Thursday, February 17, 2011



Who were the disciples of Jesus? These were men who were trained in Judaism up to a point. Rabbis taught them, until they were not chosen by any rabbi to continue in their studies. Therefore each of these first disciples of Jesus educationally and professionally was somewhat of a "loser" and sent back home to either take up the profession or trade of their fathers or find a new one altogether. But they weren't chosen to be a disciple of any of the rabbis. Can you imagine the pressure in that early society to progress to the point of being a disciple of a respected rabbi? The Jewish mothers were so proud of their sons who had proved themselves acceptable to a rabbi and then one day would actually become a rabbi.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the call of Matthew by Jesus. Let's look at it. 9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Matthew's mom was never able to brag about her son, the rabbi. He just didn't make it! Matthew was steeped in the belief that one must perform in order to be acceptable to God and welcomed into the Kingdom. Matthew knew he was not able to match up with this kind of performance. Now this is where Jesus blew the mind of Matthew.

As Matthew sat in his tax stand at the edge of the water of the Galilee, he most likely not only heard many of Jesus' messages and saw several miracles, he also had been privy to the rumor-mill about this radical rabbi, Jesus. Here's where Jesus introduces His revolutionary message of love and acceptance.

He walked up to Matthew and delivered one of the most revolutionary messages ever-FOLLOW ME! These two words have changed the world! What this meant was, "You have heard from your upbringing that you must perform in order to be accepted by God and you have certainly fallen short. Now, I want to dramatically shift gears. I want you to know that I accept you just as you are and you are welcome into my Kingdom. Now, come along and FOLLOW ME."

NOTE that Matthew was so thrilled to be chosen by a respected rabbi and especially this unique teacher named Jesus. This is why he immediately responded to Jesus. And, this is why he immediately threw a party. He wanted to show off this new rabbi and the fact that he was going to be following in His steps. This was something that would make his mother proud.

Jesus was making a greater point here...that God was primarily looking for the sick people, the losers, the down and out, and Jesus' focus was not on the "righteous" but on the sinners. This is still the revolutionary message of Jesus. All of the religions have set up a system of do's and don'ts to be followed in order to be accepted and welcomed by God. Jesus says, "I accept you, so now come and follow me." "All who are weary and heavy-laden, come to me and I will give you rest."

Again, this reminds me of this comparison. All religions say, "Do, Do, Do. Do more. Do better." But Jesus says, "It's already done, now come along and follow me." So, where do you fit on this spectrum? Are you still exhausting yourself with all of your performance of "do, do, do?" Or are you discovering that Jesus' call on your life is the call to rest?

The unknown God is knowable and He requires the following. 1. That you are sick. 2. That you are interested. 3. That you understand His great love and acceptance of you.

I love this story. "Matthew, I accept you and welcome you into the Kingdom. Do you want to come along and follow me?" This is the same call Jesus is making on your life. Now, will you come along and follow Him, too?