“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 rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many 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 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.’” Matthew 9:9-13
Matthew the tax collector loved a deal, and relished figuring how he could skim a bit more to pad his wallet, to enjoy just a bit more out of life. Yes, Matthew loved money,.. until he loved Jesus. Then everything changed. “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
This fine-life-but-questionable-reputation man rose up out of who he was to follow Jesus. His new Master had a different identity, and therefore altered his. He was the only gospel writer who identified himself as Matthew ‘the tax collector,’ because he never stopped marveling at what Jesus had done for him; the others knew him as a changed, sold-out-to-Jesus apostle. Matthew re-set his table from one that ‘got’ at the booth to one that ‘gave’ at his home. His impulse to promote himself and swindle crowds became a drive to promote Jesus to save his companions, to introduce them to the new freedom he enjoyed with Christ-transformed affection. And while the snobbish and blinded Pharisees criticized, Matthew was humbled and aware of his sin, forever changed. (Mark 3:16-18; Luke 6:13-16)
When Christ’s voice penetrates us, His word has its way in reworking our outlook, our affections, our priorities. Our new Leader and Lord changes what we see and seek. He anoints with transforming power the areas of ugliness in us that need His beauty, of blindness that need His revelation, of dark attitudes that need His light, grace, and love.
How has the Lord’s call from darkness to light changed me? How is my identity in Christ distinct from the world’s perception of me? Where are certain pulls and loves toward self-satisfaction becoming new and growing passions for my Savior and for others? How has the Lord turned my focus inside out, raising me above where I once wallowed? Where do I still need remaking?
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.” ~John Newton (1779)
Those whom the Son sets free are free, and changed, indeed. What evidence do I exhibit that I am a follower of Jesus? (John 8:36)
Loving Lord, may I follow You up out of any selfish orientation to be bound by Your heavenly priorities. Please reorient any wayward affections. Transform any allure of glitz or glory to a whole-hearted passion to see You glorified, known, and loved.