06-22-2014 The Disciples: The Tax Collector

We’re a week and a half out from our annual Vacation Bible School, and things are really kicking into full gear around here.  Tons of people came to help out with the preparations for our crafts and decorations last Saturday, and that helped out a great deal.  I hope that at least that many come to help out again on July 5th, when we actually do the decorating of the church facility.  The theme this year is “Wilderness Escape” -- revolving around the time that the Hebrews spent in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt -- so I’m looking forward to seeing how our VBS team transforms our building into Sinai (I’ve already heard what they’re planning for the Red Sea, and it’s pretty exciting...).  Please be in prayer starting even now, not only for our VBS directors, crew leaders, station leaders, etc., but even more importantly for the hearts of those children and families whose lives will be touched by FCC that week.  We don’t just want to entertain the kids -- we want to facilitate God changing their lives.

In the meantime, this weekend, my family and I will be traveling up to Chicago for the Evangelical Covenant Church’s Annual Meeting.  So please keep not only our travels in your prayers, but also the meeting itself -- pray that all of the interactions are honoring to God in their tone and motivations, but yet in-depth and direct enough to be honoring to the purpose of getting together in the first place.

In our message this week, we continued looking at the Twelve Disciples, as we’ve been doing all Summer.  This week, we looked at one of my favorite of the Twelve -- Levi Matthios, the son of Alphaeus.

It’s always interesting to do the detective work to figure out what we actually know about the guys whom we think we know so little about.  For instance, we know that Matthew (“Levi” was his Hebrew name -- “Matthew” is an Anglicized version of the Greek name that he’d use when dealing with the Romans) was a tax collector -- a Jew who collaborated with the Romans in their invasion and occupation of Israel.  We know this not only because of the story of his calling in three of the Gospels, but also because of how he was described in the list of the disciples given in Matthew’s own account.  In fact, the only two disciples whose backgrounds were given in any of the lists were Matthew and Simon the Zealot -- the Roman collaborator, and the guy who used to belong to a group that killed Roman collaborators.

What does it say about Matthew’s self perception that when he made out his list, he described his brother, James, as the “son of [their father] Alphaeus,” but himself as merely, “the tax collector”?  What does it say about his relationship with Simon that he emphasized their adversarial backgrounds?  And what does it say about his relationship with Jesus that, instead of referring to the Twelve as “disciples” (i.e.; people who spent time learning from Christ), he called them “apostles” (i.e.; people who had been sent out by Christ to share the Good News)?

It’s telling that, bracketing Matthew’s calling from his previous life as a tax collector, Jesus performed a miracle whose whole point was to show that Jesus could see into men’s hearts and forgive sins, and then ate at a banquet where He emphasized that it’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  Where the rest of the “righteous” people might have been disgusted at Matthew’s guilt -- as, obviously, Matthew continued to feel at times as well -- Jesus saw not only the outward indications of sins, but the inward heart that was clearly desperate to repent of those sins.  To most people, a guy like Matthew would have seemed like a lost cause and a waste of a good rabbi’s holy time.  To Jesus, Matthew was a lost soul in need of a good doctor’s healing touch.

Where do you see yourself amongst those categories?  Do you tend to shrink back from foul “sinners” like Matthew?  Do you feel like a foul “sinner” like Matthew?  Or do you see yourself as another, healing patient in God’s hospital?

How can you and I open the doors of that hospital a little wider to help those who so clearly need God’s love?