Is there anything in your life that you’re ashamed of?
I think that Matthew is one of my favourite people in the Bible. He’s a legend. So things don’t start off brilliantly for him. He’s a tax collector, which means that he worked for the Romans who were occupying Israel at the time. During that kind of invasion/occupation you have three groups of people. You have the Resistance (you might be too young to remember ‘Allo ‘Allo – google it!). These are the people who find ways to literally resist the occupying forces. To stop them from doing more damage. This is a dangerous thing to do. But then you have the collaborators. These are the people who have decided that the best thing to do is to make the best of the situation and work with the occupying forces. Usually, they can earn a few bob in the process too – which is one reason that people don’t like these collaborators a huge amount. Then there is everyone else – sort of stuck in the middle. Not wanting to stick their necks out, or just waiting to see what would happen next. You never quite knew whether the invading forces would be around for a long time, or not.
Matthew was a collaborator. He was someone who grew rich from taking the taxes for the Romans, and probably skimming lots off the top for himself. No one likes a tax collector, even today when they are likely to be a computer. He would have been taking money from people who could hardly afford to feed themselves. It was considered something dirty to do. He would have been rich, but wouldn’t have had many friends.
But this guy meets Jesus, and Jesus issues him a challenge. He responds, and gets up from his little tax collecting booth and hits the road with Jesus. However, it’s not a complete goodbye to his old life. He doesn’t leave them all behind, but instead throws a massive party for the people he used to hang out with so that they can meet Jesus too. He knows that Jesus can bring transformation and hope into even the darkest places. He doesn’t want to keep that as a secret just for himself.
We never hear about that group again. Maybe they decided to join the crowds following Jesus. Maybe they didn’t. But thanks to Matthew they had every possible opportunity. What a legend.
Lord God, thank you that you change us. That you give us courage and boldness to step out and invite others to come and know you too. Thank you that you weren’t worried about who you hung around with but found the people who needed you the most. Amen.
Who can you bring to hear about Jesus today?