A Friend of Sinners - Part 1

Mark 2:13-17

Tom Pennington  •  January 11, 2009
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When Doug Greggs and his family were here, we were able to enjoy some time together. And I was fascinated by a discussion that Doug and I had about the Buddhists he ministers to. He was explaining to me that the people he serves there have no concept of grace. There is nothing in their culture, nothing in their religion that illustrates what grace is. Everything comes by effort, is earned, is merited. So, he loves being able to help them physically, and then when they want to offer him some payment in return, even if it's only a chicken, he can tell them that, no, what he's done for them is entirely free. And from that comes a wonderful platform for declaring the grace of God in Christ. But it's tragic that their culture is so permeated by the idea of merit and worthiness and effort, that they simply don't have a category for grace.

That was exactly the same situation as in first-century Judaism. Edershiem, the great Jewish writer and historian says,

The Rabbis knew nothing of a forgiveness of sins free and unconditional. Inward repentance only arrested the degrees of justice [in other words, only lessened what you were going to get] that which really put the penitent in a right relationship with God was his good deeds.

A classic passage from the writings of the rabbis, you can see this. Essentially, the rabbis said that if you breached a command, if there was a command given, to do something, and you failed to do it, then you could receive forgiveness by immediate and persistent prayer. On the other hand, if you breached a prohibition, that is if you did something that the Scripture forbids you from doing, then there had to be heart repentance and a day of atonement. But if it were an intentional sin, of any kind, then there had to be their brand of repentance. There had to be the day of atonement, and there had to be personal sufferings to atone for that intentional sin. And where there was willful profaning of the name of God, only death itself could pay the price to bring some measure of a right relationship with God. That is the cultural context in which you have to read the next account in Mark's gospel where I invite you to turn with me tonight. Mark 2:13. It says,

… [Then Jesus] went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him, and He was teaching them. [And] As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alpheus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow me". And he got up and followed him.

And it happened that he was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes and the Pharisees saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, "Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?" And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Truly remarkable account. You remember that as we began chapter 2, opposition against Christ begins to mount in a lengthy section that runs from 2:1 all the way through 3:6 there is this description of their antagonism. They become antagonistic and eventually even murderous in their response to Jesus. Their antagonism expresses itself because of several things. Because of Jesus' claim to forgive sins, because of His companionship with sinners, Jesus unwillingness to keep their traditions, and Jesus' violation of their Sabbath regulations. And we'll look at each of those as we flow through these next few sections.

The problem they have with Jesus here in the passage I've just read to you becomes a kind of recurring theme. The enemies of Jesus Christ constantly criticized Him, and one of their most constant and biting attacks was the company He kept; was the rabble He always had around Him. Turn back to Matthew 11 and you see this in a different context. Matthew 11, Jesus is rebuking them for this, and He says,

"But what shall I compare this generation to? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces who call out to other children … [saying], 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.'"

In other words, "you're not playing our game! You're not playing by our rules!" "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and you say, "He has a demon!" The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say "Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard! A friend of tax collectors and sinners!" Jesus sends by saying, "Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds." So, this becomes a recurring theme, and their criticism in this case is partly true and partly false. Of course, their insinuation that Jesus was a sinner like the people He hung around was false, but it was true. He was a friend of sinners. And here is the good news. This account I've just read form Mark 2 is here to tell us that it's still true. Jesus is still a friend of sinners. This magnificent story is one of my favorites, because like Paul, I find myself feeling that I am the worst of sinners. And as we will see, so was Levi, the man we meet in this passage. So were his friends. But the spotless and pure Son of God seeks them out to be His friends.

Now, the story of Levi unfolds in two scenes, two distinct scenes. We're just going to look at the first of those scenes tonight. The first scene is just the first two verses, 13 and 14. If I can get my computer to cooperate, here we go. The sovereign call of an undeserving sinner. The sovereign call of an undeserving sinner. Notice verse 13 says, "And He went out again by the seashore". You remember what's just happened in the passage before it, chapter 2:1 running down through 12, you have the account of the paralyzed man that Jesus healed. Matthew's account says that as Jesus passed on from there, in other words, as Jesus left the house where He has just healed the paralyzed man, He went out again by the seashore. From the confines of that house that was too crowded for those four men to get their friends into, could barely breathe, Jesus goes for a walk by the sea. It appears that He went there solely for that purpose originally. Jesus deeply enjoyed, you can see from His life, deeply enjoyed being out in the creation that He Himself had made, just as He used to walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the garden shortly after its creation.

This is what it looked like, this is Capernaum from the air, looking at that area where Jesus ministered. This is the shoreline from a boat looking back at the shoreline, it was a beautiful pastoral setting, and Jesus leaves the crowded confines of that house and finds Himself walking out by the sea. But He wasn't to enjoy that solitude for long. Because, as He goes out by the sea, notice the second half of verse 13. All the people were coming out to Him, and He was teaching them. Both of the verbs here imply that this happened again and again in waves. The people kept coming out to Him, and He kept teaching them as they came. At some point between the waves of people, verse 14 occurs.

Notice what it says: "And as He passed by, He saw Levi." Both Mark and Luke refer to this man as Levi, in Matthew's gospel Matthew calls himself not Levi, but Matthew. But it's clear that Levi and Matthew are the same person. We know that because Matthew's gospel reporting the same incident, calls this man "Matthew". As Matthew writes, that's how he refers to himself. When the names of the twelve appear, the name "Levi" doesn't appear, but Matthew's name appears, and he is consistently called "the tax collector". So, we know that Levi here is, in fact, none other than Matthew.

It wasn't uncommon, by the way, for Jews living in Galilee to have two names, two other of the disciples did, Thomas and Bartholomew both had two given names. We don't know if Matthew or Levi always had two given names, or if like Peter, Jesus gave him the name Matthew at his conversion. We really don't know and won't know if Jesus did that though, it's a remarkable play on words. Because Matthew means "gift of God". Think about it. Levi, the man who took so much from so many as we will see tonight becomes Matthew, which is "the gift of God". The man who stole from God's people becomes God's gift to His people.

We don't know much about this man, but here's what we know. We know that He was Jewish, both His names clearly are. We know that he lived in Capernaum, and may have been from Capernaum. It's likely because of the size of the town, by the way, and because of his tax business that Matthew knew the other four disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, who were living in Capernaum. And it's also likely that he had collected taxes from them, as we'll see in a little bit. That doesn't make for a, you know, warm dinner time, when Jesus first pulls these people together as His disciples. Verse 14 also tells us that this man was the son of Alphaeus. Now don't confuse this. Another disciple, James the Less, is also called the son of Alphaeus in several passages, but it's unlikely that they were brothers. Nowhere does Scripture mention that they were related. And Alphaeus was a common name, Jewish name, in the first century.

We know from the book that he wrote, the first Gospel of the New Testament, that he was fairly well-educated, because he knew, from the book that we can tell, he knew Hebrew and Greek and Aramaic. But the most significant thing about this man comes in verse 14. Notice it says, "he was sitting in the tax booth". Literally, he was at the tax booth. Matthew was sitting in or near the entrance of the tax collector's booth. And he wasn't there just to pay his taxes. As the context implies, and as the other Gospels clearly state, Matthew was a tax collector. You know, this is one of those times where to truly understand the Scriptures we have to, as it were, transport ourselves back in the time. To fully appreciate this story, you have to have a little bit of a first century mindset about what that meant in the culture in which Jesus and Matthew lived. So, I want to take the next few minutes to do that. Bear with me, it's important, I think it will open us this passage in ways you haven't seen it before.

Rome had created a vast empire. She needed money to fund her armies, government salaries, road maintenance, public works, the support of the imperial household, and the dole of grain for the Roman masses. So, the Romans had created a system to collect money from all the provinces they controlled. It was a system they called tax farming. Essentially, it was a system of tax franchises. Just as people today buy into a franchise, they own for example the local McDonalds, and there is sort of a shared revenue between them and the mother company, it was the same way with Rome.

At the top of the food chain in Rome were the Roman equestrians. These were noblemen who bid for the right to collect taxes over entire provinces. The Roman senate would determine a fixed amount that each province would be expected to pay, and then they would sell the right to collect that amount to the highest bidder. As long as that fixed amount came in each year, the tax franchiser could essentially collect however much he wanted to collect. And whatever he collected over the amount that was due from him was his income. You can see immediately the incredible opportunity in the system for graft and extortion and dishonesty.

Now, this equestrian who had bid for the entire taxation rights or franchise for that province, a province like Israel in the ancient world, would then subdivide the province and make a similar kind of arrangement with men, that in Latin were called "the publicani", very similar to the word "publican" that appears in the King James Version. But these men were the chief tax collectors. By the way, Zaccheus is called a chief tax collector. He was one of these men. He was over an entire region in the province of Israel. That explains why he was so wealthy.

Now, the chief tax collectors then like Zaccheus would then in turn, sell the rights for smaller portions of their area. So, it was a marketing scheme extraordinaire. With lots of potential for someone who was willing to be dishonest and do whatever it took to make some extra money. They would simply bid and then extort whatever they could. Since the people ultimately, the average person had no idea what they were required to pay to Rome, there was a huge opportunity for extortion and stealing of every kind. The Mishnah has this description of tax collectors. It says that they "exacted payment of men, with or without their consent."

Now, there were two categories of taxes that were charged, and I'm just going to hurry through this, but I thought that you might find it interesting, You can feel their pain a bit as we go through this. There were fixed taxes, there was a poll tax, that is money charged per head. All men 14 to 65 and all women 12 to 65. There was a ground tax, one-tenth of all grain that you grew was due to be paid in taxes, one-fifth of the wine and fruit grown, and you partly paid that in kind, so that the Roman soldiers there could have food to eat and so forth, and you partly converted it to money. There was also an income tax. It was just one percent. Don't think it's good yet, though. These fixed taxes were collected by a general tax collector.

The second category were customs and duties, and here there were taxes of all kinds. There was a use tax on many different kinds of things. Edersheim reports that there were use taxes on axles, how many axles were on your wagon; wheels, how many wheels were on your wagon; pack animals, pedestrians, roads, highways, and mission to markets using bridges, using roads, using dams, using ferry's, using harbors. You paid a use tax. There were also import and export taxes on everything that came in and out of a given area; as well as a sales tax on everything that was bought and sold. The advalorum duty on normal items was between 2½ to 5 percent. On luxury items, that fell in that category, it could be up to 12½ percent.

Now, the tax collector here could do just about anything. He had the authority to force any traveler to stop, to unload his entire load of goods from his pack animals, to search everything, including his personal correspondence, letters, open them to see what was there, and then to charge whatever it was he decided based on these differing duties. These taxes were collected by a custom house official. The second kind is the kind that Matthew was. Now the main tax centers in Israel were in Caesarea, Jericho, where Zaccheus was, and Capernaum.

Matthew, we've already seen, wasn't a chief tax collector. He's not called that in the text, as Zaccheus was, so he probably wasn't over an entire region, but he wasn't the lowest man in the food chain either. Because he didn't work alone. I mean, after all, he was able to invite here a houseful of sinners and tax collectors, verse 15. And based on the size of his home in verse 15, that would accommodate a meal like that, and the very lucrative location that he had, one of the main tax centers in all the land of Israel, it's certain that Matthew was a wealthy man. He was probably not the franchise owner of the entire province, but he had a very strategic location.

He was in the city of Capernaum, which was the largest city in the Galilee. Its population estimates are between 1,500 and 10,000 residents. Start thinking about what that looked like in terms of the tax revenues they stole based on what I've shared with you. He also was on the dock, at the dock on the north side of the sea of Galilee. The main harbor on the north side of the sea of Galilee for transporting goods was Capernaum. And remember, you could charge based on the use of a harbor. And based on importing and exporting. So, if they were coming from any other area, then he could charge duties on all of those materials. Capernaum was spread out along the edge of the lake about a quarter of a mile, but it didn't go very far inland. And there was an ancient harbor there that went out, that extended along like a twenty-five-hundred foot promenade, and had an eight-foot wide sea wall. And piers went out a hundred feet into the lake. Here's a modern harbor in Capernaum, this is what it would have been like, only not so modern looking, but it gives you the idea. They were actually, the Romans were very ingenious, and it would have been beautiful. But this is where he was. So, he has this strategic point at the harbor in Capernaum, one of the leading harbors on the Sea of Galilee.

In addition to that, he also was on the main international highway running between Egypt and Syria. Capernaum straddled the international highway. It went all the way from Egypt, up over the Fertile Crescent and down into Mesopotamia. It was a major, major road that went right by Capernaum, right by the dock, the harbor, and so he could sit there and strategically control the traffic on the international highway as well as all of those that would come to the harbor with goods to sell and to buy. All the traffic going north or south would go through this crucial junction.

Here's what it looked like: There is Capernaum on the north-west side of the Sea of Galilee, where that red arrow is pointing. There were three main roads in Ancient Israel. The one I want you to pay attention to is the one on the left that comes from Egypt and runs up through Capernaum and heads on up to Syria, the red line on the left. That was a major international highway. And it ran right through Capernaum, right next to the Sea of Galilee on the north-west side. That's where Matthew was stationed.

But there's another reason, by the way, that this was a strategic location for Matthew. It was at the border, Capernaum was at the border between Galilee and the Decapolis, the neighboring region. Now that was important. Because, there was a customs station on that border to collect customs on goods being imported and goods being exported and guess who sat there to collect all those customs? It was Matthew. You had on one side, Galilee, ruled over by Herod Antipas, you had on the other side Decapolis and the other regions by Philip the Tetrarch.

Here's what it looked like, and you can see the yellow up near the sea of Galilee would have been the area of Herod Antipas, and Capernaum would have been in that region. The Sea of Galilee was fed here by the Dan River coming in from the north, and the orange area would be a different region. So as people crossed over that border they had to pay import and export duties. Matthew was there to collect them. So, Matthew was undoubtedly a very wealthy man.

But that isn't all that was true about Matthew. When you look at his character, there are some very important things you need to understand. First of all, Matthew was an irreligious man. How do we know that? Well, we know from the history of the time that when a Jewish man became a tax collector, in first century Israel, he was immediately excommunicated from the synagogue. And so, Matthew had no connection to the worship of the God of Israel. In addition to that, he had become a traitor. I mean, after all, he was complicit with foreign oppressors; with Rome, who controlled and dominated the land of Israel, his own people. He was also dishonest by definition, all because he wanted money. He had gotten rich by extorting money, by bribery, by pilfering from his employer, his was an extortionist.

The way tax collectors worked was this. They would set a fee on a duty, and if you couldn't pay it, they were more than happy to loan you the money. You can guess what kind of interest rate you might get from a tax collector who was, of course, only interested in your good, and would loan you the money to help you get through this hard time. Like the mafia, these men attracted a criminal element of thugs and enforcers to collect the money that they had loaned out at high interest rates.

They were assumed always to be dishonest. So much so, that one of the Jewish writings, the Mishnah, forbids Jews from taking gifts from tax collectors, even alms because it was known that they had robbed that money from someone, and so it was like you were robbing to take money from a tax collector. They were disqualified from being judges, or even witnesses in court. They engaged in everything that money could buy, tax collectors were famous or infamous for their wild lives. They were so bad that the Talmud lists customs officials as the moral equivalents of murderers and robbers.

Here's how bad it was. The Jewish rabbis allowed Jewish people to lie to tax collectors with impunity. If a tax collector so much as touched your house, it became unclean. That's the kind of man Levi was. That's the kind of business in which he was engaged. That's the kind of people with which he was associated. And that's how he was thought of by the people in his home town of Capernaum.

Now, with that background, look back at verse 14. It says, "that He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth". And here's the shocking part. And it would have been shocking to anyone reading this in the first century, who understood by being there all that I've just shared with you. He said to him, "Follow Me". He said to him, "Follow Me." Now, it's tempting when you read this account to think that this is the first encounter Jesus has had with Matthew, or that Matthew has had with Jesus. That's highly unlikely.

Matthew had been exposed to the truth about Jesus in a couple ways. He had been exposed through Jesus' previous ministry in Capernaum. We've studied, beginning in 1:21 when Jesus went there, all the way down through 2:12. You had the call of these acquaintances of Matthew. He knew them because he undoubtedly, because they were fishermen, doing business out of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. He'd collected taxes from Andrew, Peter, James, and John from their fishing business. He had heard about Jesus' teaching in the synagogue, although he himself wasn't allowed to be there; the casting out of the demon, the healing of Peter's mother-in-law. It wasn't that big of a town. He'd heard about the night when Jesus had healed literally everybody who had come, practically the whole town shows up outside of Jesus' house, and He heals everybody.

Matthew probably knew and had probably heard about some of those healings. And because his tax franchise was on the main road headed out of Galilee, he undoubtedly continued to hear stories about Jesus when Jesus went on His preaching tour through the rest of Galilee. Jesus had just healed, you remember, a paralyzed man in a house crowded with people. You can bet when that service let out, word spread quickly. "You won't believe what happened today". In addition to all that, it's likely that Matthew had also been exposed to Jesus through Jesus' teaching there by the sea. Remember after He left the house He went down by the sea and waves of people would come, and He would teach, and another wave would come, and He would teach them.

We find out just a few verses later that there were a lot of tax collectors who were following Jesus, and so Matthew had certainly heard from them, and it's possible, we don't know this for sure, that Matthew was in one of those crowds, that he had heard what Jesus had taught. And now Jesus shows up in his place of business and gives him one brief command. "Follow me."

It is in the Greek text, a present imperative. A command that has a continuing command to it. Start following Me, and keep on following Me. Become and continue as My disciple. For Matthew, almost certainly, this was his call to salvation. This was his call to Christ. "Follow me" in the Gospels is most frequently used as a synonym for faith. "Believe in Me," Jesus is saying, "To the extent that you submit yourself to Me as your teacher, that you leave everything else for Me." All of a sudden, Matthew is sitting there at his little tax booth, with his lucrative business, with his wealthy home, with all that he has been able to amass through his wicked extortion, and all the wicked life that he has led, and there stands Jesus. This is a crisis moment for Matthew. This crisis didn't last long.

Notice verse 14 says, "And he got up and followed Him". Matthew makes at a moment in time a radical break with his past. I can't read this, but think back on my own family's life, and in particular the life of my father. He came to Christ before I was ever born. I'm the last of ten children, but I've heard the story many times.

He was a nightclub entertainer, played the bass fiddle, back in the big band era. That was his life, and he tells the story of the night, because of the work of God in his heart, the conviction that God was bringing on him through the prayers and influence of my Mom, the prayers of the kids, that he got up that night, and he left his bass fiddle there in the nightclub and walked out, went to his home, and fell down on his knees and cried out to God, never touched that bass fiddle again, he left it there forever. He was done with that life. That's what happened here with Matthew.

For Matthew, this was a radical step. You see, a fisherman could leave his boat and eventually come back and do some more fishing. But you couldn't walk away from a tax franchise and later come back. In fact, Luke describes Matthew's decision like this. In Luke 5:28, "And he left everything behind and got up and began to follow Jesus." What an amazing story. Jesus shows up and sovereignly calls this undeserving sinner to Himself. It really is a wonderful example, a perfect example of genuine salvation. Matthew had heard the truth, undoubtedly like Paul, his conscience was deeply disturbed, and in this case, he found himself unable to focus on his work, perhaps, he found himself drawn to this compelling Man, and His teaching, and he looked up and suddenly standing in front of him was Jesus Himself. And Jesus called Matthew to follow Him.

That's how it always is. Oh, of course Jesus doesn't verbally call us the way He did Matthew. Instead, He calls us through the Gospel as it's explained and taught to us. We see the ugliness of our sin, we see the beauty of Jesus Christ, and we find our hearts drawn out to Him. That's calling every bit as much as what He did with Matthew here. And that leads to the response of faith. Matthew responded in faith. He got up, and he followed Christ. He left everything and followed Christ.

Now, I don't want you to miss the point of the story. Next time we study this passage together, we'll look at the heart of what Jesus wants to teach us, but I want you to see the point of even this first scene. It's this. Almost anyone reading this story or hearing this story in the first century, they would have been left with one overwhelming thought. And it would have been this. There is no sinner that is beyond the reach of the grace of Jesus Christ. That's what they would have considered as they thought in shock that Jesus would have had anything to do with a man like this.

It's hard, actually, to come up with a twenty-first century equivalent to what Matthew was in that first century. But if you want to come close, think drug dealer. Think mafia. Think gangster. Think terrorist. Matthew in the first century Jewish mind was the absolute off-scouring of the earth. He was the greatest outcast. He was despicable in the worst sense of the word. You couldn't get any lower than Matthew. That's the category into which Matthew would have fit. But here Christ in grace reaches out and rescues even a sinner like that.

It reminds me of what Paul said about himself. Turn over to 1 Timothy 1. You remember this, as he gives a little bit of his own testimony, verse 12, he says,

"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord … because He … [put] me into … [ministry]. Even though I was formally"[and here he recounts his past life,] "[I was] a blasphemer … [I was] a persecutor … [I was] a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant. The faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus." And now notice what he says in verse 15. "It is a trustworthy statement,". [That's Paul's way of saying "Here is something that is inexorably true.] deserving your full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save, to rescue, sinners." [And Paul says,] "among whom I am foremost of all." [Yet, verse 16,] "For this reason I found mercy." [Here's why God showed me mercy.] "so that in me as the foremost [sinner, as the worst sinner] Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life."

You know what Paul is saying? He's saying, "Christ showed grace to me, as a picture of the fact that nobody's too low, nobody's too far removed, nobody's too far gone for the grace of Jesus Christ. It was to be an example. I was an example," Paul says, "it doesn't matter." That's what Matthew is.

When Jesus walked by that tax collector's booth in Capernaum, and called to Himself a despicable, wealthy, godless, sinner, the worst in the culture, there was nobody in the Jewish culture lower. He was demonstrating that there was nobody beyond His reach. No one beyond the reach of His grace. You see, I don't care who you are. I don't care what you've done. I don't care what you had become, if like Matthew, you will respond to the call to follow Jesus Christ. If you will return in repentance and faith to Christ, He will rescue you. He will deliver you. He will make you entirely new. That's the story of the sovereign call of an undeserving sinner.

It may be that you're here tonight, and even through this story from the life of Christ, your own heart is compelled by the truth. You can't help but being drawn to this man. He may be calling you even tonight. Or perhaps He's already called you. Rejoice in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; that you, just as I, that we weren't beyond the reach of the grace of Christ, regardless of what we had become; and what we were.

Ken Hughes relates the story about a huge block of marble that was dragged five hundred years ago into the city of Florence. It was intended to be the next sculpture for the great sculptor Donatello. It had been cut from the famous marble quarries of Carrera. But this particular block was filled with imperfections. So, Donatello, the great sculptor, refused it. And it lay on the grounds of that great cathedral for some time, unused. But one day another sculptor came along and saw that flawed block of marble. And as he examined it, he decided that he could use it to create a sculpture that he had planned. And so, for two years this sculptor worked on that damaged block of marble.

On January 25, 1504, the greatest artists of Italy gathered to see the sculpture that had been shaped for two years from that damaged block, abandoned by Donatello. Bonachellis was there, Leonard da Vinci was there, they were all there. And the veil was pulled away from the sculpture, and it was immediately applauded and received as a great masterpiece. Today, it's still a great masterpiece. It's Michelangelo's David. He saw that damaged block of marble, and he saw what he could make, not because of the marble, it was thoroughly damaged, but because of his own inherent skill.

That day in Capernaum, Jesus saw the terribly damaged life of Levi, all of it self-inflicted. But Jesus also saw what He could make. Not because of the material, not because Matthew was worthy of doing something with, but because of Jesus' own great power and grace. He saw, instead of Levi the tax collector, the scum of the earth, He saw Matthew, an apostle, who would write one of the four inspired records of Jesus' earthly life, who would be one of His twelve sent ones, one of His twelve apostles. There is no sinner beyond the reach of the grace of Christ.

If you're a Christian tonight, if you have experienced that grace, as you look at Christ again, as you see Him in His saving grace toward Matthew, the response of your own heart should be one of great joy, of gratitude, of adoration. There's another response as well. And Lord willing, we'll look at it next time.

Let's pray together.

Our Father, whenever we look at our own hearts, we're amazed that You would ever save us. Lord, when we're honest with ourselves, sitting alone, with only our thoughts, aware more than the people outside of us what we really are, we wonder that You would ever receive us. And yet, Father, we thank You for this amazing picture of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I pray, Father, that those of us who are Christians would be stirred in a new and fresh way to see His beauty, to behold His majesty, to praise Him and adore Him for His grace that would reach down to the scum and redeem it for His own use and make us adopted children.

Father, I pray for the person here tonight who knows in their heart of hearts that they are an undeserving sinner who has never come in faith to Jesus Christ, and perhaps would even wonder if He would have them at all. Father, help them to see that He hasn't changed, that He's still a friend of sinners.

We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.