St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Follow Me

Sermon on Matthew 9:9-13

Text: As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

A popular game from childhood is “Follow the Leader.” We all probably remember the hours spent following the leader all over the place, doing exactly what the leader did. In order to follow the leader, we had to carefully watch and see what the leader did. That game was great fun, and children have been playing it for generations. This morning, we hear Jesus tell Matthew, “Follow me.” We will look at the call of Matthew and how we can learn from it. This morning we focus on Jesus’ words, “FOLLOW ME.” We will look at 1. Jesus’s Call: ‘Follow Me — As My Disciple’ and 2. ‘Matthew’s Response — Follow Me Home.’

Jesus was in the region of the Sea of Galilee, when this event in Matthew’s life took place. He was walking along the road when, as we read in verse 9, “he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth.” Matthew was a tax collector. The Roman Empire ruled the land of Palestine at the time. As the rulers, they exacted taxes from their conquered territories. They did so in this way. They told each region what taxes they were expected to send back to Rome. This figure would be told to the various tax commissioners. These tax commissioners had various people working for them, who would actually collect the taxes. This was bad enough for the people of Israel to pay taxes to a foreign power. What made it worse was the way that the tax commissioners and collectors made their living was to add to that tax and keep the difference. As you can imagine, greed often took hold of these people and they charged a great deal of money. In addition, they were charging these rates from their own countrymen.  For these reasons, tax collectors were social outcasts. They were not only working for the hated Roman Empire, but were, also, making their living at the people’s expense. The tax collectors were even put out of the synagogue.

Matthew was one of these hated tax collectors. He worked in this region, near the Sea of Galilee. Apparently, it was a prosperous region, for Capernaum was on a major trade route between Damascus and Egypt. The Sea of Galilee had many fish, for which the Roman government taxed the fishermen. It was an ideal place for a Roman tax booth. Here Matthew sat, collecting the taxes for the Roman government.

Then one day, Jesus came and with two little words changed Matthew’s life forever. Jesus told Matthew, “Follow me.” These words must have sounded so sweet to Matthew’s ears. Here an outcast of society was invited to follow Jesus and be his disciple. His response was immediate. “Matthew got up and followed him.” Jesus’ words of invitation, first of all, guaranteed all of the eternal blessings of a lifelong association with the Savior. It, also, was a lifelong call into service in the Lord’s kingdom.

Jesus’ words were ones of invitation to believe in him. Matthew knew that he needed a Savior. He, possibly, had heard Jesus preach and teach prior to our text. At the very least, he had, no doubt, had heard of Jesus and his teachings. Jesus had taught on the hillsides of the Sea of Galilee. His Sermon on the Mount had reached many people. Apparently, the Holy Spirit had been at work in Matthew’s heart. So, Matthew left everything to follow Jesus and be his disciple.

Later, at a banquet in Jesus’ honor, some Pharisees objected to the type of people that Jesus was keeping company with. They asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”. They felt that these people were beneath their dignity to associate with. They felt that they had kept God’s laws perfectly, in addition to the laws that they had added to God’s Word.

Jesus heard about this and said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus was not implying by this that the Pharisees were not in need of his work of salvation. It was only that they had not yet realized their need for Jesus. Jesus uses the example of a doctor. Generally speaking, you do not go to the doctor if you are feeling well. It is only when something isn’t right that we go to a doctor. This is also true with people, when it comes to Jesus. If they don’t see that they are sinners, they do not see a need for a Savior. However, when they see the depth of their sins, and the fact that they are lost because of them, then they see a need for a Savior. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, they are brought to a knowledge of Jesus Christ. Their sins are washed away and they begin to follow Jesus.

It’s easy for us to understand how the Pharisees felt. There is a little Pharisee in all of us. We all like to feel superior to other people. So, when they fail to meet our expectations, we swell up with pride a little and think how good we are. We almost start to think that God owes us heaven. ‘Lord, I thank you that I am not like him or her.’ We, also, do not like to associate with people who do not meet our expectations. We, very easily, can fall into this type of thinking.

When that happens, we are forgetting just how much we need a Savior. Perhaps, we have never killed anyone, but what about hatred or anger? We turn to 1 John 3:15 where it says, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” We may never have committed adultery. Yet, what does it say in Matthew 5:28? “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” You see, although we may not have committed what, in our sight, are big sins, yet, we have deserved the same thing as the worst sinners we can think of. We deserve God’s punishment in hell. We are sick, sick with sin, and in need of the Great Physician, Jesus Christ, to cure us. Jesus washed away our sins with the blood that he shed on the cross. He comes to us through the washing of Baptism and makes us spiritually healthy. He then invites us, as he invited Matthew, “Follow me.” Those who follow Jesus will receive all of the blessings of the forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life.

The invitation of Christ was also Matthew’s call to be a full-time disciple. For the rest of his life, he would be serving the Lord. Matthew spent three years of his life in Jesus’ group, learning from him. He was there in the Upper Room and received the Lord’s Supper, when it was instituted. He saw Jesus suffer and die. Matthew was also in the room, when Jesus showed himself to be alive. According to church tradition, Matthew went to Ethiopia, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, also, the invitation to follow Jesus is a life-long one. We follow him all the days of our life, learning from him through his Word. Just as Matthew’s call was not just a momentary whim, but a life-long task, so also we follow Jesus all the days of our life, until he calls us home to himself. Jesus invites us, as he invited Matthew: ‘Follow me — as my disciple.’

What was Matthew’s response? He didn’t tell Jesus, ‘Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.’ No, rather we read, “Matthew got up and followed him.” There was an instant response to Christ’s call. Look at the first thing that Matthew did after he was called. Matthew invited Jesus to come home with him that night. We read in verse 10, “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house . . .” Matthew invited Jesus home that night. Just as soon as Jesus said, “Follow me” to Matthew, Matthew said to Jesus, ‘Follow me home.’ We can learn from Matthew’s example here. Matthew didn’t leave Jesus standing there on the road at the place where Jesus called him. Matthew took Jesus home.

So, also, may we take Jesus home with us. Don’t leave Jesus at the church on Sunday morning after the service and come back and meet him the next Sunday. In other words, don’t leave Jesus out of your everyday lives. Jesus came to the earth to suffer and die for us, so that we would be saved from our sins. He did so that we would have eternal life. He gave up everything so that we would be saved. Now, how are we going to thank him? Are our lives going to be ones that we would be glad to have Jesus there with us? Or do we wish that we could sometimes leave Jesus behind for a little while? My friends, in light of all that Jesus has done for us, including calling us from the darkness of sin to his wonderful salvation, how can we do any less than live our lives for him?

How do we take Jesus home with us? We do so by asking Jesus to be a part of our lives. We want him to be pleased with all that we do in our lives. For that reason, we will want to do those things that are pleasing to him. When Matthew took Jesus home, he got to know him better. We, also, will want to get to know our House Guest better. The way to get to know Jesus better is through his Word. There he not only introduces himself, he also tells us everything we need to know about him. Let us invite Jesus home with us, as well. Let us make him a part of our lives, so that all we say, do and think may be to his glory.

Matthew didn’t take Jesus home secretly, either. Again, we read in verse 10, “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ came and ate with him and his disciples.” Matthew invited others to come and meet Jesus. Matthew had realized his great need for Jesus and he wanted others to meet Jesus and, perhaps, be brought to faith. Note the crowd that Matthew gathered: “tax collectors and ‘sinners’.” These people were not the cream of society. Earlier, we mentioned the way that the people felt toward tax collectors. Matthew also invited the well-known ‘sinners’ of Capernaum. These people, very likely, were acquaintances of Matthew. They, too, were social outcasts. However, Matthew also knew that they needed to get to know Jesus, too. He wasn’t ashamed of Jesus. Rather, he invited others to meet him.

So, also, may we not be ashamed of Jesus, or of trying to sneak him into our house, so that no one knows he’s there. There are many people that we come into contact everyday. By our words and actions, do we show that we are Christians? If someone were to accuse us of being Christians, would there be enough evidence to convict us? Let us proudly introduce Jesus to those with whom we come into contact. Matthew realized that his associates were in need of a Savior, for without him, they would be lost. So he brought them to Jesus. May we also bring those in need of a Savior to him. If someone were sick, we would gladly tell them about a doctor who helped us. We were deathly sick because of our sins, but Jesus healed us. There are many around us who are just as sick and need of healing. May we take Jesus home with us and bring others to meet him, as well.

We may be afraid that we don’t know what to say to others when we introduce them to Jesus. For that reason, we may be tempted to leave that in the hands of those who have been trained to do so. However, you don’t need all sorts of fancy words to tell someone about Jesus. You simply let your faith speak. What does your faith say? It, first of all, points to our sinfulness. Each person had their own catalogue of sins. Faith, also, points to the results of those sins, which is eternal death. Faith, most importantly, points to Jesus Christ as the Savior from sin and that, through faith in him, our sins have been forgiven and eternal life is ours. Perhaps, we aren’t trained with fancy words, but we have been introduced to Jesus. We have come to know him. Now, tell others what you know about him. Matthew invited his friends to meet Jesus when he took Jesus home. May we do the same.

Following Jesus is a full time job. Yet, it is not something we do grudgingly. Jesus gave up everything for us, so that we would be saved. May we follow him all the days of our lives and may we bring him home with us. Jesus says to us, “Follow me.” May we gladly do so and may we ask him to follow us home. May God use us to invite others to follow him, as well. Amen.