It was an occupied country.
Now there was still plenty of nationalist sentiment about
Plenty of hope that one day God would perform a new Exodus and free the people from their oppressor.
And the Pharisees were one of the groups that kept that hope alive.
But there were other folk who make compromises,
And one of these groups was the tax collectors.
These were people that had basically said “I value getting rich so much” that I would rather have that, than the respect of my family
Than see my nation be free
Than see the religious aspirations of my people come to something
I love money more than I love justice.
How do you think people in Israel felt about the tax collectors?
They became untouchables
Tax collectors were not allowed in the synagogue
They were not allowed to give evidence in court
No devout Israelite would eat with them
Talk with them
Can you imagine the kind of words that people would have had for tax collectors.
No-one was considered further from God than a tax collector.
Romans hated them – grouped them with brothel keepers
Jews hated them – grouped them with robbers
The only people who would have spoken to tax collectors, would have been other tax collectors.
One of the jobs that tax collectors did was collect money on the roads.
Now the king at the time of Jesus was Herod (not Herod the Great who was in the Christmas story) but Herod antipas.
Herod Antipas took a notion for a big building program, he wanted to build a new XXX and the way that he collected money for this was that he collected road tolls.
What he did was he sold the job of tax collector to the highest bidder,
And then what the tax collector would do was inspect the goods that people took down a road
And make their own assessment of how much tax was due on the goods.
So to get the job of tax collector you already had to be wealthy
And the job involved intrusion, harassment, force, dishonesty and a disregard for others
What kind of people would normally be attracted to a job like that?
Now how do you think people felt towards the tax collectors that collected money on roads that people used to be able to walk down for free.
Being harassed by a corrupt individual.
Now what does Jesus do when he meets someone like that?
Call Of Matthew
9 Jesus left that place, and as he walked along, he saw a tax collector, named Matthew, sitting in his office. He said to him, “Follow me.”
Matthew got up and followed him.
10* While Jesus was having a meal in Matthew’s house,h many tax collectors and other outcasts came and joined Jesus and his disciples at the table.
Jesus calls Matthew.
This despised man, whose chief job skills were dishonesty, harassment and cold indifference to other people’s suffering.
He is the one that Jesus calls.
And then there is a great gathering of all the tax collectors (and you guess that Matthew must have made some connections here, and invited some of his friends along) and Jesus eats with the people, that everyone else says are miles away from God.
You have this meeting with the despised and the most perfect man that has ever lived.
And the despised people don’t feel too out of place.
This week there was survey to find out the most loved and most despised celebrities. It was disturbing to discover that the most loved celebrities were all men, and the most despised were almost all women (the exception being Simon Cowell who was on both lists).
So the most hated celebrities were Amy Winehouse, Victoria Beckham, Kerry Katona and Heather Mills. They would all have been at this party. And they would have been enjoying the company of the most perfect man that would ever have lived.
It is like a party with Jordan and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the pair of them get along
Or Katie Marsh and Mother Teresa
Or Paris Hilton and Desmond Tutu
The Great Commission
Now fast forward to our text for today, which is the very end of Matthew’s gospel. This is a famous passage, it’s called “The Great Commission”, Jesus commissioning his disciples to spread the gospel.
Now whether Matthew the tax collector is the same guy that wrote the gospel we cannot be sure.
But what we do know is that the same person who wrote about Jesus calling a tax collector
Was the same guy that ensured that his gospel ended with these words.
This climax of what Jesus has to say to his disciples, the final team talk before they go out on the pitch.
And what he says “From now on you make disciples.”
What kind of disciple does Jesus have in mind?
It is the folk that are cut off
As being hopeless, far from possibility of goodness
The people that it is fair game to criticise.
There is no one that you can say – you cannot become a disciple, because you are not he right type.
All Different Folk
But before we think that Church is only a place for recovering offenders, though have a look at the rest of some of the other parts of Matthew.
Matthew is the gospel that tells us that Jesus was visited by wealthy kings from far off lands – so wealthy foreigners can become disciples of Jesus.
And in the same chapter as the Matthew story, you have the guy lowered down by his friends and Jesus heals the man because of the faith of the friends – so folk who are good mates to folk who are unwell can become disciples of Jesus.
And in the same chapter as the Matthew story, you read of the synagogue ruler (called Jairus) who begs for Jesus to heal his daughter – so folk who put their family before their professional status can become disciples of Jesus.
And in the same chapter as the Matthew story, you read of the woman who has had haemorrhages for 12 years is healed because of her faith – so women with women’s troubles can become disciples of Jesus.
Do you get the picture here, there is no-one who seems to be outside the reach of becoming a disciple of Jesus.
Not just a church-goer
Not just a casual enquirer
Not just a “I don’t need to go to Church because I meet God on the golf course type”
Not just a nice person
But a disciple,
A full blown, every minute of the day modelling their life on Jesus disciple
A full blown, getting ready to enjoy paradise disciple
A full blown, loves the people that hate them disciple
A full blown, deals honestly at work disciple
A full blown, reads their Bible and tries to turn these words into a life disciple
All of them can be made disciples.
Being A Disciple Maker
And whose job is it to make these people disciples – yours and mine.
We get two jobs as a Christian – one be a disciple
Two – make disciples.
And your there thinking – but I am struggling with the whole disciple part
I am not there yet
I have questions about the Bible, and I am not sure about the Trinity
And I don’t why there is suffering in the world
There are major struggles in my personal life
The disciple part is difficult
I don’t do the disciple making
And Jesus says yes.
Look at the story in Matthew 28, look at verse 17
“They worshipped him, but some doubted”
And then verse 18 says
And then Jesus said to the ones who didn’t doubt “Go and make disciples”
No it doesn’t say that
And then Jesus, knowing the thoughts of the evil doubters sent them down the mountain and once they were out of earshot began to speak to the ones who were left.
No it doesn’t say that
Verse 18 says
“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
All of us are disciple makers.
Best Disciple Makers
Actually there is a good reason why I actually think that the people who have just become disciples make the best disciple makers.
Just out interest, who here has been coming to Church for less than a year?
And who has been coming for less than three years?
Well actually you folks are the best disciple makers.
And hears the reason.
People who have been in the Church for a long time
Tend to know only people who are other Church go-ers.
As you get drawn into the Church, you get worse and worse at keeping contact with people who don’t go to Church.
It is a big problem in my life which I need to address.
Out of all my friends, two of them are not Church goers, which if you think about it is pretty disgraceful. That is a rebuke to me.
They are pretty useful friends it has to be said – one works for Microsoft and gets cheap software, and one is the lawyer and had what I thought was possibly the best job a lawyer could ever get which is as a lawyer for the Champions League (in fact only part time lawyer, the rest of the time he had to work organising the games), and I though that is the best job a lawyer could ever get. And then he went and topped it, his current job is now Head of Legal for Manchester United.
But those of you who are new into the Church,
You are best placed to be disciple makers.
UEFA Cup Final – Being a Christian Football Fan
Where were we all on Wednesday night?
Two jobs for the Christian football fan.
The first is to remember the joy.
Remember The Joy
I think that one of the most important jobs of a Christian football fan is to remember the joy. Football fans have a habit of going the other direction, remembering the pain.
Brazil have won the World Cup five times – 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002.
But do you know the World Cup final that has put the biggest mark on the Brazilian consciousness, 1954 – when they lost the cup in the final on goal difference.
You’ve won the world cup 5 times, but you still focus on the time you lost
And I bet also on the Ronaldo final of France 1998.
Be a disciple maker
The other job of the Christian football fan is to be a disciple maker.
To find ways of introducing these guys,
To not just being church-goers
Or nicer people
But actually full on disciples of Jesus.
You do that through friendship
You do that through the way you cope with hardship
You do that with your generosity
You do that by inviting them here – and if there is stuff about here that would put off your friends, then your job is to let me know – so that we as a Church can be a brilliantly welcoming place for outsiders. That’s something we need to work on.
Not to be forced or artificial
Neil Alexander is good at saving penalties and did you know that Jesus saves.
But to find ways that God will give you
Of inviting them to become disciples of Jesus.
This is big stuff here
The eternal destinies, the possibility for joy in this world
The possibility for life beyond death for your friends
Their becoming that for which they were made – being friends of God and having their sins forgiven
A huge part of that is how you are a disciple maker.
I want you to think of one friend now whom you would love to be a disciple of Jesus
They might be unlikely like Matthew
You may not have much contact with them.
But we are going to pray for them now,
That they would be a disciple.
Oh and remember…
You know that thing that happens at the end of a conversation,
When someone is just going out the door
Or just getting off the phone
There is often a crucial piece of information that they must not forget for the day to be a success.
You are going out the door and the voice from inside the door – remember the washing needs put out
Or as I wish had been said to me about a month ago when my Mum and Dad were coming over for a visit – Remember, your Mum and Dad are coming over this afternoon, and they are coming at four, and if you only remember at five then they will be stuck outside the house for an hour.
Or even – and remember, I do love you.
You know that crucial piece of information, that the person needs to know to do the thing that they need to do.
Well see if you can spot it here in verse 20, Jesus is commanding the disciples to be disciple makers
“and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Did you spot it?
I am with you always.
You are going out there
And you have your doubts
And you are going to make disciples of all the nations
All the despised folk like Matthew
And the wealthy foreigners like the Wise Men
And the important professionals like Jairus
And the women with women’s troubles
And the guys who are good at being mates with
And you are going to make them disciples
Not just Church-goers
Not just nice people
But disciples of Jesus
And you are going to teach them to do everything I have commanded.
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
A 92 year old woman in Dyersburg, called Pauline Jacobi, illustrates.
She was shopping at her local Wal-mart, had put the shopping into the car, and had got into the car herself,
Only seconds later, a man got into the passenger seat next to her.
But she managed to protect herself not with a gun, nor with a pepper spray, but with something else.
The man said to her that he had a gun
And if she didn’t hand him her money he would shoot her.
The man told her this three times,
And each time she refused to hand over the money
Then she started to talk to the man.
She said, “Do you know that as quickly as you kill me I’ll go to heaven
But you’ll go to hell.
She told him to ask for forgiveness.
And then she said “Jesus is in this car”.
And he goes with me every where I go
And the guy looked around, and then tears started coming out his eyes.
Pauline Jacobi then spoke to the guy for 10 minutes.
The guy says “I think I’ll go home pray tonight”
“You don’t have to wait until tonight” says Pauline
You can just pray any time you want to.
Then Pauline Jacobi voluntarily gave the man all the money she had, $10,
And don’t you spend it on whisky
The man thanked her for the money, kissed her on the cheek, and walked away.
We are called to be disciples
And we are called to make disciples
And in this we have this remember from Jesus “Remember, I am with you always”
Which means that Jesus is in the car.
* 9:10,11: Luk 15:1,2.
h h9.10 in Matthew’s house; or in his ( that is,Jesus’) house.
None. Good New Translation – Second Edition (electronic ed.) . ,: :