advent lettering

O Come All Ye Faithful


Today's Reading

Matthew 9:9-12

Emotionally and spiritually speaking, social media can perhaps be the most dangerous place in the world. Beyond the obvious issue with inappropriate images and content, the danger lies in the dark world of comments. For every like or comment of support, there are trolls ready to explain why what you like is the dumbest thing in the universe and even worse, why your personal existence is worthless. Social media provides a never ending fountain of criticism. And criticism can hurt.

That is why I like Matthew. Matthew just seems immune to it all.

We all know the plight of Jewish tax collectors in the first century. They were hated. If Matthew had a Twitter account, it would list a handful of friends and a ton of folks commenting on every post.

@Mattchew17: Looking forward to another great sunrise in the city!
Reply: @fisherboyz: sure you are…so you can steal all of our money
Reply: @gideonismyhomie: you call yourself an Israelite? You are a worthless Roman wannabe
Reply: @disco_asher: why don’t you do us a favor and die?
Reply: @Pharisee1: unclean!
Reply: @Zacheaus2: Hang in there Matt.
     Reply: @fisherboyz: you too! You both should go take the first boat to Rome.
     Reply: @disco_asher: you both are a waste of air

You get the point. The life of tax collectors wasn’t pleasant, and in many ways, they set themselves up for this type of response. They made their living off the backs of the poor and supported an oppressive government run by Gentiles. Tax collectors were traitors and thieves. But Matthew didn’t seem to care. He had heard it all before.

So there Matthew sits at the booth, collecting the usual taxes and then a little extra off the top. People passed by him daily, refusing to make eye contact with him and making snide remarks as they dropped their coins in his cup. And then came Jesus.

You almost wonder if Matthew, who had no doubt grown numb to every passerby, felt something different when Jesus approached. Did he feel the eyes of Jesus rest upon him? Did he have an odd sensation as he saw this Rabbi with his disciples? Did he know what was about to happen before Jesus spoke? Maybe. Maybe not.

“Follow me.”

Two simple words. Nothing spectacular, but something incredible.

Matthew’s whole life had been immune from people telling him what to do. He had heard it all—people telling him to die, to quit his job, to give money back, etc. But when this Nazarene told him to follow him, he did. He left. He got up and walked away from his old life.

Matthew didn’t care about what others would say. He didn’t worry about how his boss would react, and he didn’t think about what his friends would do. He didn’t think about whether he was giving in to the religious leaders or instead rubbing something in their face. He ignored the commentators and listened to the only voice he needed to hear—“Follow me.”

In the following scene, Jesus is at Matthew’s house, and Matthew is introducing Jesus to every other person in his life who had been considered unclean and cast out, and Jesus talks with them. As usual, the Pharisees balk like trolling commenters.

@Pharisee1: Just heard that Jesus is eating with sinners. Typical
@Pharisee2: Birds of a feather. LOL!
@Pharsiee3: Some teacher…can’t even recruit decent students

Like Matthew, Jesus doesn’t worry about the commenters, but he does answer them in such great fashion.

@SonofMan: Might need to check your heart and read Hosea 6:6.
@SonofMan: The sick need a doctor, and I am here for the sick.

Matthew knew he was sick. Even if he ignored the naysayers in his life, he knew something was wrong, and when he heard Jesus’ voice, he immediately followed.

Do you know that you are sick? Have you responded to his voice?

This Christmas season, as you walk through all of the materialism that accompanies the season, picture yourself like Matthew, sitting in the marketplace, surrounded by the wealth, power, and possessions, and listen for the voice of Jesus beyond all of it.

And when you see sick people, like Matthew, who probably could use friends over enemies, consider being Jesus in their lives and pointing them to the Messiah who bids us all to follow Him.

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