God’s mercy, love, grace, and compassion are demonstrated in giving you the only door of escape from the wrath and punishment that is to come
By Donald Whitchard
Matthew 9:9-13,Mark 2:13-17,Luke 5:27-32
Summary: So many people today feel like they exist more than they live, thinking that everything in this world is against them and that no one cares. Matthew, the tax collector, is just such a case. It turned out that Jesus had a plan for him, and for you as well.
Jesus’ compassion for people is evident as we progress through this Gospel, and this display of Divine love is also recorded by Matthew and Luke as well. The Lord Jesus is not the exclusive property of any group or man made religious system. Nobody can mold Him into one particular behavior to suit a personal worldview or have Him fit in with the elite. He breaks all the bonds of the world’s attempts to redefine Him as someone who focuses solely on loving people without being loving enough to rebuke their sins and faults before God and repent. He rightfully condemned those who revered formality and ritual over the need for righteousness.
In Chapter 2, verses 1-12, we rejoice with the man who had been healed of his paralysis. Not only is he well again, but has also been redeemed by the touch and word of the Lord Jesus. After the celebration and praise due God for such a wonderful encounter, Jesus continued to teach the crowds. Some are hungry for the true words of God, while others hang around out of curiosity, eager to get in on what they believe is an interesting but passing scene. He heads toward the shore of the Sea of Galilee and near His headquarters city of Capernaum, a center of commerce and activity in this small corner of the vast Roman Empire.
The Empire at that time was an economic, political, and militaristic powerhouse with sway over the western part of Europe, North Africa, and the area of Eastern Europe known as the Balkans, near what is today modern Russia. The economy ran on trade, exchange, commerce, and taxes as does any nation that wishes to prosper and stay both influential and strong. The Scriptures tell us of men whose job it was to collect taxes for both Caesar and the local authorities such as Herod Antipas, who ruled at Rome’s pleasure over the Galilee region. It was not so much a pleasant job as it was lucrative for Rome and the collectors, and the tax collectors really did not care if the citizens liked them or not. They set up their stalls at major roads, ports, city gates, and customs areas and would place taxes on everything from weights to axles and every form of commerce, often at rates higher than Rome ordinarily expected. The collectors would overcharge and keep that portion of the collection for themselves. The government didn’t care, just as long as they received what was legally due them.
It was bad enough for Roman citizens who took it upon themselves to carry out this job and risk being a social outcast with no friends save for the other tax collectors and general “riff-raff” of the society such as prostitutes and petty criminals. It was even worse for Jewish men who decided to work for Caesar and collect revenue, for any one who chose this life was immediately cast out of every synagogue and made to stay away from their fellow Jews, as they were now seen as traitors, working with the hated Roman occupiers of what had been the ancient kingdom of Israel. A stray mongrel received more compassion than did a tax collector in Judea. This was the situation in which a Jewish tax collector named Levi found himself at that time. He was rich and lived the life of decadence and luxury because of his work, but at what cost?
Riches do not buy happiness or contentment. This has been true ever since the start of civilization. All the money in the world will not buy someone real friends, love, authentic companionship, or get one closer to God if they believe in Him at all (Psalm 62:10; Proverbs 28:20; Isaiah 2:7; Matthew 19:23; Mark 4:19; 1 Timothy 6:9). The richest people in history still die without a single thin dime in their hands, and if they die without Christ, all the wealth of creation will not get them out of hell when the day of judgment arrives (Matt. 25:41; Revelation 20:11-15). So, here is Levi, also known as Matthew, sitting at his usual spot on the road ready for another day and inwardly bracing himself for the vitriol, hatred, cursing, and anger that he will face as he gets what is due the Emperor Tiberius Caesar. This day, something within his hardened heart cracks, and for the first time in as long while, he starts to wonder if all this trouble to get wealthy is worth it. He probably misses the family he turned on to chase riches and was disowned as a result. He sees families with children and inwardly cries out for what he has missed for the love of money. God’s mercy is now showing him that this life he had chosen was going to end forever, and a new road would open for him. It came in the form of the Teacher from Galilee, who was going down the road telling the people about the love of God and His expectations, and opening up the Scriptures to them in a way that the stodgy Pharisees had never done.
Jesus approaches Matthew, to the surprise of not just His disciples, but many in the crowd. What is the LORD doing even going near this tax collector, whom they see as dirt? Jesus does not condemn Matthew or rebuke him, but says to him, “Follow Me.” I am sure that Peter and the others shook their head in disbelief, but then realized that not a single one of them whom Jesus had chosen were of any stature or influence either. At the moment when Jesus called him, Matthew got up and walked away from what he had known for good and would now for the remainder of his life follow the LORD, but also be an eyewitness to His resurrection and ascension, and be commissioned, as were the other apostles, to preach the Gospel to everyone. He was also used by the Holy Spirit to compose the story of Jesus for the benefit of his fellow Jews to show that Jesus was the Promised Messiah spoken of in the Scriptures.
Matthew’s story shows that even people whose backgrounds, choices in life, sins, mistakes, and actions are not used against them when the Lord Jesus enters their lives and make them new people, free from the grip of sin and death, and inheritors of the coming kingdom of Heaven. If you have come across this message for whatever reason or situation, and you have reached the end of the rope that is starting to frail and come apart, and have felt that you can never be forgiven for things you’ve done, said, or thought, or there seems as if there is no hope or purpose for your life as you see it, please stop and let what I am about to write sink in to your weary and guilt-ridden soul. The Bible says that we are all sinners and rebels against God without excuse or alibi (Romans 1:18-32, 3:10-18, 23) and that our sins will take us to an eternal hell where there truly is no hope, love, concern, joy, or peace (Matthew 25:42; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 16:19-31; Revelation 20:11-15). You may not like what you have read so far, but it is the truth and deep down you know it. We cannot save ourselves and we cannot cleanse ourselves from sin in our own power or means (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:9). It’s like taking a bath in a sewer.
It is God alone who is the Provider and Author of salvation and redemption (Psalm 27:1, 37:39, 62:2; Isaiah 12:2; John 14:6; 1 Timothy 4:10), and it is only through the Lord Jesus Christ that anyone is saved from death and hell (Luke 19:10; John 3:16, 10:9, 14:6; Acts 4:12, 5:31, 13:23; 1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 4:14). No other religious figure, works, sacrifice, self-help specialist, guru, sage, shaman, ascended master, or occult practice will or can deliver you from your sins and deviancy. You cannot make peace with God on your own terms, conditions, or demands. Forget all of that. God’s mercy, love, grace, and compassion are demonstrated in giving you the only door of escape from the wrath and punishment that is to come upon this world, and that door is the Lord Jesus Christ, period. You can embrace this truth, repent of your sins, ask Him to forgive you, and surrender your life to Him as LORD, and be saved for all time and eternity today (Romans 10:9-10; 2 Corinthians 6:2).
You also have the choice to reject Him and walk away from His offer of mercy and grace, but it will be the most senseless thing you have ever done, because you have no guarantee of tomorrow and the possibility of changing your mind to forsake the junk of this world and follow Him. Your last breath could be in a matter of minutes or less, and once that happens, you don’t get a “do-over”, a “re-set”, or any kind of second chance (Hebrews 9:27). You, my poor friend, will be in hell forever. Not a smart choice. Think, please! Countless millions of people from all walks of life, each with a different story, have left their sins behind them, and like Matthew, dedicated their lives to Jesus Christ and the ministry He has chosen for them to accomplish. You, my friend, have that opportunity now. Surrender your life to Him, follow Him, and become a new member of the family of God. We’re waiting for you, and so is He (Revelation 21:1-7).
Donald was born and reared in the authentic Cajun country of south Louisiana. He is a 1978 graduate of LaGrange High School in Lake Charles. He is also a graduate of Louisiana College (B.A. in History Education, 1984), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1994) and Andersonville Theological Seminary (Doctor of Ministry, 2000). He is an ACPE Certified Chaplain with training in Trauma/ER, NICU, and Psychiatric Pastoral Care from the McFarland Institute in New Orleans (2003). He has over thirty years of ministry service, which concluded when he was called to serve as pastor of Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma from 2017-2018. Due to health concerns, he retired from public ministry in 2020 and now devotes his time to internet evangelism through the writing of Bible studies, sermons, and articles on current issues for varied Christian webpages and ministries. He is a regular contributor to sites such as Rapture Ready and Sermon Central as well as Inspirational Christian Blogs. He and his wife Cathy are both active members of Eastern Heights Baptist Church in Muskogee. Don will often serve as a panel member of the Gospel Rescue Mission Pastor’s Round Table Broadcast, shown monthly on the mission’s Facebook page as his health allows. He has a personal evangelistic blog as well and can be contacted at his Email address.