Jesus saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” He arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Matthew (the author of this Gospel) was a Jew who worked for the Romans (specifically for Herod Antipas) as the area’s tax collector. (In Mark and Luke, he is called “Levi.” Levi was his Jewish name, Matthew his Roman name.) He collected custom duties from the citizens as well as from merchants passing through town. Tax collectors took a commission on the taxes they collected, so most of them overcharged and kept the profits. Thus, most Jews hated tax collectors because of their reputation for cheating, their support of Rome, and their constant contact with “unclean” Gentiles.
The tax collector’s booth was an elevated platform or bench. Everyone knew who Matthew was, and anyone passing through the city who had to pay taxes could find him easily. This would not have been the first time that Jesus had seen Matthew, for Jesus had often walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
You Invited Who?
Then one day Jesus walked right up to Matthew’s booth and said two simple words: “Follow me.” The words are in the imperative mood, meaning this was a command, a call to discipleship, not an invitation. Jesus called Matthew to “follow”—that is, to walk the same road as Jesus. That Jesus called such a notorious person into his circle of disciples certainly must have shocked the other disciples, as well as the crowd that followed Jesus.
Matthew recognized that Jesus was not inviting him; Jesus was calling him. Matthew got up and followed him. His decision was final. Don’t you think that ours should also be a decision of no return? Just asking. Amen.