9 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.” (Matthew 9:9 (ESV)
Matthew described his own call into discipleship in today’s text. Jesus’ call to Matthew is recorded here, in Mark 2:14-17 and in Luke 5:27-32. We will focus on Matthew’s personal recollection of the incident.
Today’s story immediately follows the healing of the paralytic man (Matt. 9:1-8). Jesus passed on (παράγω; paragon) or departed from Capernaum. He was traveling from there to another place.
It was while He was traveling that Jesus saw Matthew. Matthew was a tax collector (Matt. 10:3). His name means gift of God. When Jesus came upon him, Matthew was sitting at the tax booth (τελώνιον; telonion). It was the place of business where tax collectors sat to collect taxes.
“The one sitting at the toll booth in the gospels of Mark, Luke, is not called “Matthew,” but “Levi.” In Mark 2:14, he is called “Levi the son of Alphaeus”; in Luke 5:27 he is called “a tax collector named Levi,” explains one commentator.
His fellow Jews considered Matthew an extortioner, a thief and an outcast. The Roman government hired Jews to collect taxes from the countrymen to give to Rome. Matthew was working for the oppressive government. Not only that, but once Matthew met his tax quota, he was free to keep anything more he collected.
“Matthew’s own humility is seen here. He did not disguise his past or make any excuse for it. Whereas Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 employ his former name, Levi, Matthew himself used the name by which he was known after becoming a disciple (cf. Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15). Tax collectors were among the most despised persons in this society. The money they collected was often partly extorted for personal gain (cf. Luke 19:8) and partly a tax for Rome, which made them not only thieves, but also traitors to the Jewish nation,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.
There were two types of tax collectors. There were the Gabbai and the Mokhes.
The Gabbai collected taxes on property, income and polls. These amounts were set by Rome so there was little graft or corruption. However, the Mokhes collected taxes on everything. They set tables up at road intersections and collected on imports and exports. They taxed everything they could. Matthew was a Mokhes.
Jesus said to Matthew, ““Follow me.” This was not a request to consider but rather a command to be obeyed. Matthew obeyed. He rose from his tax booth and followed Jesus.
“When Matthew walked from his tax table, he walked away from his career. A lot more was at stake for him than for the fishermen who left their nets. If following Jesus didn’t work for them, they could always go back to fishing – their nets and boats would still be there. However, when Matthew walked away from his tax table, the Roman government has somebody else there the next day—cutting off his career for good,” states Dr. MacArthur.
The theme through Matthew 9 is forgiveness for sin is found in Jesus Christ. Every saint in Christ is forgiven of their sin by Christ. Believers in Christ are not stained-glass saints, but rather wretched sinners who are forgiven by the person and work of the Son of God.
Have you been forgiven of your sins? Confession, repentance and forgiveness is solely found in Jesus Christ.
Soli deo Gloria!