Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 9:10a “And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house,. . .”
Matthew, to celebrate his becoming a follower of Jesus, threw a party. He hosted a celebration, a feast in his house, with Jesus as the main guest of honor.
Matthew had fallen in love with Jesus, and was willing to do anything to keep His new Master nearby. The most important part of our faith is our love relationship with Jesus. Find and maintain spiritual passion, keep the romance strong.
Notice Matthew’s humility again. Even as he refused to say of himself, “he left all” (LK 5:28), here he did not tell us he gave this feast in his house. Luke (5:29) again had to supply personal details. Matthew owned a house big enough to hold a huge crowd, and had ample money to buy much food for numerous guests. Poor fishermen could not have done this, and Matthew refused to rub it in. He was rich, but would not brag or call attention to himself. I like his humility.
Matthew’s party was obviously a Baptist gathering. It was an eating meeting. Baptists have always appreciated the strong link between food and fellowship. We Baptists think calories and caffeine boost our spirituality. Like us, Matthew knew the value of providing social entertainment for a spiritual purpose.
Matt. 9:10b “. . .behold, many publicans and sinners came. . .”
Publicans were tax collectors. Sinners were immoral outcasts of every kind. Since both groups were careless about religious details, and thus rejected by society at large, they associated with each other. The religious establishment was hard on them, and much of their rough reputation was deserved. Publicans and sinners truly were irreverent, and did break the laws of God. They were the irreligious riffraff of Israel, a motley crew definitely not known for their spirituality.
Publicans and sinners were Matthew’s old cronies, and he pitied them. The ex-money-lover had become a soul-lover. Knowing their hurts and temptations, he believed Jesus could help them. Do we believe Jesus can help people?
Seeing numerous failures in His followers, we are ever subtly tempted to think less of Him. The divorce rate is higher among believers than the population at large. Christians are caught in scandals. They cheat on their spouses and taxes.
If not careful, we drift into a “what’s the use?” mentality. Anathema on this thinking. The failure is not in Jesus. Don’t let the negligence in many who claim to be Christian blind us to the power being exhibited in those who truly are yielded to Christ. He is this world’s only hope. Jesus is the only answer to people’s questions, the sole solution to their problems, and their best chance for a better life.
Matthew believed this, and therefore invited his friends who needed help to come meet the One who could help. Amazingly, these irreligious people were willing to come. They were curious about Jesus, and Matthew gave them a chance to get close. He hoped bringing them into Jesus’ presence would benefit them.
Matthew’s intent in hosting this banquet was directed not only toward the publicans and sinners. He was also thinking of Jesus’ welfare. This new disciple wanted His Master to party, to have a good time. I appreciate this. Jesus has been hurt enough by the failures of His children. “Holy Spirit, make our lives be a banquet of joy for Jesus. May He ever be able to look at us without pain and regret.”
To heighten Jesus’ joy, Matthew made sure the party had a religious objective. For Jesus to have the most fun, He had to be given a chance to bless others. Matthew recognized this, and thus gave the Teacher a classroom full of pupils.
Oh Matthew, thank you for your sensitivity to the tender heart of our Savior. Christ didn’t command Matthew to throw this party. Jesus didn’t have to. The new convert immediately knew what needed to be done. He quickly caught the spirit of his new Master. This One has come to deal with sinners, to help irreligious people. This Shepherd is not a hireling, He is good, for He cares about lost sheep. Matthew knew many, and decided to round up several for Jesus to meet.
Matthew got it right. He caught the Master’s intent. Have we? How sad to be a Christian for years and still be clueless as to what Jesus is all about.
In one instant, Matthew understood what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. It required entire submission of everything to the Master’s will. Matthew yielded his job, career, money, house, property, his past, present, and future. He also surrendered one other thing that many Christians never do yield–his influence. Matthew yielded to Jesus the sphere of people with whom his life intersected. He deliberated, and chose to influence for Jesus the people in the circle of his life.
Christ influenced Matthew’s influence. Has Jesus influenced ours? Matthew yielded his influence. Is our influence yielded? The question is timely. Respected pollster George Barna says, in the last ten years born again Christians have become less interested in influencing other people’s lives. This is a devilish trend, for it undermines the very purpose for being a believer. The reason we are saved is that the message of salvation can spread throughout the circle of our influence.
Jesus told the Gadarene demoniac to return to his own house and friends and tell what great things God had done for him (MK 5:19). Andrew brought his brother Peter to Jesus (JN 1:40-42). Philip fetched his friend Nathanael (JN 1:45-47). The woman at the well brought her whole town to meet Christ (JN 4:28-30).
One reason Jesus called Matthew was so He could have closer contact with Matthew’s kind of people. One reason Christ saved us was for the people we would know and influence along the journey of our life.
Egocentricism causes tunnel vision, and misses the big picture. A self-centered understanding of salvation–in me, to me, for me–smothers our effectiveness. We love to sing, “Lord, I want to see you.” One way we can know we are seeing Him is when we see in the corner of His eye the tear that ever lingers for the lost.
Matthew left his tax table, and spent the rest of his life at a feasting table, enjoying the bread of life. From the first, he knew it is never right to eat the bread of life alone. Others need to be invited to the table. Influence them to come.