Today we remember St. Matthew, and we read a devotion from Follow Me: Discipleship According to Matthew.
To the scribes and Pharisees, Matthew probably seemed the least likely of all people to be one of Jesus’ disciples. Yet because of the call of Jesus, this outcast and tax collector was chosen to be one of our Lord’s closest disciples and followers. Like Matthew, we can rejoice in knowing that our calling rests secure because it comes from Christ.
In many respects the circle of disciples gathered about Jesus was no startling novelty in first-century Palestine: In the terminology of “rabbi” and “disciple,” in the fact that they “followed” their Master, constantly attended Him, observed Him and served Him, respected and honored Him, this circle of disciples fitted naturally and unobtrusively into the given patterns of Judaism. But in this point, in the genesis of the circle of disciples, there is a striking difference. In rabbinical circles the initiative in discipleship lay with the disciple. . . . We have no record of a call issued by a Jewish rabbi to a disciple in all rabbinic literature, a literature which otherwise offers many instructive parallels to the association between Jesus and the men who followed Him. What in Judaism was the pious duty of the disciple is here the sovereign act of the Master. . . .
Jesus is singularly brusque with enthusiastic volunteers. To the scribe who offers to follow Him wherever He may go, He responds with the sober and sobering word “the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head” (8:20). He dispels the pink mists of emotional impulse with the cool air of the realities of discipleship, with the chill fact that communion with Him means a career of self-expending ministry which reduces man to a level of comfort below that of bird and beast. But He who rejects so promising a candidate as the schooled and skillful scribe coolly calls the tax collector from his place of business. He binds to Himself in discipleship the man whom not only scribe and Pharisee but also all pious and self-respecting Jews kept at an antiseptic distance (9:9)—when the tax collector gave a dinner, his guests were limited to his class and kind, men whom the judgment of the synagog had marked as “sinners” and segregated from the faithful (9:10, 11). . . .
One is reminded of the calling of the Old Testament prophets, whose successors the disciples of Jesus were to be (5:12). They were men to whom “the word of the LORD came,” without their volition, and often against their volition. . . . To none of the prophets did the call come in response to self-preparation or mood-making. . . .
This mark of the sovereignly divine initiative was stamped upon the existence of the disciples from the first. They were not impelled to a decision by any of the human devices for bringing on a decision. They were not played upon, emotionally or psychologically, and snapped up in a moment of high enthusiasm or in a mood of desperation. They were simply called. Their call had about it the high sobriety of a deliberate divine act, and it set them free for a waking, conscious response. The words of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel could stand as caption over every story of the calling of disciples: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16).
Devotional reading is from Follow Me: Discipleship According to Matthew, pages 1–4 © 1961 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Lord Jesus . . . You desire that we confess You not only with our words but also with our deeds; that we not merely be hearers of Your Word but also doers; that we are not only humble with our lips but also with our hearts; that we be chaste not only in body but also in soul; that we not only outwardly separate ourselves from the world and call ourselves Christians but also inwardly; and that we prove ourselves to be Christians by our entire life and manners. . . . With the aid of Your gracious Spirit enable us to be what we seem and to walk in truth until our end, so that we may have confidence and not be ashamed before You at Your coming. Hear us, Lord, for the sake of Your grace and truth. Amen.
Prayer is from For the Life of the Church, page 65 © 2011 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.