21 September 2017

Matthew 9:9-13

“For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” (v. 13)

Psalm: Psalm 119:65-72


Today the Church celebrates the life of the Apostle and Evangelist Matthew.

We have to notice as we read the calling of Matthew just how unlikely a candidate a tax collector made as a future saint of the Church. Tax collectors are never that popular, though we acknowledge the justice and rightness of taxation in creating a civilised and caring society. But in Jesus' time a tax collector was not just unpopular because they lightened the purses of the good citizens of the country. To be a Tax Collector was to own a franchise to collect money from a conquered people. It was thus to be tempted constantly by greed and dishonesty, as well as siding with the enemy in a traitorous way. Matthew worked for the Romans against his own people and his only way of making the franchise work was to skim off money from the total. However, this wasn't the worst of his problems. Taxes had to be paid in Roman money, and that meant a coin with the head of Caesar who claimed a level of divinity. Roman coins were solidly against the Jewish faith: 'other Gods', 'graven images', it couldn't get much worse.

Matthew was an unlikely candidate for a Jewish teacher to choose as his follower, but that is exactly what happens. It is a testimony to the way that Jesus doesn't see labels but people themselves. They are not 'tax collectors', or 'unclean', or 'demon possessed', Roman soldiers or whatever other label that might that be used. Jesus sees in Matthew a disciple, and calls him and Matthew follows. Feast days that invite us to remember the heroes and heroines of the Church are not about how wonderful people were in the past; rather they are about how ordinary people become extraordinary as they respond to God's gracious call.

To Ponder

  • Today is the feast day of St Matthew. What other saints do you recall today from your own experience?
  • As you reflect on your 'ordinariness', can you also hear God's call to become extraordinary? How might that call work out in your life?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin

Born in Africa to missionary parents, Mark Wakelin is a Methodist minister, He was the President of the Methodist Conference 2012/2013, and before that worked for the Connexional Team, as the secretary for internal relationships. He is now the minster at Epsom Methodist Chuch.