As 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. Matthew 9:9
Well off, but despised, sitting at his booth. A traitor. A sinner. An extortioner. Passersby glance the other way, hoping not to get harassed. Whispers of judgment hardly quiet from the Pharisees in their elaborate religious get up. One man doesn’t look away or condemn. He sees potential. Jesus says simply, “Follow me.”
Not likely, one would think. Why would a businessman not concerned with religious rituals follow a simple traveling teacher? But not so of this businessman. Matthew rises and follows.
Not only does Matthew rise and follow, but he also invites his friends and associates – fellow sinners – to come and recline; to come and eat with this teacher who saw something in him no one else did. Something the Pharisees would never do or condone.
This brings about the questions Jesus already knows is in the heart of the Pharisees, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11)
Rather than demonstrating God’s love and grace – God’s invitation to FOLLOW HIM, the religious leaders of the day avoid, ridicule, and shun those they deem sinners. They see Jesus calling Matthew and eating with his fellow sinner friends and think, why would this supposed teacher associate with “those” unclean people?
Sadly today, as Christians, we can often do the same. We can remain in our Christian bubbles and avoid the “sinners.” But we are all sinners, and in condemning rather than extending Jesus’s invitation to follow Him, people who need Jesus just as much as we do never meet Him.
Questions: What reaction do you generally see from Christians to people they deem sinners? How do you think this impacts their desire to follow Jesus? What do you think non-Christians think about Christians in general? Is their view justified or off-base?