An Unlikely Disciple

Oct 10, 2021

An Unlikely Disciple

Passage: Matthew 9:9-13

Preacher: Jeff Crotts

Series: Matthew: We Need a King

Category: Sunday Morning


Jesus was just passing by, making this encounter with Matthew providential. 

  • Jesus is moving within the natural next steps, prepared for him to walk in.
    • How we move within our Christian mission.
    • No different than our own Christian experience.

I was recently asked about our evangelistic outreach from our church. 

  • “Do we program evangelism?”
    • To which I responded, “not really.”
      • I just reach out to people who I naturally cross paths with.
      • I am not averse to setting up a strategy or a mission trip. 
  • I resonate with how Jesus engaged others in daily life. 
  • This is the same as with the prophets and early church Apostles.
  • Ministry within the flow of life.

Often, people feel they need a schedule or permission to share Christ. 

  • A script, method, or setting.
    • An academic or religious forum.
    • Door to door.
    • An event?


  • What I see in Scripture is every manner of outreach.
    • Jesus reached blind men, demon possessed men and women, to children, to religious leaders, he won commercial fishermen, a doctor, magicians, harlots, Roman guards as he came upon them.
    • He reached them and everyone in between.

Evangelism is not a program. 

  • It was never meant to be.
    • Evangelism is faithful obedience within the scope of God’s dynamic providence.
    • God’s Word never gives a program for missions or evangelism.


  • I do think God’s Word provides a missions and evangelism template for how to do it.
    • I am not trying to split hairs but a clear evangelistic strategy should be determined by basic Christian living not curriculum.
      • Not averse to being creative to find niche ways to reach the lost.
      • But the program is never sacred.
      • Even Jesus calling his 3 then 12 then 70 and then 120 and sending the Holy Spirit is not a sacred template.
      • Likewise, the testimony in Acts of early church is not a “how to” program, for every church.

What I see in Scripture, is the Holy Spirit moving people along in terms of providence and needs where people then go out and make disciples. 

  • “How can you stage for the earthquake to open the prison doors when Paul and Silas were in prison?”
  • What about when Paul met the Lydia worshipping for ladies by the riverside or any number of events that seem to happen at random.
  • How do you organize for Paul to contend for the faith before Felix and King Agrippa?

If you live your life is dedicated and defined within this understanding and commitment, your life will always be rich. 

  • To live otherwise, as a Christian is a contradiction to who God has designed you to be
  • And you will feel confused in terms of your purpose.

One time a someone quipped how we are never do anything toward outreach

  • She did so, while 500 plus children to young adults chattered, laughed, yelped, and shuffled in the background, being our Christian school. Not on a church day, but weekday.
  • The way we reach out to families in Anchorage is not the only way, nor the only need, but it is certainly a niche need in Anchorage.

With our society pumping spiritual sewage into the system of our children who are the next generation we need to raise this flag. 

  • I know you can navigate Christian education from the home, and I also know it is your responsibility to do so whether your child attends here, at home, in a co-op, or public school (like I did!).
  • No matter what, you must educate kids in the Word of God.

For our church, our historic outreach is to families who bring their largely unregenerate children into our building so that we can call them to make their faith their own. 

  • Every child who is part of our Christians school must sign a clear profession of faith, but we have no idea when and where heart change takes place.
    • This means that we are part of the process to sow and water and reap children within our Christian community.
    • Having said that, GCS is to educate saved, not lost kids but based on providential dynamics, many of the “saved” kids are won to Christ during their time at GCS or after.

Rather than staging for evangelism, you must discern how the Lord is moving in your circumstances to reach others for Him. 


Prop: Jesus’ how-to method of outreach
1. Passing by someone (v. 9)
2. Reclining at your home with anyone (v. 10)
3. Answering questions of everyone (vv. 11-13)
1. Passing by someone (v. 9)

This brings us to verse 9 where it says, “As Jesus passed on from there…” (v. 9). 

  • The great verses known as Jesus’ great commission tell every believer to “Go” and make disciples of all nations! (Matt. 28:19).    
    • “Go” is an aorist passive participle conveying the idea that this is a lifestyle.
      • Literally, “as you are going” assuming you are going in obedience, your instruction is that making disciples is your new lifestyle.
      • What you are always up to in your life.


  • As someone has said, “We need to get into the flow of God’s providence.”

Jesus has just healed the paralytic, leaving the masses in amazement, better word, bewilderment. 

  • Jesus is now back in Capernaum and has been preaching to a crowd jammed into Peter’s home.
  • He moves out of this congested crowd onto the street only to see “a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth” (v. 9).

Verse 9 introduces us to a man who’s ready to repent. 

  • Jesus is moving along with the crowd following and he focuses on a single individual and his name is “Matthew” whom Mark and Luke call “Levi” – “Levi the son of Alphaeus” (cf. Mk 2:14)
    • As you might know already, Levi became one of the twelve Apostles, but he’s not listed as Levi, but Matthew.
    • Matthew perhaps renamed for his conversion Matthew meaning, “Gift of the Lord.”
      • Probably had two names (like others, i.e. Simon Peter).
      • Levi/Matthew, Matthew now prominent.


  • Salvation was the greatest gift he could have been given.

Matthew is providentially in the path of Jesus “sitting at the tax booth”. 

  • The setting is a border crossing/toll booth.
    • A tax system was based on Roman control over Israel.
    • Through enforced taxation.


  • A variety of ways to tax people for property and goods and this was a toll system.
    • Young teen-agers and up.
    • 10th – tithe was the beginning of taxation.


  • Levi a Jew, named for Jacob and Rachel’s son Levi.
    • Levi, a Jew would have been seen as a traitor to his country working under Herod Antipas, a Herod for Rome.
      • Worse, this kind of taxation was set up for corruption and extortion.
      • You would profit from whatever you charged above the tax.
      • No accountability was in place, without modern tracking systems.


  • These booths like small businesses.
    • Rome, the big boss.
    • Mathew, the little boss.
      • Matthew labeled, a Mafioso.
      • With enforcers present to bully people to pay.


  • In terms of Jewish culture tax-collectors were unclean.
    • Not welcome to worship at the temple.
    • Matthew was rich, powerful, and intimidating but Jesus didn’t care.

Anything but staged in terms of ease of conversation, this is nothing less than awkward. 

  • Jesus, walking up to Matthew, is Jesus walking up to a government official.
  • Matthew is working for the Roman government, making this dangerous.
  • A tax collector, but for a government oppressive to the Jews.

You might guess from this passage that Matthew is “sitting” in a strategic place catching the traffic moving on the road system down from Damascus and Syria, funneling along the Sea of Galilee, only to over-charge them to make a profit. 

  • In this context, Jesus is accused of eating with “tax collectors and sinners” grouping someone in Matthew’s occupation as a known scam artist.
    • Matthew would have a bad reputation with all Jewish culture.
    • The religious leaders would detest a tax-collector, a defector.
      • A Jew, moving to the other side of government.
      • Selling out your loyalties for money.
      • An oppressor.

Verse 9 again, says, “Matthew sitting at the tax booth” (v. 9) which could point to his hubris taking a front row seat as a collector. 

  • Not a normal posture, Matthew’s position usually in the background, but here leading with the chin, rubbing their noses in his “take.”
  • Matthew was ruthless and heartless.

This posture is what makes shocking for Jesus to move toward him and say, “Follow me” (v. 9). 

  • If ever an evangelism course of how to build a bridge and call people to believe, I do not think this would be the one.
    • Think about Jesus’ approach in terms of standard technique.
      • First, identify the most hated person in your immediate vicinity, go up to them, sight unseen, do not introduce yourself, and give a non-negotiable command/directive.
      • “Follow me” (v. 9).


  • What is the result?
    • Success!
    • “And he rose and followed him” (v. 9).

Jesus “said to him, ‘Follow me.” 

  • A few things are of note, the first being Jesus’ authority.
    • He can command anybody, and he did.
      • Jesus didn’t care who Matthew was in terms of political position.
      • He also didn’t care what the others thought about him calling him.


  • Second note Matthew’s immediate response.


  • The point is to differentiate people who know they are sick from people who believe they are safe and healthy in their religion.
    • I surmise Jesus knew Matthew would respond this way.
    • Jesus targets him to make this point!
      • Matthew was ready to repent. He “rose and followed him.” 
      • There’s no hesitation or discussion here.


  • Matthew had considered the cost was no doubt filled with guilt and sadness and primed to follow his new Master.

To follow Jesus meant to literally and physically to follow Jesus. 

  • Jesus carried out a peripatetic method of teaching and leading.
    • Much like Aristotle, people would learn from their master, while walking alongside him. To follow was to become Jesus’ student. 
    • RC Sproul was famous for a quote: “It is not enough to read the Bible; you must study the Bible!”
    • Similarly, it is not enough to know about Jesus, you must know Jesus!  

For Matthew, there would be no going back to his business. 

  • It’s been said that the fishermen could return to their businesses after following Christ but for Matthew, once you leave this kind of racket, this kind of power, and this kind of money, you’re not going back.
    • You can’t.
    • Someone takes your franchise over and you have also lost all clout.
    • Suffice it to say, Levi was now a follower of Christ.

This was a dramatic as when Zacchaeus was converted. 

  • He repented with a zeal that committed to give half his wealth to the poor and to repay up to four times the amount of those he had cheated.


  • Matthew repented of this same power of loving wealth.

ESV  1 Timothy 6:9-10 But athose who desire to be rich fall into temptation, binto a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that cplunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of aall kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

As ridiculous as this sounds as an evangelism strategy,

  • I believe we often over complicate our approach.
    • We read books, feel we must build an intellectual bridge, build a good measure of accountability, before we would ever say anything to someone about where they stand spiritually.
    • This often accounts for a lack of trust in the sovereignty of God.
    • And the precise of providential hand that unfolds our lives right in front of us.

Some of you may have read my blog post about attending the G3 conference last week.  I ended up flying to Atlanta by way of a circuitous route.  At that point in my trip I was flying out of Burbank, about to board, I got a text from an old college and then seminary friend.  We probably connect every 5 years or so and he wondered if I was in O’Hare airport, to which I said, “no” but I’m boarding a flight in Burbank?  Weird, but I guess I had a doppelganger.  After joking around, saying that really was me (though it wasn’t), he and I actually ended up flying to same airport (Sea-Tac) as a hop to our next flight.  By texting, we figured out we were two terminals over, I said jogged over and said hello.  I bring that up not to because it was odd providence but more so to bring up how different we are from each other now.  When he asked me where I was going, I mentioned the G3 conference.  I assumed G3 was going to be what I reported it to be, so I didn’t press in to explain what it was to my friend.  The lines are now drawn so clearly it is hard to go there unless you are going to go there.  The key is that Christianity and the Bible has not become any less clear.  God’s Word never graduates from saying what it has always said about everything.  The issue for us is not going to be the need to be further educated on how to address these complex debates.  No, it is going to come down to one thing.  Are we going to be prepared to stand strong with the truth of the Gospel and will we willingly face the consequences?      

I think the abruptness of verse 9 accounts for Jesus believing he was supposed to encounter Matthew in this unique moment. 

  • This kind of moment, and discerning it this way, is not exclusive to Christ, since as have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside each one of us.
    • Jesus was moved to command Matthew to “Follow” him and likewise we should be discerning when and how we should speak to others.
    • It has been said, the crowd would have let out a collective gasp at Matthew’s response.


  • There is not record of Matthew saying anything.
    • He must have known Christ by reputation.
    • He understood the integrity of Christ.
    • He must have known in his heart that this is the One who has come to save.
    • God must have been working behind the scenes for this immediate and dramatic response to spawn from Matthew.

ESV  1 Corinthians 3:6 aI planted, bApollos watered, cbut God gave the growth.

  • He just “gets up” and starts after Jesus.
    • We never know the load that consumes the lives of others.
    • What is it that people must let go of to follow Jesus?
    • On the other hand, consider that fact that nothing less than leaving a life given to extortion, extorting others, satisfies true repentance and faith.

Matthew “knew he was sick spiritually!” 

  • His conscience was plagued or riddled with guilt over what he was doing, so much so, that when presented the way out, he took it!
    • And did so without hesitation.
    • Evangelizing others is seeing the providential hand of God at work within every detail.

The great author, Alfred Edersheime, of The Life and Times of Christ said, “[Matthew] said not a word, for his soul was in the speechless surprise of unexpected grace.” 

Far from being depressed about what he left behind; his heart overflowed with joy!  Lost a career but gained a destiny! 

Before leaving verse 9, I must accent that “he rose and followed him” (v. 9). 

  • It appears that the body language in what Matthew does is to make a point.
    • Similarly, to how Peter, James, and John “dropped their nets” Matthew “rises” from the table of the tax-collector.
    • It has been said that Matthew leaving his Roman Government job would mean that someone else would take it.
    • The door for his occupation would quickly close behind him if he left the position.
      • For a fisherman to follow Christ meant he was willing to follow Jesus but for Matthew to follow Jesus meant his reputation would be marred as a traitor, following a Jewish radical, a known threat and subsequently Matthew would never be able to return to his position.

Jobs are going to be threatened more and more within our government system. 

  • Pressures for tax-exemption status or pressures regarding lawsuits for regarding normal Christian conduct are on the near horizon.
    • What all this means practically is yet to be determined.
    • Still, you must think that following Christ comes with a cost.
    • For some of you, the cost might seem too high to say anything at work.
    • But did God not put you there, so you would speak?


  • Our country’s value of freedom is being called into question over the question of “forcing” vaccinations.
    • A divisive issue for our country. 
    • Important to make the issue the real issue which is the conversions of lost sinners.


  • Winning people God is preparing to be won.
    • For Matthew, his mind was made up.
      • There was no present debate within this moment.
      • His decisive action of obedience speaks to his resolute mindset, to follow Christ.



2. Reclining at your home with anyone (v. 10)

This leads to verse 10, introducing a new scene and another providential setting that appears unplanned with no apparent agenda. 

“And…Jesus reclined at table in the house” (v. 10). 

  • Some in today’s Christian circles wrongly cast having people in your literal home as somehow being more spiritual than other venues.
  • This is authentic.   

Matthew’s conversion demonstrated by his openness to his colleagues. 

  • Sproul said, “He called his old friends!”
    • Levi throws a party for the other tax collectors to be with his new Master.
    • Mark’s account provides some incite where Levi’s saying they should do what he did.
    • Mark 2:15 says “there were many who followed him” indicating that this was turning into a movement.

Remember who this crowd is. 

  • This is not the good crowd – this is the bad crowd.
    • This is healthy crowd, a crowd of sick people who had felt the guilt of their sin for long enough.
      • It was time to go be with Jesus. I take “tax collector” as synonymous with “sinner” so the crowd of sinners meant a crowd of outcasts. 
      • These were the unclean dregs of society – though this brand may have been those of the wealthy class. I don’t know. 

I love the relaxed posture represented with the fact that as “Jesus reclined at the table” (v. 9),

  • Mark’s account says, “many tax-collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples” (cf. Mk. 2:15).
  • The eating style was lying on the floor around a table propped up on one elbow with your feet out.
    • This pictures intimate face to face conversations with Christ.
    • Intimacy like this with people who knew they were sick – meaning people who knew they needed Jesus.

He is “in the house” (v. 10) which is Matthew’s house and the populous comes to him. 

  • The crowds are reacting to him.
    • This crowd appears to be different than the group that has been coming for healing or teaching.
    • Certainly, this is not the religious group that came to judge Jesus.


  • The opposite group, what would be unacceptable to the religious.
    • Jesus opened the door to associating with people said to be “unclean” when he reached out to Matthew.
    • So, now this group feels like it can draw near to him.

Verse 10 says Jesus “reclined at table” which appears to be an expression where Jesus would have his guard down. 

  • He is relaxed with known sinners.
    • Never participating in their sins.
      • Jesus was not using culture as a bridge to reach the culture, but instead was spending relational time with them as an affirmation that they had repented.
      • Or, possibly that they were hearing the word of God from him.


  • Reclining would be the normal eating and talking posture around a table and it was “in the house.”

Verse 10 indicates that these “sinners” came to him. 

Jesus must have had an open-door policy where he welcomed them on Jesus’ terms. 

  • I am not sure you can nor should principle-make this approach as a do and do not test for outreach.
  • At the same time, Jesus is setting an example for how he welcomed those who wanted to be with him.

When I was newly converted, my brother suggested we have a pray in the New Year party for our youth group.  Word got out that we were gathering triggering a phone call from one of my closest friends who was kind a wild persona and who had not become a Christian.  We had grown up together and I was about two months in the Lord.  This friend began to make his case that he wanted to come with humble intentions, referencing how I had just testified to my conversion to the entire youth group and how he was interested to come.  So, at risk of him blowing up the atmosphere, I said, “sure!”  To which I came downstairs to the kitchen, met by my brother’s great dismay for what I had done!  He is going to mess everything up!  So, gathered around the TV, welcoming the year 1990, the “ball” dropped, we turned the TV off, and set out to pray around the room.  After about 5 or 10 prayers, we came to Brian.  There was a notable pause, and then whimpers turning to sobs.  On that very spot, he publicly repented and gave his life to Jesus.   

  • Those who wanted to eat with Jesus, meaning, they were those who wanted to be around Jesus.
    • Verse 12 makes clear that they were coming to Jesus based on their recognizing they were “sick” and that they knew they needed help!
    • And that Jesus could give it to them.


3. Answering questions of everyone (vv. 11-13)

The New Testament apart from the example for missionary service given to us in the book of Acts, we are left with minimal instruction exactly how we are to bridge the gap in evangelism. 

  • In fact, I have found mostly, evangelism is living your Christian life in such a way that people will then ask you what makes you, you?
    • As Christ himself put it:
      • We are a city on a hill.
      • Salt and light.
      • Answering with gracious speech from Colossians 4.
      • Winning without a word from 1 Peter 3.
      • Ready to make a defense from 1 Peter 3.

Verse 11 introduces the Pharisees. 

  • There are three groups of people.
    • Jesus, the sinless Savior who plays role of the spiritual doctor, the sinners who in this case are coming to Jesus with their spiritual condition, in need of being made well, and lastly the Pharisees who play the role of cynical judge, criticizing this entire event with hopes to accuse Jesus of violating the Law.


  • Pharisees accuse: “Jesus is not practicing holiness.”


  • He cannot be holy as Jesus is not separating himself from obvious sinners.


Verse 11 the Pharisees target Jesus disciples, being divisive bringing up the issue of Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners does not on the face of it, appear to break the Law. 

Being divisive like jumping int the comment section on Twitter. 

ESV  Matthew 23:23 a"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For byou tithe mint and dill and ccumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: djustice and mercy and faithfulness. eThese you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.


These Pharisees ask Jesus disciples (too risky to ask Jesus directly), “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 

  • Pharisees were accusing Jesus if guilt by association.
  • Jesus violating Psalm 1:1.

ESV  Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man1 who awalks not in bthe counsel of the wicked, nor stands in cthe way of sinners, nor dsits in ethe seat of fscoffers

A verse like this is a warning against being influenced but in no way takes away the opportunity to influence. 

  • Everything boils down to motive.
    • If your motive for being around sinners is to let your guard down to be passively influenced, then you are vulnerable.
      • But if you are seeking to spend time with sinners who are open to your influence then by all means influence.
      • This is exactly what Jesus did.
        • It is wise to move into others’ lives but with other believers.
        • It is also wise to move in with boldness.
        • We are called to unashamedly proclaim Christ to others – to win people to Jesus. Jesus is winsome to hurting sick – guilty people.  People want to dump their heavy rucksack. 


  • The accusation is guilt by association.
    • Eating with sinners is for them a sign of approval to what they were doing.
      • Not the case for Jesus at all.
      • Jesus eating with sinners was at the very least a way of reaching out to them and perhaps more to celebrate the forgiveness and grace now manifest in the lives of those who are in fellowship with Christ.

Jesus’ response in verse 12, having heard this accusation appears to clear the air in terms of his motive for reclining at table with such people. 

  • The open door for Jesus to appear to let his guard down with tax-collectors and sinners was their state of heart.

“Jesus heard” what the Pharisees said, and this verse shows how Jesus turns the tables on them. 

  • The Pharisees were judging Jesus in terms of his outward actions and Jesus used this to expose the Pharisees inward spiritual condition.
    • Remember the premise:
      • Two kinds of people in this world.
      • Those who know they need a physician and those in denial.


  • Jesus reveals they were in denial.
    • Religious people don’t think they are sick; they think they are righteous!

You have heard of the cult group known as Christian Science - a movement developed in the early 19th century based on the idea of possessing metaphysical state of mind.  For example, it teaches that sickness as an illusion and thus promotes praying alone for relief and it opposed to seeking medical attention. 

Hollywood actors have gone after this – perhaps used to living in what’s make-believe. 

Val Kilmer a famous movie actor is part of this and last year was suffering from a tumor in his throat resisting treatment until he started bleeding profusely – for which he finally went for medical help.  I bring this up as a picture of denial.  Religious people are sick in their hearts.  They have tumors of the heart that need to be addressed – they need a Doctor whether they know it or not.  One of the saddest things to watch is when people who need medical treatment are too stubborn to receive it.

Verse 12 has two categories of people, “Those who are well” and “…those who are sick” (v. 12). 

  • Someone who is “well” here is the opposite.
    • They believe they are “well” but will not admit they are desperately sick.
    • No need for a physician whatsoever.
    • They are just fine, or they believe they are.


  • Religious people build a total façade of wellness, believing they are safe and secure by their religious standards and law-keeping.
    • Their good outweighs their bad rendering them bulletproof to being outside of God’s blessing.
    • What is wrong for them would be to enter this kind of friendship or association with “sinners.”

The mindset of the Pharisees is one of superiority.

  • Leading them to look down on others who do not have what they have.


ESV  Luke 18:9-14 He also told this parable to some awho trusted bin themselves that they were righteous, cand treated others with contempt: 10 "Two men awent up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 The Pharisee, astanding by himself, prayed1 bthus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.12 aI fast twice a week; bI give tithes of all that I get.'13 But the tax collector, astanding far off, ewould not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but bbeat his breast, saying, 'God, cbe merciful to me, a sinner!'14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For aeveryone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."


The second option Jesus designates is “…those who are sick” which what he means to say, is there are “…those who know they need help.” 

  • People who know they have a problem.
    • Sin that needs to be solved.
    • They understand the guilt of sin and that they need a Physician to help them.


There are many people I have met who are anti-doctors.  I recognize that medical help can come with a severe financial cost.  I also recognize that the real admission a doctor must make is that he or she is strictly practicing medicine.  No doctor is omniscient nor will any good doctor claim to be. 


A doctor is one who generally moves a patient to put themselves in the best possible conditions for their body to heal itself.  Doctors try to remove or fight off whatever is harming the body while prescribing physical and medicinal measures to build the body. 


But, as I understand medicine, doctors want to body to do its thing and help itself to betterment.  All this kind of help is stopped when someone denies their need for help.  Someone who is living in denial, saying “I am not sick” when they are very sick. 

Others might see it, but they do not, will not.  The sad eventuation is when people living in denial will not be helped and they are given over to the point of no return.  In this case, you have those who believe they are well off enough to play doctor while they themselves are terminally ill. 

Back to why Jesus can “eat” with these “sinners” without being complicit to their sins. 

  • Jesus has discerned that their company represents their desire for help.
  • People who are sick comes to Jesus to say, let me come to your clinic.

I compare this to someone coming for counseling. 

  • Someone coming over to your house to spend time around believers or a believer.
    • People have miss-applied this setting to give license to false evangelistic methods of participating in worldly activities to build a proverbial bridge in the name of being real and non-judgmental to reach people for Christ.
      • Participating in worldly activities with sinners does nothing but justify in their consciences their sin.
      • The idea is not to go and drink with sinners as a means of reaching them for Christ.


  • In fact, often is the case, abstaining from the activity while still approaching them in friendship is a better strategy.
    • The Holy Spirit is the only one who can rescue a hardened heart, so putting yourself in a compromised position with unbelievers is never the way forward.
      • Christians without even trying, prove the sufficiency of our Savior when we love people who know they do not deserve it.
      • People who are using worldly means to help dissuade their guilty consciences, away from Christ, through mind numbing activities!

Tax-collectors who have abused the system, ripping others off need to see your openhanded graciousness regarding money. 

  • I think of Paul’s approach in 1 Corinthians 9:22 where he claimed, “I have become all things to all men that I might win some.”
    • This has been abused and twisted as a free pass toward world license.


  • “What of the other warnings to separate from the world?”
  • How can we be called to separation while believing that we are supposed to take on the cloak of worldliness to reach the world? Which is it? 


  • God’s Word never says, go sin. Go look like the world. 
    • Reach others covertly, where you surprise them that you do not need the world’s escapism to be happy.
    • “Surprise!” Christ is truly all I needed after all! “No, on compromising!” 

The Bible explicitly calls Christians to flee lusts of the flesh. 

  • To be light not dark. To be holy not lawless. 
  • To stand out and stand up in the face of persecution.
  • To be not conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our minds.

So, what does Paul mean by “becoming all things to all men, to sin some?” 

  • Every scenario he describes in 1 Cor. 9 is one of deference or specifically what Paul is willing to let go of, to remove any obstacle for others to hear the message of the Gospel.
    • So, if drinking is a barrier to people hearing the message and believing you have a credible testimony, then you defer and stop drinking.
    • If watching Netflix is a hindrance to people believing you have credibility, then you stop watching Netflix.
    • If your course language is a hindrance to your credibility, then you speak cleanly.

ESV  2 Corinthians 6:17 Therefore ago out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you

ESV  2 Timothy 2:22 So aflee byouthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with cthose who call on the Lord dfrom a pure heart.

ESV  1 John 2:15 aDo not love the world or the things in the world. bIf anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.


  • For Paul, it meant, his acting in terms of being a stronger or weaker brother in terms of whom he was around.
    • Some could eat meat sacrificed to idols while others could not, and he would determine how he would participate accordingly.
    • All, while not violating his own conscience.
    • The true gut check is your motivation.

If you are honest, this mis-construal of both Jesus’ model and Paul’s instruction in 1 Cor. 9 come from people’s desire to have their proverbial cake and eat it too. 

  • People want to taste the world while seeking the lost.

When this is the temptation to allow yourself to slide this direction: 

  • Zeal to see others come to Christ quiets down, when living in between the world and heaven.

You have built an unsteady sway bridge and find yourself wondering why you’re not enjoying the walk from one side to the other.  The rock-solid bridge is built when our sufficiency is fully in Christ.

He is enough.  He is all you need. He is your source for strength and encouragement. Your gas tank to reach others is filled with pure unleaded, not some admixture of gas and oil where your car splutters down the road, unable to shift well, having a compromised transmission. 

  • Our fellowship with others is likewise damaged and stilted with we rely on anything else other than Christ.
    • What is amazing is how flamboyant our culture is now a days with its sin.
    • As if to call the bluff of the covert Christian, saying your half-measure testimonies are powerless, so just give all the way over to me!

Jesus reclining at table in the house, means Jesus was inviting “tax collectors” and “sinners” to his home for a Bible study and people were coming in recognition that Jesus was different. 

  • Jesus was not sick, they were.
    • He was not compromised, they were.
    • He was not involved in their sin, they were.
    • And, they wanted out and believed Jesus could get them out.

Jesus says, “Go and learn” which is a Rabbinic formula to learn the true meaning. 

  • The Pharisees were to consider that they were the apostates, “persevering the shell while losing the heart” [France].

“What is Jesus challenging them to figure out?” 

  • Verse 13 says, Jesus heard the Pharisee’s accusation and now answers his disciples with a principle from Hosea 6:6.
    • Where the context of extreme mercy is on display with Hosea being challenged by God to redeem his wife from “whoredom.”
      • Going after Baals, as an apostate, and after lovers.
      • This to picture the mercy of God going after his Old Testament bride, Israel.

This parallel’s David’s words where he is confessing his great sin in Psalm 51:16-17. 

  • David principlizes his repentance in that God never seeks the outward but the inward.
    • God does not want our religious external actions but the integrity of a heart that is truly repentant.
    • God may have prescribed ways to represent man’s repentance, but these ways can never be used to supplant genuine repentance.


  • Doing something where you heart is not operating in faith is repugnant to the Lord.


Jesus, quoting God from the Old Testament, says, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” speaks to God’s omniscience, him being able to see inside hearts, hearts that in this case have been transformed. 

  • For the Lord to say, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” is a clear indictment on the Pharisees.
    • They would color between the lines, and sacrifice to believe they were right with God. They were not. 
    • Mercy only comes from a soft heart.

Having your heart “transformed” could mean to be made merciful. 

  • Perhaps, this is revealing hearts that have been shown mercy because of heart repentance.
    • Or this is hearts he sees, offering mercy, because they have been shown mercy.
      • In either case, God is saying, “I desire mercy…not sacrifice” (v. 13).
      • In this moment when Jesus speaks to sacrificial offerings, the Law was still in effect.
        • The Jews were under the Law of Moses and so bound to offer sacrifices.
        • Remember, when Jesus was born, two turtle doves were offered.


  • “So, what is the point, both Hosea 6 and Jesus?”

The context of verse 13 governs the principle. 

  • Certainly, Jesus would fulfill the sacrificial system and Law therein with his once for all death on the cross.
    • At the same time, Jesus is making the point that though the sacrificial system is still required (at this moment), he wants nothing to do with people hardened in the hearts toward God, who are making sacrifices.
    • People who believe they are “righteous” who are not.
    • By contrast, Jesus wants those who know they are “sinners” (v. 13).


  • Jesus is saying, “I am on a mission of mercy.”

I feel as though I need to say, that people will likewise miss-construe Jesus’ use of “sinners” to rationalize their worldliness. 

  • People saying, “I know I am just a sinner” so I have full rights to do whatever, they want to irrespective of what your conscience informs you not to do.
    • This kind of twisted theology puts people in conflict with what Jesus wants for you.
    • By contrast, a “sinner” is aware of their sin and need for saving grace and constant grace.
    • You needed to be born again and now you need the grace of God to grow.


  • Jesus is our Physician.
    • If Jesus refused to eat at table with these sinners, then he never would have eaten with you and me.


  • His posture at this table is not he exception to how he engages sinners but the rule.

Gentle and lowly, Dane Ortland:

In the summer of 1740 Jonathon Edwards preached a sermon exclusively to the children of his congregation, those from ages one through fourteen.  The great theologian preparing in his study in Northampton, Massachusetts, considering what to say to the six- and eight- and ten-year-olds in his church. 

The sermon he prepared covered twelve pages and the top of the first read: “To the children, Aug. 1740.  What would you expect the greatest theologian in American history to say to the kids of his congregation?  “Children ought to love the Lord Jesus Christ above all things in the world.”

He took Matthew 10:37, from KJV “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”  In was a short sermon, taking fifteen minutes to preach.  Edwards gave six reasons children should love Jesus more than anything else in life.  The first:

There is no love so great and so wonderful as that which is in the heart of Christ.  He is one that delights in mercy; he is ready to pity those that are in suffering and sorrowful circumstances; one that delights in the happiness of his creatures.  The love and grace that Christ has manifested does as much exceed all that which is in the world as the sun is brighter than a candle.  Parents are often full of kindness towards their children, but that is no kindness like Jesus Christ’s. 

The first thing out of Jonathon Edward’s mouth, in exhorting the kids in his church to love Jesus more than everything else this world can offer, is the heart of Christ.


Jesus is merciful.  He came on a mission of mercy. 

Our present state of grace is based on how Jesus received you as a sinner. 

  • He is with us now. He eats with us now. 
    • Jesus will eat with us at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
    • We must understand that Jesus’ nearness is everything to us.
    • The barrier of our sin has been broken, so Jesus’ being close at hand, knowing our every thought, concern, and need is what is represented by his nearness.


  • He is near to us and his nearness in no way compromises his holiness.
    • His holiness is what we share in, though we are weak sinners, who struggle and fight for holiness, we are those who rely on his grace and mercy.

Thank you, Christ, that as I draw near to you, you draw near to me.  You receive sinners and fellowship is mine to be had.          

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