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Matthew 9:9-13

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
April 12, 2020

Christ is risen!


Christ is risen indeed!


This past Friday we remembered the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.


The hideousness of that.  Jesus being flogged - His skin shredded.  Jesus being beaten and spat on and mocked - the crown of thorns shoved down on His head.


Jesus being nailed to the cross - 5 to 7 inch spikes driven through His wrists and feet - the searing pain of that.  His arms being stretched beyond their normal reach - dislocated.


The shame and humiliation as He’s hung before His family and followers - hung naked as a criminal.  Dissed - laughed at - ridiculed.  Suspended on the cross - struggling to breath.  Ultimately dying as a victim of suffocation or heart failure.


On the Friday before the Sabbath, Jesus died.  A fact of history.


Which is beyond our understanding.  Isn’t it? 


Jesus willingly takes on Himself the full justified vehemence and wrath of God against sin - against our sin.


Jesus - willingly - in our place - Jesus experiencing what you and I deserve.  In our hopeless depravity and sin.  What every human being in history deserves.  What Jesus alone does not deserve. 


Jesus our Savior - Who for all of His existence - in that perfect divine unity of the Trinity - Jesus has never been alone.  Now - in His incarnate humanity - Jesus experiences separation from His Father.  God - Who is holy must forsake the Son who willingly bears our sin.  Separation that should be ours - forever.


It’s staggering to consider.  Jesus - willingly - in our place - is forsaken so that we might be forgiven.  Jesus is cut off so that we may never be separated from God’s love.


Today we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.  Jesus’ resurrection is also an irrefutable fact of history.


People argue against it.  They have their theories.  They have their motives.  Admittedly, resurrection is out of the box of human experience.


But under the scrutiny of the historical record - from the Bible which is a credible historical document - and from other historical sources outside of Bible - the facts prove the case for Jesus’ resurrection.


And the reality - the implications - of His resurrection are staggering.


Paul writes to the church of Corinth.  A church, within which there were some who struggled with the idea of resurrection and what that might mean for their own faith in Jesus.

Paul writes to them - 1 Corinthians 15 - starting at verse 12: 
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” 


Either there’s resurrection or there isn’t.      


Verse 13:  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised - if resurrection is impossible then Jesus is dead - and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.


If Jesus is dead then we have no message.  There is no Good News of Jesus Christ.  What you believe is worthless.


Verse 15:  We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that He raised Christ, Whom He did not raise - we’re saying that God did something that God didn’t do - saying that Jesus is someone that He isn’t - if it is true that the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.


Verse 17:  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.


If there is no such thing as resurrection and Jesus is dead then all those doubts you have are pretty right on.  There is no forgiveness of sins.  Christianity is just another a religious system - a spiritual teaching - like all the others.


Easter might as well be about some pagan fertility goddess of Spring, colored eggs, and the Easter Bunny.


Verse 18 - if Christ is not raised - then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.


They’re dead.  Get over it.


If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people to be most pitied.


If there is no resurrection then there’s no eternal life.  This is all there is.  So celebrating today - all this is just wishful thinking - comforting religious happy thoughts - for the feeble minded - to somehow help us cope with life.


Jesus was just another dead rabble rousing rabbinic wannabe Messiah.    


Verse 20:  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  (1 Corinthians 15:12-20)


Which means that that everything Jesus taught about Himself - What His ministry was about and His message He called us to believe and how He taught us to live.  It’s all true.


Pulling together Paul’s application of that truth to the Corinthians - and us:


Since Jesus Christ is resurrected from the dead everything that we’ve told you about God and life with God and His power to transform and heal our lives is true.  We really are speaking for God - testifying of what God has done.  Our faith isn’t some vain worthless collection of spiritual happy thoughts.


When you put your trust in Jesus as the Savior your sins really are forgiven.  Your relationship with God really is restored.  Those who have died trusting in Jesus are not dead.  People really do come back from the grave.


Jesus is the first of many who will rise from the dead.


He lives.  They live.  You’ll live.  We have hope.  There is eternal life with God.


Bottom line:  Christ is risen.  Christ is risen indeed.


Jesus’ death pays the penalty for our sin.  His resurrection gives us certain unquestionable hope.




That reality changes - not only our forever - but our today.  How we live today. 


In the day-to-day of when we move on from this time together into what God has for us coming next - with all of the uncertainty and fear and drama of where we do life - especially these days - Jesus’ death and resurrection changes our lives forever - beginning today.


I’d like to share with you one event from Jesus’ ministry.  Recorded by Matthew about Matthew in Matthew - chapter 9 - starting at verse 9.  Let me read that account for us:


As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.”  And he [Matthew] rose and followed Him.


And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, may tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and His disciples. 


And when the Pharisees saw this they said to His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”


But when He [Jesus] heard it, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”


Jesus is in Capernaum - which is a fishing village on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Matthew records that as Jesus passes by a tax booth He calls out to Matthew - same person who’s writing this account - Jesus calls out to Matthew and tells him to “Follow Me.”  To follow Jesus as Jesus’ disciple.  Which Matthew does.

Let’s pause.  We need some back fill if we’re going to get how significant a moment this is.


Matthew is sitting at the tax booth because Matthew is a tax collector.


One of the main international roads from Egypt up into Syria and the Fertile Crescent - which was the main route people used to go anywhere east - the coastal road up from Egypt through Palestine going north - went through Capernaum.


The main tax booths in this part of the Roman Empire were located in Caesarea, Jericho, and... Capernaum.


Matthew was a tax-collector.  Like Zacchaeus - who was a chief tax-collector. 


Remember this?  ‘Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he…”  Same guy.


The way the system worked.  Guys like Zacchaeus had authority over larger areas - that they - in a sense franchised - to guys farther down on the totem pole - like Matthew - who did the actual tax-collecting. 


Meaning that Matthew - and others - collected the taxes and paid their cut to guys like Zacchaeus who paid a cut to some Roman official who was getting rich off the money collected.  And ultimately a huge cut of all that went to the Roman Empire - the occupying force controlling Palestine.


The amount of tax collected was whatever the traffic could bear - huge amounts if possible.  Legalized extortion.  Pay your cut and keep the rest for yourself. 


Having a booth on the Egypt - Syria Road was very lucrative extortion.  Most probably Matthew and everyone else up the totem pole we’re getting rich off the backs of those passing through town and everyone else they could extort money from.


Thinking through the implications of that.  Matthew - working things from his tax booth - Matthew would have been known by the Jews of Capernaum as an extortionist.  Known for his greed and corruption and dishonesty. 


He would have been known as a traitor - unfaithful to his own people and to their religion.  He was in the service of their oppressors.  Ultimately the pagan Roman emperor. 


The Latin word for tax-collector is “publicanus” - “publican.”  Which was often used in the same breath as “sinner.” 


It would be very hard - if not impossible - to find anyone in Capernaum who was more despised - or more hated - or more vilified than Matthew.


Jesus - as He’s passing by - with what we learn from the other Gospel accounts - Jesus passes by as He’s teaching His disciples that He’s already called - Simon, Andrew, James, and John - Jesus teaching His disciples and the crowd that’s following along - Jesus passes by the tax booth - which is not random but intentional - this is Jesus Who’s passing by - Jesus calls to Matthew:  “Follow Me.”  And Matthew does.


Matthew records that he rose and followed Him.  Luke adds that he left everything, rose and followed.  Matthew maybe didn’t even bother to close up the shop or gather up his profits or turn off the coffee maker.  He just followed.


It’s very likely that Matthew had already been exposed to Jesus and His teaching.  Capernaum isn’t that big a place.  Jesus calling him to follow was probably a decisive moment in a process of growth and understanding.


But none of that takes away from Matthew leaving his lucrative business and his position with the Romans - stepping out into a community that hates his guts - and trusting that God would provide for his needs.


Simon, Andrew, James, and John could have gone back to fishing.  But what’s Matthew going back to?  Wherever Jesus is going, that’s where Matthew is going.  He’s all in. 


Hang to this:  For Matthew this is a major change of life direction moment - going from living focused on living for himself to being all in - living trusting Jesus - trusting God.


One of the - we might of missed it - but huge to grab behind the scenes - evidences of that change of life moment - is that Matthew is writing about Matthew.


When Mark and Luke record what happens here they use the name Levi.  Matthew doesn’t.


Why the different name.  We don’t know.


However there are clues.  Most probably Levi is the name Matthew’s parents gave Him.    Mark even mentions Levi’s father, Alphaeus.  Levi could have been the name he was known by in the community.  Levi the publican collaborator.


Matthew might have been his unused first or second name.  Long since forgotten.  Buried under his reputation.


Probably it was Jesus who changed Levi’s name to Matthew - who emphasized Matthew.  Like Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter.  It was probably Jesus who changed Levi’s name to Matthew - which means “gift of God.”


Jesus isn’t concerned about what people are going to think about Jesus.  Jesus having a publican collaborator as a one of His disciples.  What that’s going to mean for Jesus’ reputation.  Jesus is calling Levi to follow Him.


Jesus calls Levi a “gift of God.”  That’s who Matthew is.  That’s how Jesus sees Him.  Matthew - follower of Jesus - gift of God.  That’s how Matthew sees himself as he writes his testimony of Jesus calling Him.


Some time later - maybe that night - maybe the next day - Matthew records that “Gift of God” throws a party in Jesus’ honor.  What Luke - in his account - calls a “great feast” - a banquet at Matthew’s house.  Mark tells us that there were many who were there.


Crowded into Matthew’s home - reclining on couches around a low table - reclining being something you did with close friends - people you are intimate with.  Reclining on couches are all the tax collectors - all the extortionists from Capernaum.


And the sinners - those who refused to keep the Mosaic Law - those who were excluded from the community - those who were excluded from the Temple and synagogue - the despised - the social outcasts.


Along with Jesus and His disciples and many others who followed Jesus.


In the middle of all this - reclines Jesus - not lecturing them about what kind of sinful people they are.  Jesus is just reclining - eating and drinking and sharing with them as their friend.  And, they’re following Him - listening - seeking to understand what His words mean for their lives.


Hang on to this.  Not only is this a change of life moment for Matthew - he leaves everything to follow Jesus.  But Matthew introduces Jesus to everyone he knows.  Matthew desiring for them to also follow Jesus. 


Then - verse 11 - Matthew turns our attention to the Pharisees - who probably heard and saw through a gate or door what was going on inside.  This was a large crowd. 


The Pharisees question the disciples:  “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”


Some back fill to help us understand where these Pharisees were coming from.  Just how loaded that question was.  So a bit of helpful history.


The Pharisees began to be called Pharisees during the time of the Maccabees.  The Maccabees led a revolt in 166 BC against the Seleucids - the Greeks - who at that time were in control of Palestine.  Some of the results of that revolt we experience even today - Hanukkah and the lighting of the Menorah come out of that time.


That revolt - at its core - that revolt was about political independence and religious freedom.


Politics and religion.  That’s loaded.


Religiously - we know that to be a Pharisee meant commitment to a life of radical separation.  To live in accordance with an enormous list of do’s and don’ts.


So these Pharisees had deep historical generational roots of being deeply committed to God - devoted to the law of Moses - having a well earned reputation for excelling the rest of the nation in the observance of religion - and for being strongly critical against anything that would threaten the religious freedom and the purity of the faith of their nation.


Politics and religion.


It is understandable that as these religious leaders came and saw Jesus there in the midst of this crowd - a crowd that never in a million years would they have anything to do with - that no self-respecting Jew seeking rightness with God and God’s blessing would ever have any dealings with...


Let alone that many of those people eating there had ongoing friendly business relations with the occupying Gentile Romans... 


It is understandable that these Pharisees were absolutely appalled.


Here is Jesus doing exactly what they refused to do - politically - religiously.  Jesus surrounded by a group of people that was probably so unclean in so many ceremonial ways.  Jesus is just reclining - enjoying hanging out.    


They asked Jesus’ disciples, “Doesn’t He know who those people are?  How can He eat with them let alone even be seen with them?”


Clouded by politics and religion - the loaded question reveals that at the heart level these Pharisees have a serious problem.

Verse 12: 
But when He [Jesus] heard it, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”


That is classic Jesus.  Isn’t it?


Jesus - as only He can - takes the question the Pharisees asked - “How can He eat with those kinds of people?” - and points it back at them.  “I came for the sinners.”


“You’re right!  These are really messed up people.  They are sinners.  And these are the people I’ve come for.”


Jesus’ answer is simple.  It’s brilliant.  It’s devastating to their sense of self-righteousness legalism.  It’s pushback with purpose.  Pointing out what needed to be pointed out.


They - the self-proclaimed “righteous” needed healing just as much at those who were the more obvious sinners.


And it’s sad - in that if the Pharisees had taken it to heart their lives would have been changed forever.


Notice that Jesus compares Himself to a physician who does house calls.


Some of us are old enough to remember when doctors made house calls.  Our doctor actually had one of those black bags that he came to the house with.  That was a long time ago.

Jesus - when He associates on intimate terms with people of low reputation - with sinners and outcasts - He’s not lowering Who He is - He’s not participating with them in sin.  He’s the physician.


Someone who - without being contaminated by the disease - must get very close to those who are sick in order to heal them.  Jesus - the great physician - does house calls.  He’s come to be with those who are sick.  With us.


Jesus who’s not contaminated by eating with these tax-collectors and sinners.  But instead seeks to make them holy as He is holy.


Sick is more than those who refuse to carry out the details of the law but those who are alienated from God.  That’s what Jesus is focused on.  The disease of sin which leads to eternal death.  Jesus came not to call the righteous but sinners to salvation.


That’s the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection.


“You’re right, these are sick, hurting people - wounded - and damaged by their lifestyle - damaged and separated from God by sin.  They don’t see life correctly.  They’re sick men and they need a doctor.  I’ve come to heal men.  So this is where I need to be.  I came not to call the righteous; but sinners.”


That reality changes - not only our forever - but our today.


Processing all that - thinking forward to when we move on from this time together into what God has for us coming next - with all of the uncertainty and fear and drama of where we do life… 


Three takeaways…  why Jesus came:    


First:  Jesus came because He loves you and me.


The Pharisees - the people of Capernaum - they saw Levi as an ungodly traitor.  Jesus - looking at sinners - sees past the tax collector - wounded and in sin - and Levi becomes Matthew - the “Gift of God.” 


Those are two very different heart level ways of looking at people.


Jesus told the Pharisees to go and learn what this means:  “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.”


Jesus quotes the prophet Hosea.  In that quote - the word for “mercy” - translates the Hebrew word “hesed.”  Which translated into English is something like a devoted preserving committed love that’s expressed in undeserved grace and mercy and kindness.


It’s the kind of persistent devoted love that God shows His people despite themselves.  “Hesed” is the kind of love that sends Jesus to the cross for us.


The quote is from a time when God’s people were going through the motions of loving God.  But below all the image of being godly - below the surface there was a rising tide of perversity - immorality - ungodliness - that came out in the horrendous ways they were treating each other. 


They didn’t understand how greatly God loved them and so they failed at loving each other.  They failed at helping others to know God’s love.  There was no “hesed” between them.


Jesus is calling out the Pharisees.  “If you really got how greatly God loves you, your attitude towards these people would be a whole lot different.”


Paul writes - Romans 5:8:  “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”


We need to get that God loves us.  You and Me.  And those around us who also need to know that God loves them.  Hold on to that in the uncertainty of what comes next.


Second - Jesus came for sinners like you and me.


Theres tremendous comfort for us in Jesus’ answer, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”  


Jesus didn’t come looking for righteous people to be friends with - to recline with.  He came for wounded people - hurting people - people who have no place to turn - sinners desperate for a way out of their sins.  He came for people like us.

No matter how great the uncertainty - how overwhelming the fear - how seemingly endless the isolation or alone you may feel - Jesus has gone to the cross for you and for me.


Hold onto that even in the uncertainty of tomorrow.  Even if you or I totally mess up - Jesus will still have come for us.  And Jesus still loves you and me enough to forgive us.


Third - Jesus came to call us to Himself.


Because He loves us - Jesus came for you and for me.  Which comes with Jesus’ invitation.  Same invitation given to Matthew.  “Follow Me.”


For Matthew that was a major change of life direction moment - going from living focused on living for himself - to being all in living trusting Jesus - trusting God - and leading others to Him.


Which is the invitation God gives to each of us.


To change the direction of our lives.  To leave forever our self-focused direction of life and sin and to trust God for what He offers us through the work of Jesus on the cross.


What Jesus calls us to is having our relationship with God made right and living life with Him now and forever.  A wholeness of person and fullness of life that just keeps getting deeper and greater because it’s all coming from God Who loves each one of us - you and me.


In a few moments, Pastor Andrew is going to introduce Travis and Emily Pazin - who - before they’re baptized - they’re going to share their testimony of how God called them and the choice they’ve made to follow Jesus.


Please listen as they share.  Listen to what God is inviting you to.  And to think carefully how you are responding to God this morning.






Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.