Matthew 9:10-13 describes an occasion when Jesus dined with one of His new disciples, Matthew the tax collector. Matthew had just experienced meeting and accepting Jesus as Lord. He became a follower of the Christ. Certainly, Matthew didn’t have a complete grasp of what the implications were for the future, but he wanted to show gratitude to Jesus for showing him love and grace. So, Matthew invited Jesus to come to his home to share a meal with friends and family. Some of these were lost folks. Here is how the scripture reads:
Often, we strain and struggle to come up with new catch phrases to label the latest and greatest discipleship study or evangelistic methodology. However, the best (and often easiest) method to adopt is simply modeling Jesus. Yes, time and culture may be different, but His example is still relevant. Let’s think about these verses in bullet form:
- Matthew had just walked away from his old life to follow Jesus. He must have wanted to honor Jesus with a meal at his home and he evidently invited his old tax collector buddies to come meet his new friend and Lord – Jesus.
- I believe it is worth noting that Matthew did not reserve a room at the local temple to do this. He invited people to his home to introduce them to Jesus. This was not a well publicized religious event but a way to introduce people to Jesus in a smaller intimate setting. Think about it. Tax collectors and sinners would likely be intimidated to go to the temple where the pompous Pharisees controlled things with rigidity. However, these people would come to Matthew’s home for a visit and a meal and conversation with Jesus.
- Isn’t it interesting that the Pharisees were always lurking about? Even at this small gathering, they were trying to pick apart a good thing and cast dispersion upon Jesus and His followers. My, my… that Jesus and his ilk are hanging out with those ruffians and swindlers… those people who are not like us!
- This was more of an organic situation which featured Jesus, not the highly touted Dr. John Q. Pharisee. Pharisees were highly protective of the “system” that they had refined. We need to guard against this type of prideful behavior. It is not my church that I built… it is His bride.
- In the red words above, Jesus reminded the pious Pharisees that spiritually sick people need healing, not those who are well. Too often, we spend most of our time, resources, and energy trying to pacify the complacent pew-sitter, instead of reversing the order by going out into a lost world… sharing the Gospel message. It is interesting that Jesus told the religious leaders of his day to “Go and learn what this means ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Get it? Jesus exposed their motives. Many of the Pharisees had become puffed up and proud. They placed their intellect and energy into keeping religious practices (traditions) above compassion for the lost and hurting. Basically, Jesus was telling them that their overzealous defense of the sacrificial system had been trumped by the New Covenant which consists of God’s mercy shown to us through the One who was standing right in front of them… and ultimately by the blood that He would shed for us. They just didn’t get it… just like some of us don’t get it. Remember, the first little word in Jesus’ statement here was… “go.”
- Jesus came to provide a way for lost people to be saved. That is the Gospel. That is the mission. If this line of thinking is getting you a little hot under the collar, please refer to the footnote below.
So, let me wrap this article up by pointing out that Jesus spent a great deal of time out in public areas. He set an example of going into the streets, the highways and byways, to engage lostness. We can spend lots of time and treasure attempting to develop grand new ways to share the Gospel, but Matthew showed us a simple way in these verses. Gather a small group of people together, preferably sinners and lost people… and introduce them to Jesus. You could use preformatted DVD presentations and literature… I do this sometimes myself. Yet, keeping it simple and organic may be the best way to go. Try it, have a simple meal, invite some folks to join you, and introduce them to Jesus.
Oh, in case you wonder… the photo used above was taken from a similar gathering. While in Czech Republic, about twice a year, our mission church would host a gathering in the community. We would cook food, laugh, visit, and tell those who came… the story of the Savior, Jesus Christ.
Let me remind you that when I write, I am not implying that every church or believer is in the same boat, so to speak. However, I do think it is wise to examine ourselves and our churches to decide whether these concepts apply. We should never be afraid to question why we do what we do or if we should adjust what we are doing.