************ Sermon on Matthew 9:13 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 12, 2004
"I Have Come to Call Sinners"
Today is the third Sunday of advent. We remember and celebrate the first coming of Christ Jesus. We prepare our hearts for Christmas. We look forward to His second coming.
As we celebrate advent and Christmas I want to ask the question: why did Jesus come, why did the second person of the triune Godhead take on our human flesh, why the incarnation?
The first Sunday of advent we were reminded that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim 1:15). The second Sunday of advent we were reminded that Christ came to humble himself. Today, we learn that Christ came for sick sinners.
I The Calling of Matthew
A I don't know if you realize it or not but Matthew was an outcast. It was risky and politically incorrect for Jesus to call someone like Matthew to be one of His disciples.
You need to realize that tax collectors in those days were viewed as traitors and crooks.
First, they were Jews working for the hated oppressors – the Romans – collecting taxes. They were like the American Taliban found in Afghanistan – someone who not only sold out to the enemy but even took their side in the struggle. In the case of Matthew, he probably worked for Herod Antipas and collected taxes and custom charges at the border crossing in Capernaum.
Second, generally they were very rich because they charged far more in taxes than the law required. And they enforced payment by using the Roman army. Matthew must have had ill-gotten riches because he could afford to invite Jesus and His disciples and followers over for dinner.
Third, being a tax collector and customs official Matthew had daily contact with "unclean" pagans. Furthermore, we are told that Matthew actually allowed tax collectors and sinners into his home. Not only did Matthew break the laws on uncleanness but he often broke the Sabbath rules as well.
Was Matthew a sinner? Was he unclean? Was he a crook? Did he sell out to the hated Romans? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Jesus knew all this. Jesus was aware of all this. Jesus never said Matthew was none of these. Yet, Jesus said to Matthew, "Follow me." Boy, was that risky and politically incorrect!
But, then, why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? Why did the second person of the triune Godhead take on our flesh? He did this to call sick sinners like Matthew to follow Him.
B Was Matthew a sinner? Yes. But so were those who were so eager to condemn him. We are told that when the Pharisees saw Jesus eating with Matthew, other tax collectors, and sinners, they questioned His disciples about this. This wasn't just idle curiosity on their part – a simple question asked calmly. Rather, it was said with accusation and anger and hostility. "WHY DOES YOUR TEACHER EAT WITH TAX COLLECTORS AND 'SINNERS'?" Why does Jesus lower Himself and contaminate Himself? The scribes and Pharisees showed they were sinners when they were so quick to exclude and condemn Matthew. The scribes and Pharisees showed they were sinners when they could not extend a forgiving and restoring hand to Matthew. The scribes and Pharisees showed they were sinners when they refused to show mercy to Matthew. This bleeding heart was in their midst and all they could see was the breaking of their precious rules.
"Follow me." These are the words Jesus says to Matthew, to the sinners and tax collectors, to the scribes and Pharisees.
C "Follow me." These are the words Jesus says to the sinners in Trinity CRC too. And, we all are sinners – you, me, the elders, the deacons, the Sunday School teachers, the organists, the ushers, the infants in the nursery.
Jesus knows our sins – just like He knew Matthew's. He knows our lusts. He knows our coveting. He knows our disobedience. He knows how we ignore the wishes or commands of our parents. He knows all of this yet He says, "Follow me."
But, then, why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? Why did the second person of the triune Godhead take on our flesh? He did this to call sick sinners – like Matthew, and the scribes and Pharisees, and you and me – to follow Him.
D You know, in this Christmas season we are called to be like Jesus. This past week I read an amazing story about Billy and Ruth Graham. I don't know if I could have done what they did.
Do you remember Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and their PTL ministry (PTL stands for "Praise The Lord" but the press said it stood for "Pass the Loot"). In 1986 PTL's income was $129 million and included Heritage USA – a 2300-acre religious theme park, a hotel and a shopping mall in North Carolina and its own TV station on 1200 channels. The love the Grahams showed to Jim Bakker is very much like the love Jesus showed to a tax collector called Matthew in this morning's Scripture's reading.
Jim Bakker had an affair with the church secretary Jessica Hahn in 1980 and resigned in 1987 when it came to light that he had paid her about $265,000 in blackmail money over the affair.
After his resignation, it was discovered that the Bakkers had been taking large amounts of money from the ministry fund, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries for Bakker and his wife, insurance, property and other fees. The IRS investigated and discovered that the couple had diverted $4.8 million for personal use.
Part of that sum came from fraudulent $1,000 partnerships, which secured each partner three days per year of free lodging at the hotel in Heritage USA. However Bakker took the money from so many partners that it was a promise that he was unable to keep. Indeed the fraud was on such a scale that it was estimated that about 1500 people a month were being defrauded of their free time-share.
Jim Bakker was indicted for fraud in 1988 and sentenced to 45 years in prison and fined $500,000.
When the scandal broke, Bakker's Christian friends quickly deserted him. He became an outcast in the Christian world. And when he was sentenced, his wife Tammy Faye left him and then divorced him.
Six months into his sentence, Bakker was surprised one afternoon when the prison warden called him into his office. Bakker had a visitor: Billy Graham. When Graham came in, Bakker asked him why he had come to visit – because he knew that any association with Bakker would tarnish Graham's reputation.
Graham replied that Bakker was his friend in good and in bad times – and now when things were bad, he would stand by his side. And Billy Graham was true to his word.
Bakker's sentence was eventually reduced, on appeal, to ten years and when he came out of prison on parole, he had nowhere to stay.
So the Grahams invited him to stay with them.
On the Sunday following Bakker's release, Ruth Graham took him to church with her.
Disregarding what people would think about her, she stood up in church and introduced Jim Bakker to the congregation as her friend Jim Bakker.
Are we able to show this kind of love? Are we willing to show this kind of love?
Many times we put up walls – in our homes, in our churches, in our circle of friends. We put up walls that keep people like Matthew out. We pick and choose. We look down on some people, like the scribes and Pharisees looked down on Matthew and tax collectors and sinners. We look down on some people and conclude they are a lost cause, that they are not worth our effort and our time. We separate ourselves from the very people our Lord Jesus came to save. If Jesus acted the same way that we sometimes do He would never have called Matthew. So, we need to hear the words of Jesus: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick ... I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
E The calling of Matthew to follow Jesus is an illustration of our text for this morning. Notice the two-fold comparison Jesus makes. He talks about healthy and sick, righteous and sinners. Tax collectors and sinners – like Matthew – are equated with the sick. Now, as Jesus points out, it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. It isn't the healthy who make a visit to the emergency room, but the sick.
Well, Jesus is the doctor. He is the One Who gives healing. He is the One Who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He is the One Who heals the sick, raises the dead, and cleanses those who have leprosy. He is the One Who cures the sickness in our souls. Jesus has come to call sinners. He is the One Who would heal all that is wrong in our lives and make us God's child again. He is the One Who meets us in our misery and calls us to come to Him and be healed and made whole.
Jesus is the doctor. So, one chapter earlier than our Scripture reading we see Jesus healing two men who were demon possessed. And, in the same chapter we see Jesus healing a paralytic and forgiving his sins. And, right after our Scripture reading we see Jesus raising a dead girl and healing a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.
Jesus is the doctor. And, we – with Matthew, and tax collectors, and sinners, and scribes and Pharisees – are the patient who needs healing from His almighty hand.
II Matthew's Response
A "Follow me," said Jesus to a sick sinner named Matthew. Notice how Matthew responded? "Matthew got up and followed him."
This was not easy for Matthew to do. This meant sacrifice. This meant commitment. This meant a new and different direction to his life. Do you think Matthew was still able to be a tax collector after he answered Jesus' call? Do you think he could still hang out with all his old friends and do the same things with them he did before? Do you think life went on for Matthew pretty much the same as it was before?
Following Jesus is not an easy thing. Quite often it requires sacrifice. Many times those who follow Jesus have to give up something or maybe even everything.
Matthew, to his eternal credit, simply got up and followed Jesus. He knew he couldn't go back to his old job. He knew he couldn't drink and party with his old friends anymore. He knew life was forever different from now on.
Jesus has come for sick sinners like Matthew. But when they, by God's grace, answer His call they can expect to make sacrifices. Remember the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal wealth? Jesus told him to give all his wealth to the poor and follow Him. "When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth" (Mt 19:22).
B I get a newsletter every week from "Voice of the Martyrs." I am amazed at what Christians around the world have to suffer simply because they are Christians. They lose jobs and homes and businesses; they lose position and clout and honor; their children lose the opportunity to have a higher education; they lose the right to medical care or police protection; sometimes parents even lose their children and children lose their parents.
Jesus has come for sick sinners. But when they, by God's grace, answer His call they can expect to make sacrifices – even here in America. Jesus might want us to give up a job, or a dream, or a boyfriend or girlfriend, our family, a chance to make a lot of money.
Why did Jesus come, why did the second person of the triune Godhead take on our human flesh, why the incarnation? Christ Jesus came for sick sinners.
Matthew was one of the bad people, one of the worst people, in the Jewish community. Yet, Jesus came to call him.
Do you know what this tells me? This tells me no one is beyond the reach of God's grace. Matthew wasn't. Nor were the tax collectors and sinners he invited into his home. Nor were the scribes and Pharisees who were so quick to condemn him and write him off. Nor are you and me and any of our loved ones.
Jesus came for sick sinners. He came to call us to follow Him. He came to heal us and restore us and make us whole.
Have you answered His call? Has He come for you?
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