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# 38: 11-6-18 1

Matthew 9:9-17

Matthew has been bearing witness to Jesus as Messiah through a series of miracles that he has arranged in
his gospel.

These miracles identify Jesus with certain OT revelations of God: first we saw Jesus curing sicknesses and
diseases, which revealed Him as Jehovah-rophe, the LORD who heals. And through a series of miracles that
showed the authority and power of Jesus, Matthew revealed Jesus as Elohim, the Creator, extending His
sovereign rule over His creation.

Following each revelation, Matthew included a section showing the reaction of people to Jesus - and the
inclination of some to follow Him, and learn from Him - as disciples. Then in the response of Jesus to
these people, Matthew showed that following Jesus has a cost; to leave behind the former manner of life, in
this world - whatever that required, for each individual.

As we begin another section on the reaction of people to Jesus, we now come upon one, who counted the
cost - and determined that it was worth it, to follow Jesus.

[Matthew 9:9] So here Matthew presents his elaborate account of responding to the call of Jesus - one
whole verse! I do hope Matthew wouldn’t mind terribly if we go into a little more detail concerning him,
based on other gospel accounts.

Not that there is much to consider; the disciples of Jesus, and the writers of the gospel accounts all had
quite little to say about themselves. From their humble perspective, they recognized that Jesus was the
really important - and the really interesting One.

First, it turns out that Matthew had two names; do you remember his other name? Levi. Both of these are
proper Jewish names. It was not uncommon for Jews to be given or to take more than one name.

Levi was one of the most common names in the first century, in that region. Mark identifies Matthew as
Levi son of Alphaeus, as a means of distinguishing him from other “Levi’s”. But it would not be surprising
if Matthew became the routinely used name, just for the sake of clarity. Matthew means “gift of Jehovah”.

Although Matthew’s gospel is not chronological, it appears that the timing of Matthew’s call did directly
follow the healing of the paralyzed man by Jesus - and the forgiveness of that man’s sins. Jesus left that
house, and walked by the shore of the lake. A crowd gathered, and He taught them. And then Jesus passed
by the tax collector’s office, where He saw Matthew.

The three accounts that record this circumstance - Matthew, Mark and Luke - they all show Jesus first
calling Matthew to follow Him; to become a disciple of His. And then Matthew immediately responds by
rising up and following Jesus. In this way, the gospel writers show the divine initiative, in the calling of
each true disciple.

God is the heart-knower. God foreknows how each man will respond to Him; He knows who will have the
faith, to follow Jesus. Although Jesus had limited Himself in taking the form of a man (Phil 2:7), His
Father showed Him all that He needed to know, through the Spirit (Jn 5:19-20). So Jesus initiated,
knowing how Matthew would respond.
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But Matthew did have to have something to respond to; his was not a blind leap of faith. Well, Jesus had
been ministering in Capernaum for quite some time, already - and Capernaum was Matthew’s home. He
would certainly have heard accounts of Jesus, and may already have seen some of His miraculous works.

Also by this time, Jesus had already called at least six of His disciples (Jn 1:35-51), four of whom were
fishermen (Mt 4:18-22) - which means their work and home would have been near the shore of the lake.
And Mark’s account makes it clear that Matthew’s office was also near the shore.

Perhaps Matthew even heard Jesus preaching to the crowds, that particular day. So in His foreknowledge,
Jesus called Matthew; and by faith - faith informed by what he had seen and heard of Jesus - what had been
revealed to him, by God - Matthew responded. And in this way, Matthew received the gift of Jehovah -
salvation.

Luke indicates that Matthew left all to follow Jesus (Lk 5:28). Luke did not just mean that Matthew left
work, for the day. Nor did Luke mean Matthew merely left behind his job. Matthew left it all - his whole
former manner of life - in order to follow Jesus.

And you know, there’s really no other way to follow Jesus, as a true disciple of His. If you try to hold on to
your former manner of life, you wind up living a lie. Mired in your old life, you can’t follow in the new
life.

Matthew understood that, and it would seem he didn’t hesitate. This is particularly remarkable, considering
his work - as a tax collector. Now, we are familiar with tax collectors being hated figures in society - and
when you think about it, not much has changed! But this was particularly true for Jewish society, in that
day.

It was Herod Antipas who ruled over Galilee at that time for Rome. You may remember that the Jews hated
all the Herods, who were Idumeans - descendants of the Edomites, an ancient enemy of Israel.

Herod Antipas levied the taxes for Rome in Galilee, including Capernaum. The combination of being taxed
by a Herod as well as by their Roman overlords was particularly vexing, to the people of Galilee.

This situation was further exacerbated by the taxes and customs being collected by their own people, for it
was fellow Jews who were appointed to the local tax offices. The Jews regarded these tax collectors as
traitorous collaborators with the Roman government.

Because tax collectors were one of the most despised members of society, it was usually only disreputable
persons who were willing to engage in this work, in the first place. And their reputation was further sullied
because these men often collected more taxes than Herod and Rome required, extorting their own people
for personal gain.

To top it off, since tax collectors were generally shunned by the Jews, they resorted to associating with the
most depraved groups, in society - prostitutes, Gentiles - and other tax collectors, of course.

As Matthew was situated in Capernaum, we can be fairly certain that he was a customs agent, charging
import duties on goods brought through this town on important nearby trade routes and at the seaport. But
clearly, the position did not in any way enhance the reputation of this tax collector, judging by Matthew’s
collection of friends.
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Despite Matthew’s poor reputation in proper Jewish society, he was probably well-off and secure in his
occupation. And this brings greater weight to Luke’s words, “He left all, rose up, and followed Him” (Lk
5:28).

And what did this do, for the reputation of Jesus? He already had chosen some fishermen, as His close
disciples - not an especially desirable following, for a Jewish teacher - according to the religious set. But
now - Jesus has taken a tax collector in tow! This would have been considered nothing less than
scandalous - I’m sure everyone was talking about it.

So what did Jesus do about that? He gave them a little more to talk about.

[Matthew 9:10-13]

We learn from Luke that Matthew had a great feast for Jesus, in his own house (Lk 5:29). And all three of
the writers emphasize that there were many, many tax collectors, at this feast - sounds like every single one
of them, in Capernaum was there - not to mention, other sinners as well. Now, what does Matthew mean
by “sinners”? Sinners can refer to anyone born in Adam, but the term as used here has a particular
meaning.

Turn to Luke chapter 7. Luke recorded the occasion when Jesus was invited to Simon the Pharisee’s house,
for a feast. A woman came in during the meal.

[Luke 7:37-39] You can tell by the way that the word “sinner” is used in this context that it is referring to a
particularly disreputable sinner - in this case, the woman was almost certainly a prostitute. Based on the
woman’s repentance for her sins, and her response of faith, Jesus then forgave this woman for her sins
(v. 40-50).

[Return to Matthew 9]

So “sinners” in this context also would refer to the disreputable members of society - which might include
prostitutes, criminals and possibly Gentiles. They were all reclining at the table with Jesus and His disciples
- who were themselves getting used to such encounters (Jn 4:1-42).

Mark additionally mentions that these tax collectors and sinners were followers of Jesus (Mk 2:15); that is,
they were part of those crowds, that followed Jesus around, seeing His marvelous works, and taking in His
teaching. Were they present when Jesus forgave the paralyzed man for all his sins? Was Matthew?

Like Matthew, it would seem that some of these “sinners” were genuinely being drawn to Jesus. And here
was a perfect opportunity, created by Matthew’s enthusiastic hospitality, to reach out to these people, who
dwelt on the periphery of society; to show them that Jesus valued them, and desired that they come to Him.

And Jesus was not only speaking to them; He was actually partaking of a meal, with them - a feast, in His
honor. In that day, to share such table fellowship was a sign of intimacy and familiarity. It was effectively
a statement by Jesus, that He desired these “undesirables” to be His friends.

Well! This was nothing short of jolting, to the rest of society - and especially to the religious establishment.
And it is here that Matthew introduces the opposition of the Pharisees, to Jesus - those who will become
some of His chief critics.
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They certainly would object, to what Jesus was doing, here. The Pharisees were a sect of Judaism which
originally opposed Greek influence on Jewish society. The term Pharisee means Aseparated one@. They
were Jewish scribes and rabbinic scholars who had great influence among the people.

The Pharisees were self-appointed keepers and interpreters of the law, adding oral traditions, as well as
rabbinical writings, to the word of God. Through their religious traditions, they sought to keep themselves
- and their followers - ceremonially pure, and above all, separated from all that they regarded as unclean.

And these “sinners” and tax collectors certainly qualified, as unclean. The Pharisees would have regarded
the actions of Jesus as defiling for both Himself and His disciples. No reputable Jewish teacher would
engage in such behavior!

You can just hear the scorn, in the words of the Pharisees. And who do they address their words to? To
Jesus? No; to His disciples. But I am certain they spoke loud enough, for Jesus to overhear them: “Why
does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” - that is, what kind of teacher does that?

What’s interesting is to consider the position of the Pharisees - I mean, literally. Where are they? They
can’t be in Matthew’s house - that would be defiling, for them; they would never consider setting foot in
there! So where are they? At an open window or doorway, peeking in? You can just visualize how
ridiculous this whole situation must have been; calling in to the disciples, clucking their tongues at the
unclean conduct of Jesus.

In fact, it would be downright humorous - until you think upon the tax collectors and sinners, dining with
Jesus. Finally, there was someone respectable who did not treat them with contempt; someone who was
willing to share a meal with them, and get to know them.

And Jesus was a great teacher! An amazing healer! He had told a man that all his sins were forgiven! And
Jesus had just accepted Matthew - their buddy - as one of His own disciples.

But then there were those ultra-clean Pharisees, who were sooo separated - who would have nothing to do
with these sinners - and they were loudly criticizing Jesus for spending time with them, and dining with
them - reminding Jesus - and reminding these sinners - of their outcast status.

But their hearts must have thrilled to hear the words of Jesus, straight back at those Pharisees. Let’s read
them again.

9:12-13 Now, remember the Pharisees were outside of the house, so Jesus must have spoken quite loudly,
in order for them to catch His words. Loud enough, so all in the room could hear.

It was common in that day to use an image which viewed teachers like physicians. Physicians make men’s
bodies well with their medicines. And teachers can make men’s souls well - with their words.

Of course, only the sick need to be made well, in the first place; they’re the ones who need a physician.
And the physician must avail himself to the sick person, in order to issue the cure.

Jesus was showing the Pharisees that, likewise, He had to avail himself to those who are sin-sick, in order
to make them well. There’s got to be - contact!
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But the Pharisees had no such thoughts. They had no desire to help sinners; just to ensure their separation
from them, lest they become defiled by them. Their concern was only for themselves, and maintaining
their purity, through ceremonial offerings, and ritual cleansings.

As a teacher, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees like ignorant students: “Go and learn what this means”; that is to
say, the Pharisees didn’t understand what it means. Can you picture the impact of Jesus’ words, on His
dining companions?

Jesus quoted the prophet Hosea here. Let’s go back and learn for ourselves what it means, in context.

Turn to Hosea chapter 6. Hosea prophesied of the idolatry of both Israel to the north (“Ephraim”) and
Judah to the south. They left Jehovah to follow after other so-called gods.

Hosea’s real-life circumstances - married to a woman who became a harlot - parallel the LORD’s heartbreak
for His wayward people. In this chapter, the nation contemplates returning to the LORD, but it proves at this
time to be a fleeting whim (6:1-3). The LORD then responds to it.

[Hosea 6:4-7]

v. 4 Both the morning cloud and the early dew hold water and therefore the promise of life; but it quickly
evaporates, so that it is insufficient to produce a harvest. The LORD is saying their devotion to Him is
fleeting.

v. 5 Because of the faithlessness of the nation, the LORD has sent fiery prophets to them, with words of
judgment. But even this was of no avail; their words went unheeded.

v. 6-7 The prophets revealed the heart of the LORD, for His people, like that of a husband with his wife.
The word for “mercy” in the Hebrew is chesed, which can mean kindness, love or mercy shown to
someone. This important Hebrew word presupposes a relationship - here, the covenant relationship the
nation is supposed to have with the LORD.

The idea is that the LORD is not seeking sacrifices as ritualistic offerings. He is looking for the relationship
that they are meant to portray; a relationship based on faith in Israel’s Messiah; one of mutual love and
trust. But as the LORD pointed out here through Hosea, Israel dealt treacherously with Him - like a faithless
wife, who betrayed her husband.

[Return to Matthew 9]

So considering the meaning of Hosea’s words, and that they were spoken by the LORD to His people, how
does Jesus intend them here? He is not saying that the Pharisees should be merciful to others - though they
should be.

Jesus is saying that God desires a real relationship of mutual love with His people - and not for His people
to just offer up some ritualistic sacrifices, thinking that somehow keeps them clean and in the clear with
God - like the Pharisees do. The Pharisees needed to learn this.

And Jesus explained this still further: I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. The
people dining with Jesus knew what category they fell into: they were sinners. They heard the call of Jesus
- and in it, the offer of His mercy and love - and they were responding to it. They knew they were sin-sick,
and needed a physician.
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The sinners knew they were sick; but what about the Pharisees? They thought they were well! When Jesus
said He didn’t come to call the righteous, they were thinking - He meant them! But did He? Certainly not.

Who is righteous? There is none righteous; no, not one (Rom 3:10); not one son of Adam. Only the Son of
God, who in His mercy would impute His righteousness to men, as they responded to His call, and humbly
came to receive Him. Deceived by their self-righteousness, the Pharisees did not recognize their need to be
made well.

As Matthew continues, we have the sense of perhaps a different occasion, but it sounds a similar note to
what Jesus brought out with the Pharisees - this time, with some disciples of John the Baptist.

9:14-15 Now, we need to think this through. Those Jews who had chosen to follow John the Baptist as his
disciples were no doubt drawn by his preaching. John was the forerunner of Jesus; John’s message was to
repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt 3:2); that is, Messiah the King had come, to gather His
subjects into His kingdom.

John’s mission was to make ready a people prepared for the Lord; people who were ready to turn from their
sin, and turn to Jesus, to save them.

But it would seem that some of John’s disciples were drawn more to John personally, and less to his
message. Some of John’s disciples even expressed concern that the Jews were being drawn to Jesus - and
not to their teacher, John. John attempted to correct their thinking on this.

Turn to the gospel of John, chapter 3. This incident occurred some time after Jesus was baptized by John,
and had begun His ministry.

[John 3:22-30]

v. 22-26 It’s as if these disciples of John viewed the ministries of John and Jesus as competitive; they were
losing people, to Jesus! So John proceeded to instruct his disciples about the error in their thinking.

v. 27-30 John reminded his disciples that he was just and only the forerunner to the Messiah; and now that
Jesus was here, John recognized his ministry was close to its fulfillment: Messiah’s ministry would
increase, as John’s would decrease - which was exactly what God intended.

[Return to Matthew]

In fact, by the time of this encounter between Jesus and these particular disciples of John, John had already
been thrown into prison (Matt 4:12). So we must ask, why were these men still following John? Why had
they not begun to follow Jesus - as other disciples of John had done (Jn 1:35-37)?

Perhaps they still had doubts as to if Jesus was indeed the Messiah - despite the wisdom of His words, and
the power of His works. Perhaps they had just become overly attached to John - and were clinging to him.

But what we do notice about these disciples of John is that they appear to be just as fixated on the ritual
aspects of religion as the Pharisees were. In fact, Mark groups them together with the Pharisees, in their
fasting - and their challenging of Jesus (Mk 2:18). It would seem they were not just clinging to John - but
to a religious keeping of the Law’s rituals - in particular, fasting.
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Notice that Jesus used here the same imagery that John used when referring to Jesus and himself - the
bridegroom, and the friend of the bridegroom. Could it be that Jesus was gently reminding these particular
disciples of John as to what their teacher had been trying to teach them?

The disciples of Jesus were like the friends of the bridegroom - the groomsmen at a wedding, who are filled
with rejoicing because the bridegroom is with them, ready to enter into His fruitful union - to bring forth
many sons of God.

How can they mourn, as long as He is with them? - for fasting is appropriate for mourning. The presence
of Messiah the King calls for a celebration, by the subjects of His kingdom.

Then Jesus looks prophetically ahead to the time He will be taken away from His disciples, in death - they
will mourn - but even then, Jesus knows their sorrow will be turned to joy once again, as He overcomes
death by His resurrection.

In that day, no one will take their joy from them (Jn 16:22). As for John’s disciples, they could turn their
mourning into joy right then - by recognizing that the Bridegroom was in their midst.

Jesus then gave two more illustrations to help John’s disciples see that in Jesus, the old was passing away;
the new had come.

v. 16-17 Both of these are illustrations of incompatibility; new cloth which is unshrunk is incompatible
with an old garment, which has done all of its shrinking. Likewise, new wine has not yet fermented, and
the gases formed will cause expansion; but an old wineskin has done all of its expanding, and it is rigid; the
new wine will burst it. New wine and old wineskins are also, then, incompatible.

So what is Jesus bringing out, with these illustrations? He is showing the inflexibility of trying to live by
the Law - as the disciples of John and the Pharisees have been doing. The Law is rigid, like the old
garment and the old wineskin. Its requirements must be kept to the letter; its ceremonies must be strictly
adhered to.

And living by the Law is completely incompatible with following Jesus, and living by faith - one cannot do
both (Gal 3:12). What’s more, the Law was being rendered obsolete, as it found its fulfillment in Jesus -
like an old garment, or an old wineskin, the Law was growing old, and was ready to vanish away (Rom
10:4, Heb 8:13).

Matthew has shown that following Jesus requires making a break from the former manner of life. For
religious Jews, this would include abandoning rituals that gave them structure, and routine, and identity. It
would take the Jews completely out of their comfort zone.

But if the Jews were willing to make a clean break of it, they would never look back. They would find
what so many of us have found, down through the ages - that in knowing the Son, we become free, indeed
(Jn 8:32, 36). Like new wine in new wineskins, the Word in us is perfectly preserved, and causes us to
grow; and our joy is filled to the brim (Jn 16:24).

Reading: Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56; Lev 15:19-33.