Our devotional text on the Feast of St. Matthew focuses on the Gospel of the day.
Jesus’ ministry of forgiving sins now comes into sharper focus as He sees Matthew at his tax collector’s booth and invites him to “Follow Me” (v. 9). Matthew follows Him. At Matthew’s house Jesus dines with many tax collectors and “sinners.” The Pharisees ask indignantly (vv. 11–13), “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus replies, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” He adds, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
What a picture of Jesus’ love of sinners! According to the law of the Pharisees, a whole category of “sinners” stood outside the Law and had to stand outside the synagogues too; they were not permitted inside to worship. Tax collectors, because they served a Gentile government and often extorted unfair taxes from fellow Jews, belonged in that category of “sinners.” And yet Jesus deliberately chooses a tax collector as a disciple and shares the fellowship of the table with tax collectors and other sinners. No wonder the self-righteous Pharisees recoil at such scandalous behavior by a teacher.
Jesus here provides a beautiful picture of the love He has for us. Are our sins so great that He would shut us out? No! Regardless of our past, Jesus invites us, “Follow Me.” He extends this same invitation to those around us, including those we may avoid because of their sinful lifestyles. Jesus loves all and wants to bring them into His heavenly kingdom.
Jesus’ words in verse 13 (“I desire mercy, and not sacrifice”) proclaim that the Pharisees need to learn more about the true meaning of the Law so that they can discover their own sinfulness. Jesus has come for sinners who recognize their sickness and need for a doctor. Matthew and his friends are receiving the forgiveness of sins that Jesus the Messiah has authority to bestow.
Do we act more like the Pharisees, pointing the finger at other “sinners” and basking in our privileged status? In reality, we stand in need of forgiveness, like Matthew and his friends. By saying to us, “Follow Me,” Jesus offers us the spiritual healing that restores us to health.
O Son of God, our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, You called Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle and evangelist. Through his faithful and inspired witness, grant that we also may follow You, leaving behind all covetous desires and love of riches; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Devotional reading is adapted from LifeLight: Matthew, Part 1—Leaders Guide, pages 38–39 © 1999 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Prayer is from The Pastor at Prayer, page 264. This edition © 2014 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.