daily biblical sermons

Jesus transforms the humble who admit that they are sinners and come to him with genuine repentance
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, the Feast of St. Matthew, September 21, 2020
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13, Psalm 18, Matthew 9:9-13

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“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 he rose and followed him. And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard it, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Matthew 9:9-13).



Jesus called the tax collector Matthew to be one of his twelve apostles, not just one of his many disciples. Surely Matthew was already a disciple of Jesus, for his tax office was near where Jesus preached and worked his miracles. Matthew must have heard of him from the people and most likely heard some of his sermons and saw some of his miraculous healings and exorcisms. Jesus may even have spoken a bit to Matthew before calling him, explaining that he wanted him to be one of his twelve apostles, his inner circle of disciples who would follow him full-time wherever he went to learn his doctrine and later preach it to others.



So, when Matthew heard this call, he did what Jesus’ other apostles did. He left everything, his tax office, his livelihood, and followed Jesus, intending to follow him wherever he went. So, Jesus said to him, “‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him” (Matthew 9:9).



Matthew himself, the author of this gospel, is humble enough to make his disreputable origins known to the whole world, namely that he was a despised tax collector, a person looked down upon by the rest of the Jews because of his job, which was often connected with swindling and cheating people out of their money to give it to the hated Romans, who ruled over them.



Matthew is not ashamed to let it be known that he was a public sinner. In this way he makes himself an illustration of the gospel that he preaches. He illustrates Christ’s saving action for all sinners. In fact, Jesus surely selected him for that purpose, “that he might be an example of Christ’s undeserved goodness, and might show in his person that the calling of all of us depends, not on the merits of our own righteousness, but on his [Christ’s] pure kindness. Matthew, therefore, was not only a witness and preacher, but was also a proof and illustration of the grace exhibited in Christ” (John Calvin, 1509-1564).



After Matthew was called, he “made him [Christ] a great feast in his [Matthew’s] house (Luke 5:29). And Matthew invited many of his friends, all of whom were tax collectors or other public sinners like himself, which the rest of the people shunned and despised. So, “Behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples” (Matthew 9:10).



When the Pharisees saw this, they were shocked and scandalized that Jesus, a religious teacher, would associate and even dine with such disreputable people, something they themselves would never do.



The Pharisees complained to Jesus’ disciples about this, but Jesus overheard them talking, and said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13).



We are now at the very heart of the purpose for which Jesus was sent into the world, namely to save the world, to save sinners. Just as a doctor who is dedicated to curing and saving the sick goes and works in a hospital that is full of sick people, precisely so that he can have contact with them to cure them, in the same way Jesus is the Savior of sinners. So, he goes among sinners and has contact with them, not to join in their bawdy jokes and risqué conversation, but rather to use this occasion “to call men to truth and holiness” (William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1989), page 1235).



But if all human beings are sinners, why did Jesus choose to associate with tax collectors and public sinners that the rest of the population rejected as disgraceful and disreputable people with whom one should not associate? Why didn’t he associate with the Pharisees? Actually, he did. He dined with Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). But tax collectors had an advantage over the Pharisees in attracting Jesus, because they knew and admitted that they were sinners. This made them eligible for salvation, for to be saved by Jesus one must acknowledge oneself to be a sinner. The Pharisees would never do this, but tax collectors would and did. Therefore, Jesus turned to tax collectors and ate with them (William MacDonald, Believer’s Commentary, page 1235).



One must therefore come to Jesus as a sinner, admit one’s sinfulness, and seek one’s salvation from his sins in him. One must also repent. This means stop sinning gravely and intend to immediately amend your life. “Pardon is granted to us, not to cherish our sins, but to recall us to the earnestness of a devout and holy life” (John Calvin). One cannot continue to live in a constant state of objective mortal sin and be justified, as some high leaders in the Catholic Church are falsely teaching today.



Rather, we must genuinely repent and leave our sins behind us, as St. Paul says, “For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world” (Titus 2:11-12). We are not to live in constant objective mortal sin, but rather we are to renounce irreligion and worldly passions and promise to “live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world” (Titus 2:12). We are not to continue in a constant state of objective mortal sin and expect to be justified and renewed by Christ, as many high Church leaders are now falsely teaching in the Catholic Church today.



Christ came to save us by giving us a new life. “He came to quicken the dead, to justify the guilty and condemned, to wash those who were polluted and full of uncleanness, to rescue the lost from hell, to clothe with his glory those who were covered with shame, to renew to a blessed immortality those who were debased by disgusting vices” (John Calvin).



No sooner was Matthew called than he immediately began his apostolic ministry by inviting his friends, who were all public sinners, to a banquet in his house to meet Jesus and his disciples and to discuss and speak with them so that they too might benefit from his doctrine and saving power.



What, then, does an apostle do? He goes out to preach the gospel, especially to those that never heard it or have never paid attention to it. And what exactly is this gospel or good news that an apostle goes out to preach? It is a message that no human being, no philosopher, could ever figure out for himself, because it is based on divine revelation of things that human beings could not discover by their own intelligence or experience. And what is it that the gospel, this good news, tells us? What does it announce to us?



The gospel announces that the Son of God himself became man to save us from our sins by suffering, in our place, our death sentence for our sins for us so that we would not have to suffer it if only we would put our faith in him. The gospel tells us that God considers our death sentence that we owe him for our sins as fully paid for all that put their trusting faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation. We must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died on the cross for our sins to make full reparation for them for all that put their faith in him.



Since everyone has a debt with God of eternal punishment for their sins, no one can be saved, because everyone must pay this debt forever in hell. But God did not want everybody to be damned. So, he arranged a way of paying our debt for our sins for us by sending us a proxy, a representative, actually, a substitute, who would suffer our death sentence for our sins for us.



But what do we have to do to benefit from this? We have to believe in him, putting our trusting faith in his atoning, saving death on the cross, and acknowledge and believe that his death is the punishment that we owe God for our sins. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, God justifies us.



God’s justifying us means that God sees that our debt has been paid for us and that we owe him nothing more by way of punishment for our sins. We can therefore enter into eternal life with God, reconciled with him, for our alienation from him has been overcome for us by Christ’s vicarious, atoning death on the cross for our sins. When we die in this holy state of faith in Jesus Christ, trusting that his death has paid our debt of suffering in punishment for our sins, we enter into the presence of God in the fullness of his kingdom in heaven.



This is the gospel, the good news, that no human being, no great philosopher, could ever invent on his own. It is a revelation from God himself, prepared for in the Old Testament, and given to us by Jesus Christ, the Son of God himself.



To be an apostle of Jesus Christ means following Christ, being justified by him, and then spending our life proclaiming this good news, this gospel, especially to people that are aware of their sinfulness and long for salvation from their sins. To be an apostle is to preach this gospel especially to those that have never heard it or never taken it seriously so that they too might have the opportunity of experiencing God’s salvation in Jesus Christ.


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