10 “And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10–13 (ESV)
Following the conversion and call of Matthew (Matt. 9:9; Mark 2:13-14; Luke 5:27-28), the new disciple hosted a meal in his house (Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29). Luke describes the gathering as a great feast (Luke 5:29). It included a large company of tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29).
Implicit in this scene is that Matthew owned a rather large house since he was able to host such a feast and gathering of guests. Matthew had apparently become financially wealthy as a Roman tax collector. He became eternally wealthy as a disciple of Jesus, the King of kings.
“Matthew celebrated becoming a disciple with a banquet at which many of the guests were as disreputable as he himself had been. This took place in the house, where the article points to a particular house, probably Matthew’s own house (Mark and Luke say that it was),” explains commentator Leon Morris.
All three Gospels describe the setting as reclining or reclining at table. Reclining (ἀνάκειμαι; anakeimai) means to lie on side on a cushion in order to eat. According to Luke 5:29, this meal was a banquet that had been carefully prepared and presented. It is evident that Matthew spared no expense in hosting this meal.
Jesus and His disciples were in attendance. The sense is that Jesus was the guest of honor. Matthew wanted his friends and colleagues to meet Jesus.
“Matthew’s characteristic look makes it all so vivid: his readers are invited to see it all in their minds’ eyes. The guests were not such as might be expected where a religious teacher was the honored guest, but disreputable, tax collectors and sinners. The combination points to social outcasts,” states Morris.
The people in attendance were having a wonderful time. However, those not in attendance, the Pharisees and scribes, were not happy. Luke says that they grumbled (Luke 5:30). To grumble (γογγύζω; gongyzo) means to make complaining remarks or noises under one’s breath.
“Matthew does not explain the presence of the Pharisees, but we too readily impose modern Western notions of domestic privacy without realizing the degree to which life in Palestine was much more public than is our experience. Given the significant numbers of people envisaged, ‘in the house’ might actually be out of doors in an open courtyard area belonging to the house. Or perhaps we are to think of the contact being made as the party is breaking up,” states commentator John Nolland.
The religious leaders grumbled at Jesus’ disciples. They said, ““Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
“Consorting with outcasts on any level—even merely speaking to them—was bad enough. Eating and drinking with them implied a level of friendship that was abhorrent to the Pharisees (cf. Luke 7:34; 15:2; 19:7),” explains Dr. John MacArthur.
What was Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisees’ criticism? That is what we will examine when next we meet. Always remember that Jesus is a friend for sinners.
Soli deo Gloria!