Formations lesson for August 22: God Calls Matthew : Friday, Aug. 6, 2004
August 6 2004 by Ken Vandergriff

Formations lesson for August 22: God Calls Matthew : Friday, Aug. 6, 2004
Friday, Aug. 6, 2004

Formations lesson for August 22: God Calls Matthew

By Ken Vandergriff
Focal Passage: Matthew 9:9-13

Have you ever done the right thing and then been criticized for it? Has the criticism ever come from people who should have known better? Sometimes responding to God's call can get us into just such a situation.

An unlikely recruit

Matt. 9:9

There is much that we don't know about Matthew. We don't have strong evidence that this Matthew was the author of this gospel, and the fact that Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 name the tax collector disciple Levi raises numerous questions about his identity (see the Anchor Bible Dictionary article on "Matthew"). One thing we do know - that he was a tax collector put him in disrepute.

In Greco-Roman writings, tax collectors were linked to beggars and thieves; in the Jewish Mishnah they were linked with robbers and murderers; six out of the 19 dishonorable occupations listed by the Greek grammarian Julius Pollux, in his Onamasticum, were types of tax collectors.

As a disciple of Jesus, Matthew was not a likely recruit. But when God calls, God observes the potential of an individual. God sees not just what we are, but what we can become.

We're not told what went through Matthew's mind as he heard Jesus' invitation. Had he heard Jesus before, and if so, what soul searching had that prompted? Was he dissatisfied with his life even before Jesus called? Was he perfectly content in his life and then suddenly and unexpectedly made a life-changing decision, as quite a few of us have done?

We don't know, and it's just as well. Since each of us responds to God from a unique life situation, we shouldn't attempt to fit all call experiences into a single mold.

A happy ending?

Matt. 9:10-13

Does this narrative have a happy ending or not?

On the one hand, the text implies that Matthew did a good thing, drawing his associates to Jesus. What lively table conversation that must have been.

On the other hand, the religious folk complained; tax collectors and sinners, after all, are "not our kind of people."

In response to the complainers, Jesus quoted from Hosea 6:6. Since Jesus would quote that same verse again to other complainers (12:7), we can assume that the principle set forth by the prophet was significant for Jesus.

In Hosea's time, the eighth-century B.C., Israel appeared religious, regularly going to shrines and offering their gifts to God.

But it was an empty religiosity, devoid of a genuine knowledge of God and social justice. God, through the prophet, called attention to the main thing: mercy is far more important than sacrifice, the knowledge of God more than burnt offering.

In citing this verse, Jesus challenged those in His day who made a show of religion but missed the real point.

Tax collectors and sinners were coming to God, but the complainers didn't see that. What good is religion if it can't rejoice when sinners come to God?

In his book, The Kingdom of God is a Party, Tony Campolo tells the marvelous story of being in Hawaii on a speaking engagement, awake in the middle of the night due to the time zone differences, and visiting a diner which turned out to be the hangout for a group of prostitutes when they finished working.

Overhearing that one woman's birthday was the following day, he collaborated with the diner owner to throw a surprise party for this woman he had never met.

When, after the successful party, the owner learned that Campolo was a minister, the owner growled, "What kind of church do you belong to?"

Campolo replied, "I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning."

An unsettling thing this call of God is. Who knows the people God might invite?

8/6/2004 12:00:00 AM by Ken Vandergriff | with 0 comments

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