Meet Matthew. He was an easy and obvious choice for a disciple. Charismatic and loved by all, generous and compassionate.
Got you. Actually no, not at all!! Jesus looked past what everyone else saw – a despised tax collector and straight into his heart, his potential, his calling.
When I read about Matthew I see a love-struck man. No, not in the cheesy, cliche kind of way, in the forever change your everything, your purpose, your soul kind of way. There he is, this guy is sitting in the tax collector’s booth and Jesus calls out to him “follow me!” and “he got up and followed him.” Simple and striking as that.
Matthew was probably sitting where he usually sat every day, doing the usual things tax collectors do. But this particular day something happened that changed His life. There’s something about Jesus. I think it’s almost too grand to describe, because Matthew leaves out the explanation of why he choose to follow Jesus that day, but there’s undeniably something about when Jesus calls us, it is compelling. Jesus calls light into darkness, He calls life when there is nothing, and on this day He calls Matthew, out of his occupation, out of His greedy ways and into a life of following Jesus. Matthew is struck.
- to come into forcible contact or collision with; hit into or against
- to enter the mind of; occur to
- to catch or arrest (the sight, hearing, etc.)
- to come across, meet with, or encounter suddenly or unexpectedly
- to impress or stamp (a coin, medal, etc.) by printing or punching
- to start or move suddenly into (vigorous movement)
After Matthew’s striking encounter with Jesus that day he follows Jesus with devotion for the rest of His life.
Just after Matthew is called by Jesus, Jesus is hanging out with and having dinner with Matthew and other sinners. The religious Pharisees criticized and questioned Jesus for keeping company with these guys. Jesus responds:
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:12-13.
I would guess that this compassion of Jesus shaped Matthew’s perspective and ministry. I wonder if Matthew was remembering Jesus’ words when he wrote about Peter after he denied Jesus 3 times…Matthew writes “and he went out and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:75) And when he writes about Judas, the betrayer, Matthew describes Judas’ remorse (Matthew 27).
We don’t know a whole lot of details about the whole of Matthew’s life. Matthew means “the gift of God” which is so fitting as he did receive God’s gift of grace and the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:13). He wrote the gospel of Matthew and gives us a detailed look into the life and interactions of Jesus. His account of Jesus’ life and teachings is written with a Jewish lens that may help convince other Jews of the truth. He beautifully gives an account to one particular teaching of Jesus called The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7 that gives us great practical and spiritual lessons on how to live. I think we can all benefit from reading and re-reading these chapters!
I’m not sure how others perceive you, or how you think they perceive you but the most important perspective is the One who calls you by name into a grander, greater destiny, out of whatever mess you are in and into a life of following the true leader. He is offering you a gift of God, the Holy Spirit is our helper and will help us follow Jesus into the lifestyle and daily choices that like Matthew, make us disciples, students and imitators of Jesus. He will give us higher values and priorities so that we can leave behind previous pursuits and occupations of our hearts. Wherever we are in our faith journey following Jesus, there is probably a mind set, a habit, or a lie we can leave behind and follow Jesus – His way of living, way of thinking.
Friends, let habit, selfish ambitions and defaults be struck by Jesus’ love so we can follow him with renewed abandon and passion!