An older couple had a son, who was still living with them. The parents were a little worried, as the son was still unable to decide about his future career. So they decided to do a small test. They put a note on the front hall table that they had left. Around the note they put a ten-dollar bill, a Bible, and a bottle of whiskey. Then they hid, pretending they were not at home. The father told his wife, “If our son takes the money, he will be a businessman, if he takes the Bible, he will be a pastor, but if he takes the bottle of whiskey, I’m afraid our son will be a no-good drunkard.” So the parents hid in the nearby closet and waited nervously, peeping through the cracks when they saw their son arrive. The son read the note that they had left. Then he took the ten-dollar bill, looked at it against the light, and slid it in his pocket. After that, he took the Bible, flipped through it, and put it under his arm. Finally, he grabbed the bottle, opened it, and took an appreciative whiff to be assured of the quality. Then he left for his room carrying all three items. The father slapped his forehead and said, “This is worse than I could ever have imagined! Our son is going to be a politician!”
Parents imagine all sorts of jobs and occupations they wish for their children. What will my children be when he/she grow up? When they are young we look for different talents and skills we think would help them in good occupations when they grow up and we try to steer them in those directions. We try to help them make good decisions and hope for the best. The reality, however, is that some of our children do great, some do well, some do okay, and some, well, turn out to be disappointments. That’s just the way things are.
I’m sure Matthew’s parents felt disappointed when their son turned out to be a tax-collector for the Romans. Out of anything a person back then could be in life, a tax collector in Israel at the time of the Roman occupation was the worse. Tax collectors were banned from church, could never enter Temple, were shunned by their fellow countrymen, and spit upon when they weren’t looking.
Everything changed for Matthew, however, the day when Jesus asked Matthew to follow him. It was no small thing that happened there. Jesus broke the societal norms speaking to Matthew and inviting him to follow. Perhaps Jesus saw something too easily overlooked, and that is the value of the person, not the position or job they held.
In calling Matthew, Jesus also shows us something important, an important idea for us to consider in our own lives, and that is that no matter what occupation or job we may be employed, or are retired from, in the Kingdom of Heaven, as Christians, we each have a primary vocation of following Jesus first in our lives.
I think from the text we can see that Jesus is no respecter of jobs. What I mean is that just as Matthew was called from his tax-collector booth, and just as Andrew, Peter, James and John were called from their fishing nets, so Jesus called all his disciples first and foremost in life to follow Him. In other words, they followed Jesus first before anything else they did. I think as disciples of Jesus today, our primary vocation, our most important pursuit in life, is still to follow Jesus first. From this call to follow comes all other callings, vocations, and jobs in life.
This primary vocation, this primary calling is realized in two ways in our lives: First as a day-by-day commitment to follow; and secondly as a life-long commitment to community.
- FIRST AS A DAY-BY-DAY COMMITMENT TO WALK WITH THE LORD
- In Matthew 9:9 we read, “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew rose and followed him.”
- Matthew got up and began a journey of discipleship with Jesus entailing learning, worshiping, fellowship, and obedience to Jesus’ teachings.
- Was Matthew a super Christian the day he stood up and started following Jesus?
- Was every problem in his life instantly solved, and all his questions answered?
- No, but everything Matthew would become in life came from answering that first calling of Jesus.
- I think this is what faith is all about – a commitment of trust in following the ways of God rather than the ways of the world. Psalm 37:5 states, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”
2. SECONDLY, A LIFE-LONG COMMITMENT TO COMMUNITY
- Matthew 9:10 reads, “And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.”
- Jesus that day didn’t call Matthew to follow him and walked away just leaving him at the tax table.
- When Jesus called Matthew to follow him, Matthew joined a community of other followers. In other words, when Jesus called Matthew to follow him, he called him into a community of other disciples following Jesus.
- I think this is what Jesus meant when he said in John 15:4, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me”
- To remain in Jesus means remaining in his body, and the Bible calls the church the body of Christ, therefore remaining in Christ means more than just remaining in his word, it means also to remain in his body – the Church.
- This is important because it’s in community with other believers that Matthew learned to be a disciple follower of Jesus. He was baptized by another disciple, he received the covenant of Jesus’ body and blood, and through the body of Christ he learned to love as Christ loved him.
- I think that in the same way Christ calls us to community because it’s in the community of fellow believers we deal with ourselves and experience others who are helping us, holding us up in prayer, and keeping each other accountable to faith.
No matter what job Matthew wanted in life, he did not realize his true potential in life and fulfill God’s will for his life until he answered the call of Jesus and walked in that call day-by-day commitment to Jesus and with a community of disciples. Look how his life turned out: it started out bad, being a tax collector, but while following Jesus, he became a missionary to Ethiopia and Persia. He became the writer of one of the Gospel accounts that literally changed the world. Billions of people have read his gospel, made the same commitment he made and entered the Kingdom of Heaven.
I have found in my own life it is no different.
For many years I struggle with what to do in life. I had so many options available to me; so many things I could do, it was perplexing because I was interested in so many different things. It wasn’t until I became consistent in my walk with Christ and committed myself to a Christian community that God’s plan for my life began to take shape.
Matthew went from a hated and despised tax-collector to disciple of Jesus – You never know what plans God may still have for you. In the Kingdom of Heaven, we each have a primary vocation of following Jesus first in our lives. The call of Jesus upon us is the call of first importance, and from there, everything else in life falls into place. Amen.
I hope this has been a blessing for you,
Pastor Rob Taylor