When Jesus calls – 5 March 2021
By Louise Gevers
The subject of taxes has always been a touchy one and it was no different in the time of Jesus. In Palestine, tax collectors were in a class of their own. They were doubly despised, as traitors for collaborating with the Roman oppressors, and as swindlers cheating their fellow Israelites to line their own pockets by collecting more money for taxes than was due. Matthew would have been as popular with the people then as our ex-president is with his people now.
The message that Jesus preached from the outset was: “Turn away from your sins, because the Kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:17) Wherever He went, Jesus healed people of “all kinds of diseases and disorders: people with demons, and epileptics, and paralytics” (Matthew 4:24) which resulted in large crowds following Him everywhere, bringing Him their sick, and gathering around to listen to His teaching.
No doubt Matthew would have been aware of Jesus’ powerful teaching, and His fast-growing reputation for performing miracles, but what went through Matthew’s mind when he heard Jesus’ words we can only wonder. Perhaps an increasing awareness of sin and no longer feeling proud of the way he was living made him not hesitate at Jesus’ invitation. He stood up immediately to follow Jesus, leaving behind his shame and guilt.
Responding to Jesus’ call is a life-changing moment with eternal consequences.
His call is simple when we understand that Jesus has “not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13) “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Matthew 9:12) When we realise that no-one is perfect and we are basically all in as exclusive a class as the tax collectors because of our own particular variety of sin, we can be grateful that He accepts us as we are and invites us to surrender our burdens: “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Jesus came to Matthew at the right moment and accepted him as he was. He set him free to experience a new life in which he would know peace and reconciliation with God. Jesus does the same for us. Like Matthew, we need to no longer be proud of our sinful condition and hollow lifestyle and believe completely that only Jesus has the power to call us and to transform our lives.
Jesus calls us to forget about ourselves and to focus on Him. “Take up your cross every day and follow me”. (Luke 9:23) As we surrender to Him, He gives us new strength and new hope to follow Him.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, We know that we are sinners but You can save us because You died to set us free from our sins. Please help us to embrace Your eternal values as Your Spirit empowers us to live cleansed, fruitful lives in Your Name. Amen