We finally get to meet our author in today’s passage. Jesus meets him as He is walking along the road. Matthew is sitting in his tax boot collecting taxes. Was that anything like a toll booth where you have to pay to pass on the specific road? I wonder where Jesus was going on this trip.
I want to take a little bit of time and see if I can imagine what this meeting looked like. Ok. Matthew is dressed in his business suit. He wasn’t wearing fine clothes because that would tempt robbers to attack him. He wasn’t dressed is scruffy clothes either because he had to command respect from those he was collecting taxes from. He may have been wearing some kind of official uniform or an official seal on his clothing that made him recognizable as a duly sworn tax collector for the Roman government.
Tax collectors were notorious for squeezing every last penny out of those they collected from, authorized or not. I’m thinking Matthew probably collected more than he was required to but didn’t resort to extortion like others did. My reason for this is that I don’t think Jesus would have called him as a disciple if he was overly abusive. But then again, Paul was used mightily by Jesus and was said to have been a disciple untimely chosen.
Because I want to, I’m imagining traffic was light that day and Matthew was bored. Matthew was thinking about tales he had been hearing about this new preacher in town. Some of the stories the people who passed by were sharing sounded beyond belief. But some of messages this preacher was supposed to be sharing were very intriguing to Matthew. Matthew would have loved to go and hear this man but he was stuck in this booth every day. He looked forward to each new visitor who came by to see if they had any new stories to share about this Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus approaches Matthew’s booth with His disciples. Matthew tells the group the amount of tax they need to pay to pass. Jesus asks the person who was holding the money pouch for the group to give Matthew the requested coins. The disciple addresses Jesus by name and Matthew’s head jerks up in recognition. The man he has been hearing so much about is standing right in front of him! Matthew has a million questions he wants to ask Jesus. His heart is ready to receive Jesus’ teaching. Before Matthew can even say another word, Jesus says to him, “Follow Me” (verse 9). Matthew is so overjoyed he jumps up, runs around the booth, and starts walking with Jesus that instant. He doesn’t even care about the money he just left at the tax booth. He doesn’t bother to call his superiors to ask for a leave of absence or a replacement. He just goes.
As they are walking away, Jesus tells Matthew that He would like to have dinner with him and his friends. Matthew is overjoyed at the idea of having Jesus come to his house but is not sure which of his friends he should invite. As a tax collector, he doesn’t run with the best crowds. As he starts mentally running through his friends list for some acceptable people to invite, Jesus interrupts his thoughts. Jesus tells him that he wants to meet ALL of his friends. Matthew says, “Are You sure? My friends are not well liked by most people.” Jesus assures him that He does indeed mean what He said.
We fast forward to Matthew’s house. Jesus and his disciples are spread around the table with many of Matthew’s friends and fellow tax collectors. Jesus is talking with them and sharing some of His teachings. They are all having a good time. There were so many people there that some of them were hanging out on the porch.
With all the noise coming from Matthew’s house, people are beginning to notice. A few Pharisees come walking by and peek in the window. They see Jesus in there with many people they KNOW are not someone ANYONE should be associating with, especially not someone who is trying to break into the religious scene. The Pharisees start talking to some of Jesus’ disciples who were near the door. They were appalled that Jesus was eating with this less than desirable crowd. Jesus overheard their comments and their tone of voice. Jesus let them know that these were exactly the kind of people He came to minister to. Besides all that, the Pharisees didn’t even think they needed what Jesus had to offer.
When Jesus called Matthew to follow Him, what was it that He saw in Matthew that prompted Him to make this choice? Did Matthew feel unworthy of such a calling? Did Matthew tell Jesus he wasn’t worthy? I’m pretty sure I would have.
I wonder if any of the other tax collectors started following Jesus after meeting Him that day. Did Jesus have an impact on how they conducted themselves in their role as tax collectors? I can imagine the Pharisees went back to their group and shared how inappropriate Jesus had been behaving.
Father God, thank You for letting me use my imagination and flesh out this story. Thank You that You use the unworthy and the unloved. You want to use everyone but those who don’t think they need any help are very reluctant to come to You. We ALL need You. We just don’t all realize it yet. I’m glad I know I’m unworthy because then I don’t have to pretend I can do EVERYTHING on my own. I know I need You. Without You I am lost! You brought me through so much. I would have been and still would be lost without You. Roll back the curtain of memory now and then. Show me where You brought me from and where I could have been.