Matthew 9:9 (NIV) As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
It might seem strange to some that Jesus earlier had seemed to throw up barriers to those who wanted to follow Him (Matthew 8:19-22), telling them clearly that they needed to count the cost first. And then He offers a call to Matthew out of the blue! There are actually two considerations to be looked at here.
The first is that Jesus always knew what was in the heart of a person (cf. John 2:25). In those He had approached earlier, or who had approached Him, their overzealousness on one hand and excuses on the other betrayed their hearts. The overzealous volunteer had too overblown an expectation of what Jesus had come to do and of his own role in that mission. The excuses of the other man betrayed a lack of commitment due to confused priorities. But Matthew had neither expectations nor aspirations where Jesus was concerned. He was simply fascinated enough by who Jesus was and what He was doing that, as soon as the call came, he immediately left his old life behind to follow Him.
The second consideration is that anyone could choose to count the cost and follow Jesus. Anyone could choose to leave everything behind and join Him on God’s mission. His very existence and presence was an invitation. But Matthew, would never consider offering himself, because he considered himself damaged goods. He was a tax collector, after all! And his closest friends and associates weren’t the kinds of people that he figured Jesus would enjoy hanging out with. Most of the polite society of Capernaum had written Matthew off, so he figured that Jesus would write him off, too.
But Jesus was able to see past the external, what Matthew was, to what he had the potential to become. He was able to see beyond the tax collector exterior to a heart filled with longing for God. And it was to that heart that Jesus issued the short invitation: “Follow Me.” It was an invitation to leave behind what and who he was, a servant of the Roman hierarchy, and to follow Jesus into a future of who he could become as a servant of God; to leave behind the pursuit of earthly wealth and security, and to embrace the pursuit of heavenly wealth and security. And that invitation, spoken to Matthew’s longing heart, was all that he needed. He walked away from his old life, and never went back.
Father, how quick we are to judge! I dare say that many of us, myself included, would probably have looked at a person like Matthew, and have written him off as someone who would never be willing to leave their power and position and wealth to follow Jesus. But Jesus never wrote anyone off. He kept inviting, and people kept following. Help me today, Lord, to be more willing to extend the invitation to follow Jesus, and to extend it freely to everyone, without prejudging them. Who knows who will say yes! Who knows who is just waiting to experience a complete, life-changing transformation, so that they, in turn, can help transform the world! Amen.