The Amazing Power of Jesus
Receiving the Sinner/Refusing the Righteous, Part 1
Matthew 9:9-13
        
Tonight we are returning to our study of Matthew 8 and 9 where we find two chapters dealing with the amazing power of Jesus.  We’ve been away for a few weeks because of Easter and the Lord’ Supper and mission reports, and I’ve been anxious to get back to the study.
 
We've been looking at Matthew Chapters 8 and 9, tremendous truth about the miracles of Jesus Christ, His wonders, His mighty deeds, signs of His messiah ship.
 
This evening we come again to the 9th chapter and we’re going to look at verses 9 through 17.  They need to be studied together, but it will take us a couple of weeks to do it.
 
Now at verse 9, we are at the second break in the action as far as the miracles are concerned.  There are actually three sets of three miracles, and following each set of three there is a little break that shows us some insight into how the people are responding what is happening.
 
Matthew 9:9-13
 
Notice again that statement right at the end of verse 13 because that is one of the most important statements ever recorded in the Bible.
 
That is the message of Christianity, the essence of the gospel, the reason for the incarnation.
 
Why did Jesus come into the world?  Here He tells us in a very simple statement.  He came to call sinners.
 
Now this is the point of the passage.  Jesus has come to call sinners.  Aren't you glad about that?   If He came into the world only for the righteous there wouldn't be anybody in His kingdom because there is none righteous, no not one.
 
There are many who think they're righteous and He can't help them because they have no need.   You don't come for a healing until you know you have a disease.  The dead don't come for life unless they know they're dead.
 
Now remember, Matthew is presenting the messiah ship of Christ by sharing about His power through miracles.  The first three miracles dealt with disease. And after those miracles there was a response.  Three would-be disciples came.  They were half-hearted, shallow, and superficial and they said we want to follow you but when they heard the price they went away.  And so the response was sad.
 
Then there was the second three miracles.  The first one emphasizes His power over the elements of nature, the wind and the sea.  The second is His power over the supernatural, the third is power over sin.  That's where we are in Chapter 9.  Jesus has just forgiven a man's sin totally, comprehensively, and completely.  And Matthew is saying the Messiah has power over the physical body, He has power over the natural elements, He has power over the demonic hosts, and He has power over sin.
Then comes the response, and the response is divided.  There is a positive response and there is a negative.  The positive response comes from a sinner; the negative comes from one who thinks he's righteous.
 
Now think with me so you'll see the transition.  Verse 9 is the call of Matthew.  That's the first part of the response, the positive.  He sees a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office.  He said unto him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed.  Positive response.
 
Then he enters into a dialogue with the Pharisees, negative response.  These two men are miles apart reacting to the same thing, the same miracles.  Think with me now as I help you to see what is being told us here.
 
Jesus has just forgiven sins.  Matthew makes that point in verses 1 through 8.  He has the ability and the power to forgive sin.
 
And the immediate follow-up question to that is , “But just how much sin can He forgive?  Whose sin can He forgive?  Whose sin does He not forgive?”
 
In other words,, what are the parameters and the extent and dimensions of His forgiveness?
 
And that is why we find what we find in these verses.  All of these questions are answered in what follows.  It is an incredible passage.
 
 
 
Now get the picture.  Jesus has been teaching, and now the meeting is over.  The paralytic is healed.  He's gone home with his four friends.  Jesus goes out the door, meeting and the other writers, Mark 2 and Luke 5, describe it for us.
 
He walks along the shore on the northern edge of the Lake of Galilee and following are His disciples, and behind them, the multitude.  They never left Him.  They were astonished.  They were fascinated.  They were amazed.  The meeting may have been over in the house, but they followed Him.  And He's walking along the shore with this mass of people around Him and at that point we come to verse 9.
 
Verse 9
 
Now if you don't know anything about Matthew, you can’t really appreciate the fullness of that verse. But Matthew is writing about himself, and he is an extremely humble man.    In fact, he reduces his whole conversion to one verse and says absolutely nothing about himself.  But he has something very potent in mind.
 
What he is showing us is how Jesus receives sinners.
 
And that’s where our question comes to bear:  How much sin can Jesus forgive?  He healed the paralytic and He forgave all his sins, but just how far does this forgiveness go?  What kind of people can Jesus really forgive?
 
And so Matthew says in effect in verse 9, "He forgave me."  You say, "Is that significant?"  Yeah, it is.
 
You may not realize it, but Matthew was categorically the vilest person in Capernaum.  By all the evaluation of the time Matthew was the most wretched sinner in town.  And that's why he uses himself as an illustration.  How far does this forgiveness business go?  Far enough to save me, says Matthew.
 
How do we know he was the worst person in town?  It says so right there in the verse:  He was sitting at the tax office.  And I don’t say that to be funny, but sincerely because in that little phrase we find out about how far the forgiveness of Jesus will reach.
 
Matthew was a publican.  Now publicans were people local to an area who chose to work for the Roman government gathering taxes.  Actually, the publicans bought a franchise to operate a tax office.  So when Matthew bought into the Roman system he revealed himself as a traitor to the cause of Israel by serving as a publican.
 
Now Rome required that he collect a certain amount of taxes.  Anything he could get over that he could keep and the Roman government in order to keep him happy and on their side would support him in his excesses and his abuses so when he did over charge, and when he did extort the people he had the Romans behind him.  So obviously there was gross oppression and abuse in the setup.  He just had to pay Rome a certain amount and everything else he could get was his own.
 
Because of that, tax collectors wound up taking bribes from the rich; they extorted from the middle class and the poor, and a s result they became hated and despised.
Not only were they traitors of the worst kind, they were cheats and extortioners on top of they.  They conspired with the enemy and amassed amazing fortunes at the expense of their own countrymen.
 
If you were a tax collector, you could not attend the synagogue.  You couldn't have religious interactivity with the people.  You were listed with unclean beasts out of the Old Testament.  You were like a swine.  They were forbidden to be a witness in any court of law because they could not be believed.  They were classified with robbers and murderers.
 
But it goes even farther than that.  That's just a tax collector in general.  But there were two categories of tax collectors.  Category number one were the general tax collectors and their job was to take the regular taxes.  There were three of them.  There was the land tax much like our property tax.  There was income tax and then there was the poll tax which was a registration tax.  In other words if you're alive you have to pay a tax just for being alive.  If you're dead you don't have to pay.  And if you were a general tax collector it was your job to collect those three taxes.
 
But there was another kind of tax collector and it was his job was to collect taxes on everything else.  Now we have the same thing in our society.  We’ve got some stationary taxes and we have some secondary taxes.
 
We have sales tax and gas tax and taxes when you fly in an airplane.  There are excise taxes and toll roads and you have to pay according to how many axles you have on your trailer.
And the list goes on and on.  And all of that comes under the second category and there was a different tax collector to take care of all of that.  In fact, there was no limit.  They could actually invent taxes on anything they wanted.  If you had a two-wheeled cart it was cheaper to transport than a four-wheel car.  A three-legged burro was cheaper than a four-legged burro; might be slower, but it was cheaper.
 
It cost you money to cross a certain road or bridge.  If you wanted to have your little business in the marketplace you paid a tax for that.  You paid taxes on your boat and the dock and the fish you caught.
 
 They would open every package coming along the road and they had the right to open every private letter to see if there was a business going on in that letter and they could attach a tax to that.  Unlimited and unregulated taxes and because of that these secondary tax collectors were even more hated than the general tax collectors.
 
And they were opportunists in that they set up their little collection booths at the busiest crossroad of the city.  They wanted to be where the action was.  That’s why it is so significant to note that Matthew was sitting in the tax office where they traveled.
 
He would have been in a strategic point on the road from Damascus and the Orient to the west so that he could tax everybody going by east and west and as a result of that he probably had one of the really wealthy tax franchises of the area.
 
He wasn’t a a general tax collector; he wa a secondary tax collector and thus he was the more hated of the two.
He was oppressive and unjust, an extortionist who robbed people by taxing everything and having the Romans behind it so that the intimidation of the threat was there.
 
But it doesn’t stop there.  Of the secondary tax collectors, there were two kinds.  One was referred to as the great and the word in the Greek was “mokhes”.  They were the ones who hired somebody to sit at the table and stayed behind the scenes because they wanted to kind of keep their hands clean on the outside.  They wanted to sort of have a good reputation.
 
And then there were what the Hebrews called the small mokhes.  They actually sat at the table themselves, too cheap to pay somebody else and too unconcerned to care about their reputation to care what anybody thought.  They did it themselves.
 
So itt was one thing to be publican.  It was worse to be a mokhes, but far worse to be a little or a small mokhes.
 
And guess what Matthew was?  Matthew was the little mokhes of Capernaum, the worst man in the city.  As far as the people were concerned he was the most wretched human being in their town.  They hated him.  They paid him because they were afraid not to.
 
And here he was the little mokhes of Capernaum sitting at his table doing his thing.  And one day, Jesus said to him, "Follow Me," and he did.  And you can imagine the gasps.  Matthew?
 
We always thought of Matthew as wonderful, but before the Jesus changed his life, Matthew was the worst.
 
And Matthew, writing of himself, doesn't talk about himself or about any of his potential or about how honored he is to be an apostle.  He doesn't say a word about himself because he knows the kind of man he is.
 
That’s why we have his conversion in verse 9, we just don't have all the details. Matthew was a man under conviction.  He had heard about Jesus.  He had to know about Him.  And Matthew was a man who I believe must with all of his heart have wanted the forgiveness, but the system told him that he could never have it.
 
And so he wasn't up at the house seeking Jesus like the paralytic.  He was down there getting his money because that's all he could do.  He had made his choice a long time ago.  He had sold his soul to the Roman government.
 
He recognized his sin.  He knew what he was and I believe that's the reason he got up so fast and followed.  No discussion; no argument.  He doesn't say, well now what's this going to involve.  I've got a lot of interest here.  In fact, Luke adds a little statement that says, "He forsook all."
 
Matthew doesn't say that.  He's not going to talk about what he left.  I mean if you were a fisherman and Jesus said follow Me, you could follow and you could always go back to the fish right?  I mean they're always going to be there.
But if you're a tax collector and you get up and say goodbye I'm leaving you can't ever go back because next day Rome is going to have somebody in your place and it's all over.
 
So the price that Matthew paid is much greater than the others paid.  He walked away and Luke says he forsook all of it.
 
Matthew lost a career and gained a crown.  He lost his security and gained a savior. He lost material things and gained a spiritual fortune.  Matthew understood the call of the Lord.  He knew He had come to save sinners and he knew that he was the worst, the most unforgivable man in town.
 
So how far can the forgiveness of Jesus reach?  Matthew says, “It reached me.  That’s  how far it goes.  That's how deep it reaches.
 
And he was so overwhelmed that he decided to throw a banquet.  It was a banquet attended by the most rotten people in the history of banquets.  The only people Matthew knew were just like him.
 
Everyone else despised him, so the only people he knew were people like himself, prostitutes, murderers, robbers, thieves, irreligious, godless, and other tax collectors.
 
Now Matthew's gospel doesn't tell us about the details of the banquet because Matthew doesn’t talk about it.  But Mark and Luke do.  And we find that he calls this banquet in his own house and Jesus is the honored guest.  He's got the whole thing set up.
He invites all the wretched, rotten, vile people in Capernaum and they're all in one building and Jesus is the honored guest.  And notice what happens.
 
Verse 10
 
Can you get the picture?  This is so devastating to the Jewish system of self-righteousness that it shocks them.  It just knocks them out.  They can't handle this.  I mean if this is really God why isn't He having a dinner for us?  And the answer is because He came to save sinners and if you're not willing to admit that He has nothing to say to you.
 
verse 11
 
They wait until the banquet is over and as the disciples come out, they don't confront Jesus head on, they corner the disciples.  And it’s not just an honest question.  What they're really saying is a rebuke.  Shame on you; hanging around with a teacher who hangs around with such folks like this!  Didn’t your momma teach you better than that?
That's what they're saying.
 
And there are a lot of people in the church today who that's how they act.  Our world begins and ends with people who are in the family and all we can do is stand and criticize the ones who are outside and not reach out and help them.
 
Listen:  They don't need our criticism; they need our help.  They don't need to be kept at a distance; they need our mercy and love.  And so they say, "What kind of a leader have you got who hangs around with the scum?"
 
So in verses 12 and 13 Jesus gets involved.
 
Verses 12-13
 
Now in verses 12 and 13, Jesus defends His disciples and He has a three-fold argument.
 
First of all, he uses
 
1. Human Logic
 
Well people don't need a physician.  Sick people do.  And what He's saying is, "You say they are sick; obviously they need a physician, right?”
 
The analogy is simple.  A physician can be expected to go among sick people and so a forgiver should be expected to go among sinful people.  His defense is simple.  He went to the people who had the deepest need.  If you're so perceptive as to see them as sinners, if your diagnosis is so accurate, then where's your compassion?  Where is your concern?  Are you a doctor who diagnosis but has no desire to cure?
 
The scribes and Pharisees would have made lousy doctors.  They were more concerned with making themselves look good than they were helping someone else.
 
But Jesus comes along and got in the room with them and ate with them.  He got as close to them as you can get, and rather than being contaminated by them, He made them pure and white as snow.  He was the divine physician.  And if they're sick they need a doctor.  You don't think you're sick and you're the sickest of all.
Second is an argument from
 
2. Scripture
 
verse 13
 
"Go and learn."  That little statement “go and learn” is a rabbinic saying.  The rabbi's used to use it as an exhortation or a rebuke to persons who didn't really know what they should have known.
 
Go and learn, he says.  Go back to the books and come again when you've gotten the information and learn what your own text says.
 
Then He quotes Hosea 6:6.  "I will have mercy and not sacrifice."  In other words, God says, "I am not concerned with ritual.  I'm concerned with a merciful heart."
 
Here they were going through all this little religious ritual, but they didn’t know their Bible!  They knew nothing about the heart of God.  They had no mercy or compassion or love for a sinner.
 
And so he says to them in Hosea 6:6, "It is not sacrifice that I want from you.  It is mercy."  In other words it's your hearts I'm after.  So go home and study your Sunday school lesson.  "Go and learn."  .
 
And that is still a problem today.  I think some people just think they go through a certain Christian routine, go to church and do certain things, and God is pleased.  He is never pleased with a routine that is separated from personal holiness.  Without a change of heart, without a deep sense of sin, it is never pleasing to God.
He uses logic; He uses Scripture and lastly He uses
 
3.  His Own Authority
 
Verse 13b
 
The Pharisees believed they were righteous, so He accepts their self-evaluation.  He says, "You say you are righteous.  I accept that as your self-evaluation.  I have nothing to say to you.  I have come to call sinners."
 
That's the whole issue.  Logic says it.  Scripture says it.  Jesus affirms it.  Could these Pharisees really be righteous when they had no mercy for sinners, when they were blind to the word of their own prophet, when they were upset with Jesus for reaching out to those who needed help?  Jesus was right on target.
 
He came to call sinners.  The word call is the term used for inviting a guest to a home or to a meal.  It’s a formal invitation to fellowship.
 
That is the message of the gospel.  Jesus came to call and save sinners.  That is the ringing, recurring, constant theme and until you know you're a sinner the Lord has nothing to offer you.
 
Matthew knew and he arose and he followed Jesus.   That's the message of this passage.  He saves sinner.  I'm one.  I hope you know you're one.  If you do, and if you’ll listen, you’ll hear Him calling you.
 
Let's bow in prayer.
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