And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.
(Matthew 9:10 ESV)
Yesterday we read how Matthew, the author of this gospel, was called by Jesus. Matthew made the decision to leave his tax-collecting business behind and follow Jesus. This was a smart move.
Matthew next move was also a good one. He introduces his friends and associates to Jesus by inviting Him to a meal at his home. Although Matthew doesn’t say (perhaps out of modesty), we know from Mark’s and Luke’s account of these events that this meal was at Matthew’s house [Mark 2:14-17; Luke 5:27-32]. Back then people did not eat while sitting in chairs at a table as we know it. Instead they reclined on the floor near a table which was about the height of a coffee table.
Notice who was in attendance: tax collectors and sinners. As we learned in our introduction, tax collectors were considered a special kind of sinner by the Jews and, hence, were almost always singled out by others. Matthew was one of these people so it’s interesting that he would also single out this group of people. Tax collectors probably didn’t think of themselves as any worse but here Matthew, by using the customary phrasing, seems to be admitting how bad he once was.
While everyone is a sinner, in these days the term “sinners” here refers to those of low reputation such as prostitutes and thieves. It was not generally used for others, such as who we would refer to as “white-collar criminals”. In other words, tax collectors hung around with an unsavory crowd. And it was precisely to these people who Matthew brings Jesus.
Notice that Matthew was so excited about his new life with Christ that he was eager to share his faith with others.
There are many in our world who want to mandate that religion is a “private matter” and should not be talked about in public. But this is nothing more than a ploy by Satan to keep the message of Jesus Christ from spreading.
Those who adhere to this misguided philosophy think they are being helpful and open-minded. But they are really sending people to hell.
Sadly, this includes legislators here in the United States who have recently passed laws making it a crime to discuss Jesus in certain government and public places, such as military bases. God does not look kindly on this behavior. In fact, causing people to sin is so serious that Jesus told us anyone who does so would be better off dead [Luke 17:1-2].
Jesus is the way – the only way – into God’s presence (heaven) [John 14:6]. People need to hear this truth. Whether they believe it or not is entirely up to them.
But they can’t hear it if we keep Jesus a secret. Instead we need to be eager, like Matthew, to introduce our friends, families, and coworkers to Jesus even when those in authority try to prevent it.
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