“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).
Sometimes you just have to jump into the River of God. The Lord, by the Holy Spirit, gets a grip on you and you take the dive; you make the leap of faith; your feet leave the ledge as you put your whole self in. You let yourself get carried away by the flow of Heaven’s life.
Matthew was a person who did this. He did it at once, at the command of Jesus. He left everything that had made his world and went to become one of the original Apostles.
I find Matthew to be one of the more interesting characters in the Bible. We know only what is written about him from this encounter with Jesus and by the gospel record that bears his name.
He was a Jew who found a way to live handsomely during the Roman occupation of Judea. He found a niche as a tax collector, or publican. It was government work, steady and profitable.
As a result, Matthew became a man of means among his brethren who struggled in poverty. These things also brought scorn upon him and his family.
This man, along with Zaccheus, another collector, was labeled a traitor to the cause of Israel. In working for Rome, tax collectors seemingly strengthened the Empire’s hold on the Land of Promise.
Some among the Jewish community clung to apocalyptic visions of a warrior son leading the nation back to the place of prominence that it enjoyed in the days of Solomon. The son would be of David, a man destined to sit upon the throne given to his dynasty by the Lord.
Anyone who cooperated with the occupying force of Rome was viewed as inhibiting the resurrection of Israel. Thus, tax collectors were classified as outcasts, as unclean ones, as lepers of a political and social kind.
The Jesus Kingdom
That Son of David that the Jews awaited did show up – Jesus of Nazareth. He came to announce the Kingdom of God. His Kingdom was of a different sort. It was not to be fashioned after the manner of the world’s empires with thrones and armies and congresses.
The Kingdom Jesus began to assemble threw its doors open to the less and the least. This realm was meant to be a blessing to the poor in spirit and to those mourned over the state of things on earth. The subjects of the Savior were to be salt and light as the servants of all. The majesty of God would be revealed in them not by conquests and control, but by love, surrender, sacrifice, and care.
It really was the beginning of the realization of God’s redemptive purpose for the whole world. What the Lord started with Abraham way back in Genesis times was to be fulfilled in those who gave themselves to the Son, to those who heard and heeded His Word. These “friends” of God received Him and His righteousness as He made them one with Him as His Body to be moved and filled by His Spirit.The subjects of the Savior were to be salt and light as the servants of all. The majesty of God would be revealed in them not by conquests and control, but by love, surrender, sacrifice, and care. Click To Tweet
Matthew, in my mind, became something of an Abraham, who was called to leave his city and family to make his home in a land he’d never seen. Abraham said yes to God and this leap of faith landed him in the River of God, in the rush of the Lord’s plan for a crippled, lost, dying world.
Jesus arrived in Capernaum one day, saw Matthew and said to this tax collector, “Come, follow Me.” And Matthew took the leap. He was carried away completely. The decision prompted him to throw a party. He invited all those who were like him – outcasts, sinners, traitors, debtors, desperadoes.
The guest of honor at this get together was Jesus Himself. This gathering was something of kickoff meeting for the Savior’s mission. These people were the first to get into the Living Water that would stream from His movement.
These were ones who pretty much had nothing to lose. They were people already un-friended and marked as undesirable.
Jesus invited them in. There was room at His table. They were welcomed to listen and learn, to hear of things so high and far and yet things that came so, so near to their hearts.
They would also see things astounding and wonderful; things that would leave them trembling at times, things that they could not deny nor abandon. They saw too much. They heard so much. The River of God carried them far beyond anything that they could ask, think, or imagine.
Light Burden, Easy Yoke
Could we be like Matthew? Could we take the dive into the River of the Lord and let Him take us who knows where?
Impossible? You say. With God, all things are possible (see Matthew 19:26).
Yes, we are called to be perfect, as He is perfect. Yes, we called to be holy, as He is holy.
How can this be? It can happen only when we answer His call and jump into Him:
“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
I think Matthew made sure these words got into his gospel because these words formed his testimony. He was laboring and confused and heartsick and restless. Jesus called to him and he answered the Lord. A tax collector leaped at the offer to be free. He found the Friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Matthew got into the flow and we can do the same. And when we do this it is cause for celebration in the Presence of the Lord, for “There is a River whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High” (Psalm 46:4).
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