“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.” Matthew 9:9
Jesus was the one who chose the twelve apostles. We might wonder at his choices. Most of them came from very common backgrounds. Four were fishermen and two sets were brothers, Peter and Andrew, and James and John. One, names Simon, is called a “zealot.” This probably means that he was part of a group dedicated to the violent overthrow of the Roman occupation. There were many such groups and Jesus chose an apostle from among one of them. Perhaps the most interesting choice of apostles was Matthew the tax collector.
The Romans had controlled the land of Israel beginning in 63 B.C. when Pompeii besieged and conquered Jerusalem. Their conquest came at the end of a period of Jewish independence under the Maccabean dynasty. To once again be under the thumb of a foreign power was a difficult pill for the Jews to swallow. Anyone who collaborated with the Romans was considered a traitor to the nation. Someone who would agree to help them collect the onerous tax from the people had obviously lost all care about their public reputation. Such a person was Matthew, whom Jesus called while sitting one day at the tax collector’s booth.
Many Jewish observers must have thought that Jesus chose his disciples from the dregs of society. If he had chosen someone of royal blood, or in the line of Herod, or from among the Pharisees, it would have given the group more credibility. Jesus obviously did not care about that kind of respectability. He did not feel the need to seek the approval of others. Jesus had sufficient respectability in himself. He had enough honor in himself to give respect to any he would call to follow him. It was no diminishing of his honor that he would call someone like Matthew to be among his closest followers.
Jesus also condescends to us in our calling. We might also wonder that, like Matthew, he would choose to call us. Who are we that we deserve his attention? Who are we that he should pick us out from the masses? Yet he sees us sitting our desk, lost in our sinfulness, and looks us in the face. “Follow me.” That Christ would include us among his disciples is grace indeed. That he would give us the honor of being associated with him is a marvelous gift.
With Warm Regards,