Grace For Your Day March 18

Tax collectors have never been popular for the simple reason that no one likes to pay taxes. We all get upset when the government comes asking for more money. However, this was especially true in the New Testament because the tax collectors in Israel gathered money for Rome. They were Jews who sold out their fellow Jews in order to get rich working for Caesar.

Such an act caused the tax collectors to be shunned at every level of society to the point that they were not allowed to enter the synagogue. They were also excluded from temple worship and not allowed to talk to a priest because, in essence, they were dead to all things Jewish. As far as the people of Israel were concerned, they were worse off than a Gentile which makes Jesus’ behavior seem so strange because, in Mark 2:14, He chooses a tax collector to be one of the 12 disciples. The passage says:

As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.

When it says that Jesus saw Levi (also known as Matthew) sitting in a tax collector’s booth, that means that Matthew was one of the most despised publicans of all because the Jews had two types of tax collectors.

1). The Gabbai who collected property tax, income tax, and the poll tax for Rome.

2). The Mokhes who oversaw the Gabbai from a tax booth and had the freedom to change the tax rates. So that, if the Romans asked for 50 cents for every fish caught in the Sea of Galilee (or something like that), they could increase the amount to 60 cents just to turn a profit which is why everyone hated them so much. They abused their power to get rich at the expense of their fellow countrymen.

Yet what did Jesus do? He called Matthew from his tax booth.

How did Matthew respond? He followed.

Jesus tells us why he did that later on because Mark 2:15-17 says:

And it happened that He was reclining at the table in [Matthew’s] house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

In other words, Matthew followed Jesus because he was sick. The reason that he answered Jesus’ call is because he knew that Christ had come to heal him. As he was sitting in his tax booth, Matthew must have heard the rumors about Christ being a teacher who had appeared in Palestine banishing disease, casting out demons, and doing miracles so when Jesus showed up and presented Himself, he believed. In fact, Matthew’s faith is indicated not only in the immediacy of his response but in the fact that, after following Jesus, he held a banquet in his home and invited all of his friends to meet Jesus too.

Church history says that he would go on to write the Gospel of Matthew for the Jews in order to reach them. There is no reliable record of how he was put to death but the earliest traditions indicate that he was burned at the stake. Thus the man who walked away from a very lucrative career would end up giving his all for Christ to the very end because when he said that he would follow Jesus, he meant it.

Please join us as we study the call of Matthew this week at Grace Fellowship Church. Of all the stories that we have studied so far in this Gospel, I believe that this will be one of the most encouraging because it will show us that, if Jesus could save Matthew, He can save us anyone. So far in this book, Christ has reached out to some fishermen (Mark 1:16-20), a demon possessed man (Mark 1:21-28), a leper (Mark 1:40-45), and a paralytic (Mark 2:1-12). Now he is going to rescue the scum of the earth. You simply could not get any lower than a tax collector at this time in Jewish history but it did not matter to Christ. No matter how low Matthew went, God’s grace went deeper still.

If you would to learn more about that, the service will begin at 9:30 and the sermon will be recorded and placed on our You Tube Channel afterwards for all those who cannot make it in person. - Jeremy Cagle