As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9
Matthew was a tax collector who left his lucrative trade behind and immediately follows Jesus. Later he wrote the gospel of Matthew which we are reading right now. Tax collectors were looked at as traitors because they worked for the Romans. Also, because they were not actually paid a wage by the Romans, they did have to charge extra money from people to pay for their own salary. Many tax collectors abused this system to enrich themselves.
Jesus`s calling of Matthew challenged and encouraged me in two different ways:
- By calling Matthew, Jesus challenged Matthew’s allegiance to the empire of Rome where Caesar was ruling as the “divi filius” (son of the god). And Matthew “got up and followed him”. What an amazing move! Matthew left his good position in the roman empire and a secure income behind to follow Jesus. Caesar was the most powerful man of his day, and Jesus seemed just to be a “Jewish nobody”. But Matthew gave up his service for Caesar and committed his life to that “Jewish nobody” who promised to bring the “kingdom of heaven” to earth (10:7). His choice seemed crazy then. But looking from today, while Caesar is just a forgotten man of history, Jesus indeed does have millions of committed followers. In what do I put my hope today? To whom do I give my heart? Matthew refocused his hopes radically on Jesus! To follow Jesus means to say “bye” to all the other “kings” who want to rule over us: money, status and a comfortable life can so easily also become the center of our life. But Matthew was willing to give this all up to become a servant of Jesus.
- Jesus calls sinners to follow him. In fact, the call to follow Jesus can only truly be heard by sinners and not by the self-righteousness (v. 13). I need to be aware of any form of self-righteousness in my heart. Self-righteousness always blocks our relationship, not only with each other, but also with God. That Jesus did call somebody as despised by normal society as Matthew, also show that Jesus didn`t look down on anybody and saw everybody through the lens of God`s redeeming love. Jesus who was the only truly righteousness person ever walking on this earth, did himself have no self-righteousness. Jesus did have no need to look down on other or feel better then other. He had no need to compare himself with others because He took his identity from God`s love.
Jesus, thank you that you have called Matthew to follow you and thank you that you have called me to follow you! Help me to go through the day today by putting my hope in you! Like Matthew, I want to “get up and follow you” today! Thank you that as you have accepted sinful Matthew, you also have accepted me. It`s such a privilege to be a servant of “King Jesus”! Change and transform my heart as you changed and transformed Matthew`s heart. And make me to a blessing, as you made Matthew to a blessing for others. Amen!