Jesus ate with the tax collectors with the message, repent for the kingdom of God is at hand, and that is a message we do well to share. The most loving thing we can do is to help people deal with their real problem.
In chapters 8-9, Matthew presents a series of miracles which point to the God-given authority of Jesus. Matthew now turns to another challenge to the authority of Jesus: his understanding of righteousness.
Jesus had a fundamental disagreement with the Pharisees. The Pharisees defined righteousness as keeping themselves religiously pure, including avoiding the religiously impure “sinners.” Jesus defines righteousness as seeking to follow God’s example and treating “sinners” with acts of steadfast merciful compassion.
9As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Matthew 9:9-13
- Who was Matthew
- Matthew (aka Levi) was a tax collector before becoming one of the 12.
- Only the most desperate Jews would become tax collectors, as they were hated by their fellow countrymen and were considered ritually unclean through their association with Gentiles.
- Since both lived in Capernaum, most likely Matthew and Jesus knew each other before Jesus chose him to join the 12.
- Matthew was a surprising choice, because respectable people despised and avoided tax collectors.
- “Sinners” in this context refers to Jews who did not keep the law as required by the Pharisees. Compare with Luke 18:10-11.
- The Pharisees thinking: If we reject God’s requirements, God will exile us again. Our religious obligation is to refrain from sin and refrain from associating with sinners. Our devotion to obedience requires us to show our disapproval of those who don’t keep the law as well as we do.
- In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained a different perspective: Sinners are not religiously unclean objects that I must avoid. Sinners are people just like me and I am required to love them.
- When your message is repent and believe, those who know they need to repent (sinners) need to hear it.
- Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6. God’s merciful actions toward us are a model for our actions toward other people.
- What is hesed?
Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.
Podcast season 20, episode 7