9 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.
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew was an outsider. He wasn’t liked by the community because of his job as a tax collector. Tax collectors were known for their dishonesty, making money for themselves using other people’s taxes, and were among the most despised workers in the ancient world. Jesus chose Matthew to join his team. He said, “Follow me.” It seems like a simple request, but it is more than a question. It’s more than a one-time ask. In the Greek, this is a present imperative or an ongoing (read: making it a habit) command. Jesus is calling Matthew, the outsider, into a lifetime of discipleship following Jesus. One of my all-time favorite writers describes this life of discipleship as, “an ongoing attachment to Jesus.” Did you notice that Matthew doesn’t hesitate? Luke 5:28 tells us he leaves it all to follow Jesus. Matthew throws a banquet at his house and invites all his tax collector buddies to spend some time with Jesus. We can’t miss that Jesus goes to the dinner party filled with despised outsiders or people with whom the religious community (Pharisees) didn’t associate. Meals were important social occasions in the first century. To share a meal with someone was a declaration that they were accepted into your group. Jesus was saying, “We are friends.” What the surrounding community thought or the religious group thought didn’t matter to Jesus. Jesus only saw people who needed a Savior. Let me finish with a couple of things for us to think about. If you feel like the outsider, Jesus is saying to you, “You’re welcome on his team.” Maybe you know someone who is an outsider, and Jesus is calling you to share your life with them. Maybe Jesus is inviting you to follow him, but you have been waiting for the right time or something has been holding you back. To use Jesus’s words as our direction for today, “Follow me.”