“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.” –Matthew 9:9
The receipt of custom refers to the tax office. Sitting at his place of work was a man named Matthew, whom Jesus saw.
The way Jesus saw Matthew was different from the way that others saw him. Some people saw Matthew as a traitor to Jewish society. He was collecting taxes for Rome, and the Jews hated Rome for subduing the nation. Extreme Jewish patriots, called the Zealots, took opportunity to strike a blow against Rome whenever possible.
Other people looked upon Matthew, and saw someone who was unscrupulous. Tax collectors were notorious for collecting large sums for taxes, and then keeping back a portion for themselves.
Moreover, Matthew was a violator of the Law. According to Rabbinical understanding, only a King could collect taxes. God was the King of Israel, so the tithe, the tax was paid to Him. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10). For another king to collect taxes was a violation of Scripture.
When Jesus saw Matthew, He saw all of his sins and faults, but Jesus saw something else. He sensed that in Matthew, God the Holy Spirit had been working to draw him to salvation and service. His heart was ready to change.
When Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow me!”, he was inviting the tax collector to leave everything, rise up, and walk with Him into an unknown, but glorious future. It was a defining moment for Matthew. What would he do?
What will you do when Jesus comes to you and says, “Follow me”? The call of Jesus might come in the ordinary course of the day. What will you do when God speaks? Will you follow the Lord?
Some will not follow Jesus because the pessimism of life is too great. Some people look at the future and see only trouble. They see overpopulation, famine, pollution, inflation, and the threat of nuclear war. Power hungry politicians and foolish scientist, declare the world will end within a decade or two unless man does something about global climate, as if man can control climate. Not willing to believe the truth, God has sent a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.
Alongside the Pessimist in society are the Humanist who are gloriously optimistic. The Humanist believe that men are good, and every day, in every way, are getting better. Out of humanities own strength, and capacity will come the wisdom to solve all the problems of the world. The Humanist believe they have the ability to make human beings perfect.
There are many others who are not Pessimists, but they are not Humanists. They believe in something, or Someone, beyond themselves. They ask searching questions. “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “Where am I going?”
The Bible provides the answer to these important questions.
“Who am I?”
Biblically, I am a person made in the image of God, with will, emotions, and intellect.
“Why am I here?” Biblically, I am here to perform the job the Creator has given to me, and to have fellowship with Him on a daily basis.
“Where am I going?” Biblically, I am going to heaven if I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2).
In contrast to the Pessimist, and the Humanist, is Jesus Christ. Jesus is under no illusion about humanity, and any alleged innate goodness. Jesus realistically noted that out of the heart of individuals proceeds “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19). But the Lord is not pessimistic for He is the Son of Man who has come to save that which is lost (Matt. 18:11).
Because of the exalted nature of His self-knowledge, Jesus could invite others to follow Him. “Matthew, come and follow me.”
“Lord,” said Matthew. “Where are you going?”
“I am going,” replied Jesus, “to preach the gospel to the poor. I am going to heal the brokenhearted. I am going to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind. I am going to set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke 4:18). I am going to Calvary to give my life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). Follow me.”
Matthew arose, and followed Jesus.
Matthew could have done no less because this was a Divine summons to salvation and to service. When God calls with His omnipotent and sovereign power, men respond. Individuals do not respond against their wills, but they respond because the Spirit has given them a new heart with a new will. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
When Matthew rose to follow Jesus, he left all behind. Matthew left a life of corruption, and exchanged it for a more glorious future. When Matthew rose to follow Jesus, he lost his job, but not his soul. When Matthew rose to follow Jesus, he lost a earthly wealth, so he could lay up treasure in heaven. When Matthew rose to follow Jesus, he lost the temporal security of his profession, but gained the eternal security of salvation. When Matthew rose to follow Jesus, he gave up being a tax collector, to become a follower of Christ, and write a portion of the Word of God that shall live and abide forever.
By following Jesus, Matthew was able to record many events in the ministry of the Lord. There was an incident that took place in a house where many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and His disciples. Perhaps this incident took place in the home of Matthew. We read in Luke 5:29 that “Levi made Him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.”