for us. For we are all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We’ve not kept those impossible standards set before us in the Ten Commandments. We have broken them left and right in our thoughts, our words and our deeds. But Jesus came for US! Despite our failings, even BECAUSE of them. He came to call us out of our sinful deaths and into His righteous life because we could not possibly do it for ourselves! Jesus calls us by our Baptisms, makes us His own disciples, and gives us His very life and righteousness. Thanks be to God!
Let us Pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we children have erred and err continuously; continue to call us out of our sinful ways and into the life giving death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, so that we might live forever with Him; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.