this short section of Scripture we omit several miracles which Jesus has
performed. He has gone from place to place, healing and preaching the kingdom
explains why the call of Matthew is so abrupt; we tend to see it as an
isolated event; but Christ’s fame in the area would have reached even the tax
collector’s ears. So when Christ comes to Matthew, the appeal is short and
a sense, however, it is a miracle of its own right. The men called by Jesus up
to this point have been sturdy and honest men, working in the open air to make
their living honestly. Matthew is a tax collector; like Zaccheus later, he has
some repentance to do. Christ has rescued him from a life of greed – as
powerful a sin as any that fostered a twelve step program. The price Christ
paid for this at the Cross makes it an expensive rescue. “Christ died for
sinners, of whom I am chief.”
of the Pharisees
we actually come to the Scripture, we might see that the Pharisees – who have
also seen this string of miracles – do not attack Jesus directly. Their case
rests not on the will of God but the perception of the common man. They intend
to split off some of the disciples. Without ceremony, Christ answers the
attack. It is a lesson to us – seek the truth in the Scriptures, depend upon
the Holy Spirit and see if our Lord will not defend us.
is an unusual literary event here: Matthew mentions his own name. In the
custom of the time this would have been considered unseemly.
Matthew does it so that we might see him as he was: a tax collector for the
invading Romans, a man universally despised. He does not hide his sins, but
brings them out so that we may see that even the worst of sinners is not beyond
is more to it than that. Here is a man who is accustomed to handling money,
but we do not see him ever portrayed as handling the money for the disciples.
It is possible to be drunk on money; do not tempt those known to have the
us therefore see what has occurred.
Hospital or Health Club
Mat 9:9-13 NIV
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax
collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and
followed him. (10) While Jesus was having
dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and
ate with him and his disciples. (11) When the
Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat
with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" (12)
On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but
the sick. (13) But go and learn what this
means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'
For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
the church we have a conflict: what is the mission of the church? People see
there is the idea that the church is a hospital for sinners. Her primary
purpose is to seek and save the lost. No questions about whether or not
someone is “worthy enough” should ever arise. The fact that it is full of
sinners is a cause for rejoicing; we need not worry about our image to the
other idea, however, is that the church exists to build up the saints. It
should be conducting training classes (like this one), and generally
preparing the saints for life in the world but not of the world. Our
appearance to the world is extremely important – for they are ever alert
for hypocrisy. Sometimes my sin is seen as hypocrisy; “if you really
believed you would …”
shall see what each view has to recommend itself.
put this position says that everyone is a sinner – and knows it. That last is
the important distinction; we preach repentance to those who know they are, and
being born again to those who are sure they aren’t sinners. This concerns the
sinner side, to whom we say:
what you’ve done, Christ is not ashamed to call you home to the family of
He died for your sins; He loves you and wants to heal you.
great example of this is the Apostle Paul
– who persecuted the church, even to the point of death. Christ called
him – and you’re certainly no worse.
the hospital church makes no distinction between the worthy and unworthy
She does not segregate her people, but welcomes all.
In short, the
church says, “Repent.”
health club approach is rather opposite. The members are often those raised in
the church; they do not consider themselves sinners in the same sense that
hospital Christians do. They generally believe that they have done all
is not that they are legalists. If you asked them what they thought the Old
Testament Law required, they would tell you “perfection.” They understand that
no one can be saved that way. But they might point out:
are to be perfect.
They know that’s impossible. So they must constantly seek forgiveness for
failure to be perfect – to be a complete imitation of Christ. So it does
appear that they say one thing and practice another. If you’re not on the
inside, this is hard to understand as anything but hypocrisy.
are also commanded to do their good deeds in secret.
As a result, they again look like hypocrites for hiding the good things
they care for the reputation of the church – which is greatly connected with
evangelism – they are reluctant to deal with sin in public. The world
therefore sees them like the athletes at the local health club. On display
through one-way mirror glass, showing the world how trim and vigorous they
are. The world sees this and reads it as “fat slobs need not apply.” If
you’re not in shape, don’t come to our health club. You’d embarrass us.
then, are these pictures of the church to be reconciled? Only in Christ. It
is in His person that we are one. He alone has the power to weld the church
together – by methods that vary from age to age. But He does tell us to be
both health club and hospital:
Mat 28:18-20 NIV
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth
has been given to me. (19) Therefore go and
make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) and teaching them to obey everything I have
commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the
are to go and make disciples – and then teach them. There is room for both
health club and hospital in the church – if we will only do as He commands.
question of fasting
might well ask how this union is going to come about. I answer: “In the
person and power of Jesus Christ.” See in this section just such a problem.
disciples of John have been taught to fast; Jesus disciples do not fast (yet).
Mat 9:14-17 NIV
Then John's disciples came and asked him, "How is it that we and the
Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" (15)
Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is
with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then
they will fast. (16) "No one sews a
patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from
the garment, making the tear worse. (17)
Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will
burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour
new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."
is the preacher of repentance. His disciples fast; it is a way of showing true
repentance (among other things). It is something that is not required by the
Law of Moses, but was commonly done as a spiritual preparation. So you can see
the dilemma that the disciples of John have. On the one hand, their teacher
tells them to fast. But on the other, the man whom John has identified as the
Messiah does not fast. What gives?
a real sense, John’s doctrine is last and greatest under the Old Testament. The
question is a powerful one, and I suspect they leaned forward to here the
gives us a metaphor which deals with the health club and hospital problem while
at the same time dealing with the immediateness of the question. We must note:
has the personal authority to forgive sin. That’s new.
“newness” must be handled carefully. As it supersedes the Law, it cannot
be contained in the old legal form. It must be given a new form.
form is the church.
does this mean? Those under the Law at this time are very much “health club.”
Christ is telling them that a new form is coming, one which will include the
“righteous” and the “sinners.” Only the power of God could do that.
metaphors are given to us here to portray Christ.
is portrayed as the great Physician – seeking the lost as one would go to
the sick. The Physician sees the world as full of sick people who need
Him. He is the Lord of the hospital church.
is portrayed here as the Bridegroom – the one who presents to Himself the
church as His spotless bride. His bride is the church of the health club.
these views are just that: views. They are vantage points from which the Bride
of Christ can be seen – hospital for the sinner and health club for the saint.