Last week, we saw that Matthew responded to the call of Jesus to, “Follow me.”
I remember the way a movie director set this scene in a made-for-TV movie last year. The Matthew character was sitting at his booth. His eyes grew wide as Jesus approached him. Jesus stood before him for a moment and Matthew’s eyes began to water. When Jesus reached out his hand to him, Matthew’s eyes were brimming over in tears.
It was a stirring moment. In that tear-filled moment you could feel Matthew’s conviction of sin and the glorious realization that the Redeemer was doing His cleansing work in Matthew’s heart. It was a beautiful scene. I loved it!
No doubt a bit of time elapses as Matthew (perhaps still called Levi) spends time with Jesus and the other disciples. Mark and Luke use his given name, Levi, when they tell his story. Levi means “a person pledged for a debt or vow.” It also means “a wild cow.”
When Matthew tells his story, he uses “Matthew” which means “gift of Yahweh.” I see why he preferred “Matthew.” I’d rather be a gift of Yahweh than a wild cow, wouldn’t you?
As with any believer, Matthew is anxious to share his good news. He is so convinced that Jesus can melt the hearts of his friends that he decides to invite them to dinner, with Jesus as the main guest. Wouldn’t you love to know if Matthew had forewarned his friends about who was coming to dinner?
Now let’s reflect back to who his “friends” might be. Certainly not the upright citizens of the community. No, a despised tax collector would only be able to attract other rejected members of the town. Consider who are the despised ones—maybe prostitutes, uncaught thieves, drunkards, promiscuous young men—anyone who obviously and publicly did not follow the rules. “Sinners,” the Scripture says.
Why, you might ask, would Jesus want to be with a house full of sinners? In his own words,
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”Matthew 9:12
I am reminded that after our son had “wandered in the wilderness” for a time, he turned his life over to Jesus. Things were going well. He buried himself in the Scripture, reading chapters at a time. He even asked if we could have a Bible study together as a family.
Then one day he said he was going to a party with his friends. Like Matthew, the only friends he had were “sinners.” My heart sank. But that night when he came home (at a reasonable hour), he excitedly shared how he had sat with a friend over in the corner and began to tell the friend all that had happened to him. In essence, he had gone to the party to witness!
Next week we will look at the dinner party through the eyes of the Pharisees and the disciples.
~ Joyce ~