As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.
And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, 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, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’Matthew 9:9-13
The readings this week largely focus on the way in which we should respond when Jesus calls us into his service. Today we are reminded of Matthew’s call into discipleship. There are two accounts of this event in the gospel narrative: they are in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Both of these accounts give us the same details. Matthew was a tax collector, someone identified as being beyond redemption by the religious authorities of the day; beyond redemption because tax collectors were overt agents of the pagan Roman occupiers. However, despite his background, Jesus identified Matthew as being worthy of a place in the company of his closest companions.
There is a message for all of us in the gospel account of Matthew’s call. Matthew was a sinner. Matthew could not have been more distanced from respectable religious society. Matthew had a comfortable life-style and did not need or expect that life-style to be disrupted. However, despite all those negative attributes, Jesus still called Matthew into his service. In two simple words Jesus invited Matthew to repent, that is to turn around, to abandon all of those ways that distanced him from God, and to follow the new road on which Jesus was leading him. And Matthew’s response? His response was not to question or argue, but to get up and follow.
We are all being called by Jesus, That call comes in many different ways. Sometimes it comes as a blinding flash of realization; more commonly it comes as a small voice that slowly chips away at the barriers we erect for ourselves. But … we are all being called by Jesus. No matter who or what we are, or who or what we have been, we are all being called to join Matthew in repenting and following Jesus.
As ever there is a challenge in this short passage of scripture. Are we brave enough to be a Matthew? Are we brave enough to abandon our old ways and follow Jesus? Are we brave enough to let the light and love of Christ shine through our cloudy past into God’s bright future?