Jesus’ Call to You

The Third Sunday after Pentecost

June 25, 2017

Matthew 9:9-13

Jesus’ Call to You



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.  While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”  On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means:  ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’  For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (NIV1984)



Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,


I received this piece of paper on May 20th, 1985.  To most people this piece of paper might not look like much more than— well, a piece of paper with a fancy cross on it and a few words written in Latin.  To me, however, this piece of paper will always hold a special place in both my heart as well as in my life.  This piece of paper embodies the very first Divine Call that I received to serve as a pastor in the public ministry of our Lord’s Church.  This piece of paper resulted in my family and I moving to Miami, Florida where for the next 12 years I served the Lord by serving His people as the Pastor of Cutler Ridge Evangelical Lutheran Church.


I couldn’t help but think of this piece of paper as I was studying this text and as I was preparing our sermon for today.  The reason for this is, of course, due to the fact that our text for today focuses our attention on Jesus’ call to Matthew to serve Him in the public ministry.  Now so far, none of that probably grabs your attention.  Whether it’s this piece of paper or Matthew’s call to serve as a full-time disciple of Jesus— what does that have to do with you and your life today?


My goal this morning, my friends, is to answer that question by “connecting the dots” between this portion of Scripture and your personal life.  With that goal in mind let’s study our text for today under the theme:  Jesus’ Call to You.  There are two things we want to note about Jesus’ call to you.  First we want to see that Jesus’ call to you had the power to change your life.  Secondly, we want to see that Jesus’ call to you has the power to change the lives of the people around you.


In order for us to truly grasp the powerful impact of Jesus’ call to Matthew we need to remember what Matthew did for a living.  Matthew’s job was that of a tax collector.  As a tax collector Matthew assessed taxes on his fellow Jews on behalf of the hated Romans who were ruling over the nation of Israel.  Matthew, however, did not get paid by the Romans directly.  He did not collect a “salary.”  How did Mathew get paid?  Matthew’s pay consisted of whatever he chose to charge his countrymen over and above what he was required to give to the Romans.  There was no General Accounting Office to oversee how much Matthew was charging.  There was no nightly news program to “blow the whistle” on Matthew for becoming rich at the expense of others.  There was no 1-800-CALL-CAESAR to complain that Matthew was charging the people too much in taxes.  As a result Matthew— together with all of his fellow tax collectors— was despised by his fellow Jews.  As soon as Matthew became a tax collector he was excommunicated from the synagogue, he was forbidden to serve as a witness in any Jewish court and he was ostracized by his fellow Jews.  While Matthew’s life may have been outwardly overflowing with material wealth on a personal level Matthew’s life was a barren desert.


All of that changed, however, when one day Matthew was sitting in his tax collector’s booth doing his job and suddenly Jesus of Nazareth came up to him and said, “Follow me.”  Now this was probably not the first time that Matthew had had at least some contact with Jesus and the message that Jesus was proclaiming.  Our text for today took place in Capernaum— Jesus’ Galilean headquarters.  News about Jesus had spread far and wide throughout that entire region.  (See Luke 5:15, 17)  Jesus had miraculously healed many people right there in Capernaum.  (See Matthew 8:5-17)  In fact, Jesus had just healed the paralytic who had been brought to Him on a mat.  It was very likely then that Matthew had at least heard about this Jesus— what He was doing and what He was preaching.  It is even possible that Matthew may have personally seen and heard Jesus.  Either way the Holy Spirit had been working in Matthew’s heart— so much so that when Jesus came up to Matthew’s tax collection booth and said, “Follow me,” that Matthew immediately got up, left everything and followed Jesus.  (See Luke 5:27-32)


How did Matthew’s life change?  Think about it.  Matthew lost his job, but he gained his calling.  Matthew lost a source of great earthly wealth, but he received an infinitely greater heavenly inheritance.  Matthew had lost a relatively safe and secure life here on this earth, but he now knew his Savior— a Savior who gave him a guaranteed safe and secure eternal life.  Yes, my friends, Jesus’ call to Matthew most certainly had the power to change Matthew’s life— forever!


At the same time Jesus’ call to Matthew had the power to change the lives of others as well, didn’t it.  What did Matthew do after Jesus had called him to be His disciple?  Matthew himself tells us when he says in our text, “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ came and ate with him and his disciples.”  Matthew knew what it was like to be an outcast among his own people.  Matthew also knew what it was like to experience the grace and the mercy, the love and the forgiveness of the Lord his God.  Therefore Matthew not only invites Jesus to have dinner at his house, but Matthew also invites his fellow outcasts— “tax collectors and ‘sinners’”— so that they too can come and meet Jesus!


You and I can only imagine what was discussed as Jesus had dinner with these “tax collectors and ‘sinners.’”  Without a doubt Jesus used God’s holy Law to call these sinners to repent of their sins and to leave their life of sin behind them.  Without a doubt Jesus proclaimed the glorious message of the Gospel so that the repentant sinners would be assured of God’s forgiveness.  Without a doubt these “tax collectors and ‘sinners’” would remember this dinner date with Jesus for the rest of their lives.  And for me at least it’s very easy to envision that Jesus’ call to Matthew changed the lives of at least some of these people forever.  It changed their lives by bringing these “tax collectors and ‘sinners’” into personal contact with their Savior.


You may not have a piece of paper like this (holding up the Call to Miami), my friends, but each of you has most certainly been “called” by Christ Himself.  When did Jesus come to you and say, “Follow me”?  For most of you that happened on the day of your baptism, on the day when you were “called” to faith.  On that day both you and your life changed.  You were changed from being a child of Satan to being a child of God.  You were changed from being lost in the darkness of sin to walking in the light of saving faith.  You were changed from living only for yourself and for the temporary things this world has to offer, to living for your Lord and for what He has stored up for you in heaven.


Is that change as open and as obvious in your life as it was in the life of Matthew?  When you are at work or out with your friends are people able to see and to hear that you are a saved child of God?  When you are at home is your family able to tell that your trust in Christ as your only Savior from sin is an important part of who you are and not just something that you “put on” for Sunday morning?  On the day that you were baptized the gift of saving faith was created in your heart.  That precious gift of faith changed your life as well as your eternity.  If perhaps that change is not as evident as it could be then I encourage you to kneel at the foot of the cross and ask your Savior to grant you both forgiveness as well as renewed strength and dedication.


I also encourage you to remember that Jesus’ call to you is not only a call to saving faith, but Jesus’ call to you is also a call to service.  Yes, you were called to be a servant of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, a minister in His Kingdom here on this earth.  First and foremost this means that you are to follow the example that Matthew gives to you here in our text and do whatever you can to bring others into contact with Jesus.  Talk about your faith with your friends, your relatives, your acquaintances and your neighbors.  Invite them to church.  Ask them to join you in Bible class.  Use your time, your talents and, yes, your treasures to support the Lord’s Kingdom work both here in our congregation as well as all across the world through the work of our Synod.  Treat the people around you the way your Savior God treats you so that perhaps they too will come to know the grace and the mercy, the love and the forgiveness that can only be found in the cross of Jesus Christ.


Jesus’ call to you, my friends, may not have come to you in exactly the same way as it came to Matthew here in our text.  Jesus’ call to you may not include serving in the public ministry of His Church.  Nevertheless, Jesus’ call to you is both powerful and it is real.  Jesus’ call to you— the call to saving faith— has indeed changed you, your life and your eternity.  Jesus’ call to you is indeed a call to service as you now strive to bring the people around you into contact with their Savior.  May God grant that in light of Jesus’ call to us we will all strive to live a life worthy of the calling we have received.  (See Ephesians 4:1)


To God be the glory!