2nd Sunday after Pentecost “Not the Righteous, but Sinners”
June 11, 2023 Matthew 9:9-13 By Seminarian Mark Langton
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you. From God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The text for our sermon this morning comes from the 9th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel.
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he rose and followed Him. Thus far our text.
Matthew, a tax collector for the Roman Empire under Caesar. As you can imagine, tax collectors were not all that popular with the Jewish people. First off, they worked for the Romans, the very oppressors of God’s people. The Romans are the ones that the Jewish people believed God would send a savior to overthrow. Second, these tax collectors were not very honest, as they often took more from the people than was demanded by Rome. They made life for the Jewish people very difficult. Yet, here is Jesus passing by and seeing Matthew sitting at this tax booth, and he calls for Matthew to follow Him. Here is a Jewish tax collector, betraying his own people by working under the Romans, and Jesus calls to him. The question arises, why? Why would Jesus choose someone like Matthew? Jesus could have easily chosen one of the religious leaders, then the scribes and pharisees would have been more apt to listen to Him. But Jesus says, I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.
Righteous, this word has become very twisted in our culture today. Typically, when you hear it, it is an accusation that one is acting in a way that they feel superior to other people. To be righteous in our society is not typically a good thing. Instead, we commonly hear phrases such as hypocritical, Pharisaical, or judgmental used in conjunction with righteous. This viewpoint typically is brought up when viewing the actions of the religious leaders in the time of Jesus. We tend to look on the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the scribes quite negatively as we study the New Testament. When our text tells us that , “as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and the disciples.” We know what is coming next, the pharisees are going to criticize what Jesus is doing. We forget that in this passage, Jesus is the only righteous one here.
Since the fall of man, there has not been a single person who because of the choices they have made, were righteous. No, every person conceived after sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, excluding the miraculous conception of Jesus, has inherited the sin. Yet when we look at ourselves, it does not even take long to realize that we ourselves are sinful beyond that original sin. How often do we violate the ten commandments given by God on mount Sinai? Our nature desires to give into the sinful pleasures that the world around us offers up. In our hymnal we confess that we have sinned in what we think, what we do, and what we say. Not only in what we have done, but also that in which we have failed to do. Our text shows us these sinful thoughts, as the Pharisees complain to the disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Here the pharisees thought as they often did that they were better, because they were not as bad as those Jesus was eating with. What they did was not as bad as the tax collectors. God’s Word tells us otherwise. God’s Word tells us that the wages of sin is death. Not the wages of major sins are death, but the wages of sin. Yes, all of humanity in sin deserve nothing but death and eternal separation from God. This however is where Jesus’ Words ring clear. “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners”
God sent His only begotten son into this world at a specific time in a specific place. Not that He would be made an earthly king overthrowing Rome, but that He would be betrayed by the hand of one He loved, that He would be beaten, would be spat upon, and be put to shame by those whom He came to redeem. He was sent that He would be made a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the whole world upon the cross of Calvery. It was by His holy, precious blood that our sin has been washed away. The righteous one gave His life for sinners. Y et, He did not remain dead. He was raised to life again on that Easter morning, becoming triumphant over sin, death, and the devil.
In our text Jesus tells the Pharisees that, “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go learn what this means: I desire Mercy, and not sacrifice.” Indeed, God has had mercy. He pours His Spirit into our hearts, through the waters of Holy Baptism. We are reconciled and justified before God by grace through faith. This seed of faith was planted by the hearing of God’s Word, and the Spirit caused that faith to grow. T hat faith is strengthened every time you hear God’s precious Word. It is strengthened by the Spirit every time you come to the Lord’s table and receive His Holy precious body and blood. We have been reconciled to God in Christ, and we are now called to share this message with all nations. We do this in the vocations that God has called us to. As parents, raising your children in the faith. As children, who listen and learn from those who God has placed in authority over you.
As employees, we serve the needs of our neighbor. Yet we must be wary of the lies of the devil. In Christ we are called to live a new life, a sanctified life. Yes, Jesus called Matthew to be His disciple. Matthew in this calling did not remain a tax collector but followed where Christ commanded. We too turn from our sinful ways to follow Christ. We know that at times we may stumble, such as when we may boast in our works compared to that of another. Yet, we know that when we confess the sin that we have committed whether in private confession or on Sunday when we confess our sins together, that God in His mercy does absolve us of our sin for the sake of the precious blood of Christ. We do not choose to actively live in and celebrate what God deems as sinful.
Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” We have indeed all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But God in His mercy sent Jesus to die upon the cross that we may be made righteous in Him. In this sanctified life, we go out and proclaim Christ crucified in what we say and do within the vocations God has called you to live.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,