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Christ’s Call To Matthew – Follow Me

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190707AM CBC The Call of Matthew

Christ’s Call To Matthew: “Follow Me”

Matthew 9:9-13

 

Jesus summed up His entire Gospel message into just two words[1] “follow Me”. We could  sum up Biblical Christianity as:  FOLLOWING JESUS. These two words also sum up the New Testament Church and the essence of the overcoming, victorious Christian life. As we open to Matthew 9, and see Jesus as He calls Matthew: we can each ask ourselves whether we are following Jesus today.

 

Strategic Capernaum

To understand the context of Matthew 9:9-13, remember that at the time of Christ’s ministry Capernaum was an important commercial crossroad. The Romans thought it important enough to establish a customs house there.  At least one hundred Roman troops were also garrisoned near the town. A high-ranking government official called a Centurion apparently resided there, although we are not made aware of his functions.  Numbered among the town’s prominent people were Matthew, who ran the tax office, and Zebedee the fisherman, whose sons, James and John, became disciples of Jesus. Peter also maintained a home there.

Working by the Port of Capernaum was a beautiful job. This picturesque fishing village was an ideal spot for the tax booth Matthew ran on behalf of Rome’s puppet, Herod Antipas. From his seat Matthew saw the world passing by.

Galilee was the land bridge between Europe and Africa; all land traffic must go through her. The land at this time was divided up. Judaea was a Roman province under a Roman procurator; Galilee was ruled by Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great; to the east the territory was ruled by Philip, another of Herod’s sons.

On the way from Philip’s territory to Herod’s domains, Capernaum was the first town to which the traveler came. It was by its very nature a frontier town; because of that it was a customs center. In those days there were import and export taxes and Capernaum must have been the place where they were collected. And that is where Matthew worked.

 

Matthew Watched the World Flow By

Every kind of traffic—from regiments to caravans—slowly flowed up and down the Via Maris, a Roman Road that stretched from Roman Egypt to Roman Babylon. Some traffic even slipped over from the great Roman highway to Damascus. Along these main arteries came caravans carrying the wealth of the nations. Gold, silver, precious spices, cloth, silk, ivory, and many more desirable commodities were brought in abundance, and this presented a tremendous opportunity for the tax gatherers to become wealthy.

Determined to reap a financial harvest, Caesar had commissioned his tax gatherers to get as much money as possible from everybody. The officials were given a franchise; they were expected to reach a certain quota, but anything in excess of the stated figure, they kept. Many of the more unscrupulous tax gatherers had become wealthy at the expense of their victims. Everybody detested the tax collectors, for the officials were experts at swindling their own people. Yet, there was not much that ordinary folk could do about the matter, for the tramp of soldiers was a constant reminder that the power of Rome was there to suppress insurrection.

 

A Detested Tax Collector Gets Saved

One of those detested, Rome-serving tax gatherers was named Levi (Matthew). In Matthew 9:9-13, we see the record of Christ’s call of Matthew, written down under the Holy Spirit’s guidance by the pen of Matthew himself:

Matthew 9:9-13 (NKJV) As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. (Luke 5:29 29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house) 10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Notice that the call Jesus gave to Levi (Matthew) has only two words: Follow Me. However, those two words encompass all there is to the Christian Life: Following Jesus is: Serving God, Loving God, Trusting God, Obeying God, and Worshiping God.

 

How Did Jesus Describe His Call To Follow?

The term “Following Jesus” is the description of salvation that Jesus and His Apostles used as they wrote the Scriptures:

Mark 8:34: “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (Also cited in Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23)

Mark 10:17, 21: “Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’”

John 10:27-29: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

 

How Did the Apostles Describe their Lives as Believers?

Philippians 3:12: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus” (KJV).

I Timothy 6:11-12: “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (KJV).

II Timothy 2:22: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (KJV).

I Peter 2:21: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps” (KJV).

 

How Does Jesus Describe Saints in Heaven?

Revelation 14:1, 4: “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him … the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being first fruits to God and to the Lamb.”

 

Matthew Followed Jesus

Following Jesus is the hallmark of the life of the man we know as Matthew. His was one of the clearest and most dramatic conversions in the New Testament. Alexander Balman Bruce in his book, The Training of the Twelve, describes the background for Matthew’s conversion:

Matthew, the publican-tax collector, resided in Capernaum. This makes it absolutely certain that he knew of Jesus before he was called. No man could live in that town in those days without hearing of “mighty works” done in and around it. Heaven had been opened right above Capernaum, in view of all, and the angels had been thronging down upon the Son of man. Lepers were cleansed, and demoniacs dispossessed; blind men received their sight, and palsied men, the use of their limbs; one woman was cured of a chronic malady, and another, daughter of a distinguished citizen, Jairus, ruler of the synagogue, was brought back to life from the dead. These things were done publicly, made a great noise, and were much remarked on. The Gospels relate how the people “were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth He even the unclean spirits, and they do obey Him;’” how they glorified God, saying, “We never saw it on this fashion,” or “we have seen strange things today.” Matthew himself concludes his account of the raising of Jairus’ daughter with the remark: “The fame hereof went abroad into all that land.”

Here in Matthew’s own back yard had sprung up the headquarters of the Man from Nazareth. Here the crowds had surged—the sounds of their excited voices filling the roads—and here, sitting, listening, and observing, was Levi, known to us as Matthew. He had abandoned his tribal opportunity to serve as a Levite and had chosen a different career. Branded with the title of publican, he was associated with the lowest, vilest, and most despised.

Miracles of themselves could make no man a believer; otherwise all the people of Capernaum should have believed. Of this city Jesus said bitterly, “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day” (Matthew 11:23).

Christ’s complaint against the inhabitants of these favored cities was that they did not repent. They wondered sufficiently at His miracles, they talked about them. They ran hurriedly after Him to see more of the same; and enjoyed amazedly the sensation of Christ’s works.

However, after a while they relapsed. They remained morally as they had been before He came among them—not children of the kingdom: but children of this world.

 

Matthew Repented

But it was not so with that Capernaum tax collector. He didn’t merely wonder, he wasn’t merely amazed: Matthew repented.

From that tax collector’s booth rose a man to follow Jesus, a man whose life would produce the first of the four gospels in our Bible, the second longest and by far the most amazing. From the Life of Matthew we can conclude three truths:

Following Jesus has its requirements.
Following Jesus has its price.
Following Jesus has its rewards.

 

Sharing the Gospel is Eternally Rewarding

At our last conference where we served, we had to walk a lot. Sometimes Bonnie & I average 50 miles per week on pedometers because of Asian & European cities that have public transportation and we often stay in 4th or 5th floor flats with stairs and no working elevator. We walk to get food, water, and to go anywhere.

On the road usually I get up at 530am, walk to a local coffee shop, and sit there and work on my verses before I start my day of studying and teaching. After a week of every day in the same coffee shop in that city they knew my name, said hello, and always were curious about my 120 verse cards spread all over their tiny table in the corner.

I told Bonnie that I was going to explain the Gospel to them the next morning, just before we left. It was the weekend, and NONE of those who knew me were there that day. I missed the opportunity.

So the next week, I decided no more missed opportunities. I said Lord, let me not be in a hurry, give me Divine appointments. We were in a new place, and all different people and this time it was a Bible Conference. As I walked out of the conference one of the elderly people that had sat through several hours of teaching was near the door on a bench. He waved at me so I went over. He said nice things and ended with a hand motion to the center of his chest, saying your messages hit me right here.

If that isn’t a Divine appointment, not sure what is. So, straight to the point. I asked where are your sins, all of them, right now? What a transformation. Have you ever seen an 84 year old person cry? His hand went back to his chest, and tears flowed and he said they are all still here. Then he said, but when you taught about Jesus talking all our sins onto Himself, and taking them forever away that’s what I wanted.

He had sat on the bench, waiting for me to come out, and waved to asked how to be saved. God is at work. God wants to use each of us.

Be available. Be ready. Be sensitive. Take every opportunity to share Christ.

It is ETERNALLY rewarding!

 

Thanks For Your Partnership In Winning Souls

By the way, every day we hear from a person somewhere in the world that watched a CBC church service. Almost all my messages from our years together are online.

Even more amazing is that, out of the dozens of notes of thanks each month, there is a note of amazement. Once a month for almost every month since you launched us: we hear from someone that they got saved watching a service.

Some are in Australia, some in the UK, some in Europe, others in Canada, some are here in the USA. All say the same thing. They were watching. They heard the Gospel shared (often Acts 26:18, remember how often I used to share that?) And right there holding their mobile device they cry out to the Lord.

We usually hear from them weeks and months later. They trace back the dramatic changes they are experiencing to that moment hearing one of my Calvary Bible Church messages, posted on YouTube.

Thanks for your partnership all these years that makes that even possible.

Back to Matthew.

 

What Following Jesus Meant To Matthew

What were the requirements for Matthew’s following Jesus? There were only two: hearing and obeying. What had Jesus asked Matthew to do?

  1. Following Jesus meant Matthew had to resist the crowd around him. Sitting at the official, Roman-backed toll booth, Matthew was a well-known businessman in the city. When Matthew opened his heart to Jesus Christ, he became a new person. Knowing what we do about Capernaum, this was not an easy decision for him to make. He lived in Capernaum, and those he knew best had rejected the Lord (Matthew 11:23).
  2. Following Jesus meant Matthew also had to resist the culture he was raised in. The Roman taxation system of Matthew’s day consisted of two catagories of taxes and tax collectors or  Publicani. The noted Jewish scholar Alfred Edersheim reports that a Jewish publicani was barred from the synagogue and was forbidden to have any religious or social contact with his fellow Jews. He was ranked with the unclean animals, which a devout Jew would not so much as touch. He was in the class of swine, and because he was held to be a traitor and a congenital liar, he was ranked with robbers and murderers and was forbidden to give testimony in any Jewish court.
  3. Following Jesus Meant Matthew Lost His Lucrative Tax Collector Career. Matthew was obviously a small mokhesbecause he himself was sitting in the tax office as Jesus passed through the outskirts of Capernaum. It was to that man, the most despised of the despicable, to whom Jesus said, “Follow Me!” It was clear to early readers of Matthew’s gospel, as it was clear to those who witnessed this amazing encounter, that Jesus extended His forgiveness even to the outcasts of society.

 

THE PRICE OF FOLLOWING JESUS

Matthew heard Christ’s call and obeyed. When a person is truly converted, he cannot leave his old life fast enough. His old habits, standards, and practices no longer appeal to him and he gladly longs to leave them behind. Edersheim says of Matthew, “He said not a word, for his soul was in the speechless surprise of unexpected grace.”

Far from being depressed about what he had left behind, his heart overflowed with joy.

He lost a career but gained a destiny, lost his material possessions but gained a spiritual fortune, lost his temporal security but gained eternal life.

Matthew probably lost almost all of his old friends. In fact, they probably persecuted him for turning to Christ. Whether or not that was the case, Matthew certainly lost most of his income when he left all to follow Christ. Matthew lost a career; but he found a destiny. He left behind a temporary security for an eternal one. His old job was gone, but the ministry he offered to Christ has touched every one of us who have ever read the story of Christ’s birth, temptation, miracles, death, resurrection or Great Commission. Matthew gained what he could never lose. That is what happens to all who follow Jesus.

THE REWARD FOR FOLLOWING JESUS

In Capernaum, Mathew was a well-hated man by any observant Jew of his day. As he sat at his toll booth that day, Matthew must have had an awful emptiness aching in his heart. Of all the disciples, Mathew gave up most financially. But from his decision Matthew gained

  • eternal wealth.He went from being stuck in a booth by a village road to immortality and world-wide fame.

 

Matthew Got Eternal Wealth

Levi’s life was revolutionized so he decided to sponsor a reception in Jesus’ honor. Matthew 9:10  describes this event: “many…sat down with Him” the Greek word ‘sat down’ is synanekeinto, literally to recline. At Levi’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him”. Why this large gathering and reception?

 

First of all, Matthew wanted to honor Christ.

That is the natural reflex of the soul which has received his touch, as we see from Genesis to Revelation. As Warren W. Wiersbe points out:

As the Physician He came to bring spiritual health to sick sinners. As the Bridegroom, He came to give spiritual joy. The Christian life is a feast, not a funeral. Jesus did not come to renovate Moses or even mix Law and grace. He came with new life!

This reception was a spontaneous celebration of Levi’s new life.

 

Second, Matthew Wanted To Open His Own Home And Share Christ With His Friends.

Luke says it was a “great banquet” (5:29), and our text says “many” were there. Levi evidently had a big place, and it was packed. Matthew knew that most, if not all, of his old friends would drop him when he began to follow Jesus Christ so he took advantage of the situation and invited them to meet Jesus. The guests were “tax collectors”—no doubt including the local gabbai of Capernaum and perhaps even some fellow mokhes from neighboring communities—and “sinners”—a technical term for people who the Pharisees felt were inferior because they had no interest in scribal tradition. They were especially despised because they did not eat their food in a state of ceremonial cleanness. These “sinners” even consorted with Gentiles and doubtlessly included robbers, murderers, drunkards, prostitutes, and other irreligious and ungodly people.

The riffraff of the area must have been intrigued and touched by the prospect of dining with Jesus, whom they knew to be a teacher of righteousness, and His disciples. Thus the offscouring of Capernaum—despised social pariahs—came to Matthew’s house where pure Jesus reclined in their midst, eating, drinking, and conversing with these lawless, materialistic compromisers.

 

Do we, like Matthew, really want to follow Jesus and share Him with our friends?

We need to reach out to the people with whom we work—go to dinner with them, attend sporting events together, have them over. We need to extend ourselves to those we know are hurting.

Matthew not only opened his heart and home, but he also opened his hands and worked for Christ. Alexander Whyte of Edinburgh once said that when Matthew left his job to follow Christ, he brought his pen with him!  Little did this ex-publican realize that the Holy Spirit would one day use him to write the first of the four gospels in the New Testament.

 

What Did God Do With Matthew?

Think of what God can do with just one life surrendered to Him. Matthew humbly wrote one of the most powerful pictures of Jesus Christ ever written.

  • Only Matthew tells us of Christ’s infancy (1:18-25), & Herod with the Wisemen (2:1-12).
  • Only Matthew gives us the Beattitudes (5-7).
  • Only Matthew captures Jesus saying “lay not up treasures” (6:19).
  • Only Matthew captures Jesus saying “seek ye first the Kingdom of God” (6:33).
  • Only Matthew captures Jesus saying “ask…seek…knock” (7:7).
  • Only Matthew captures Jesus saying “come unto Me…” (11:28-30).
  • Only Matthew captures Jesus inviting Peter to walk on the water (14).
  • Only Matthew captures Jesus sharing the “greatest commandment” (22:37)

Although the New Testament is silent on his life, we do know that wherever in the world the Scriptures travel, Matthew’s gospel continues to minister to hearts.

Are you following Jesus today?

Matthew started by opening his heart. Have you?

Matthew opened his home to bring others to Jesus. Do you?

Matthew kept on following Jesus, opening his hands to whatever work Christ had for him. Are you willing to do so?

 

 

 

APPENDIX

 

Matthew Got A New Name

Jesus calls Levi by a new name: Matthew. In a few minutes the whole town knew about low-life Levi’s decision, and they could not believe it. They wondered if it would last. Little did they know that Levi, as he is called in Mark 2:14, was becoming Matthew, later to be a gospel writer. Look at how Matthew himself describes his conversion: “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” (Matthew 9:9 NIV).

When Levi began to be called Matthew, we do not know for sure. Many students of God’s Word believe that just as Simon was renamed Peter (“the rock”) by the Lord, Jacob (“the cheat”) was changed to Israel (“the prince”), and Saul was later called Paul, so Levi was likewise renamed Matthew (“gift of God”) by Jesus.

This name change can even be a form of divine poetry because this covetous, tax-collecting, “rip-off” artist would become, as his new name suggested, a gift of God to his people. What an unbelievable conversion! Of all the people in Capernaum, Levi was the most unacceptable citizen to be one of Christ’s disciples. Jesus sought out the man no one else wanted, the one everyone else wished would fall under the immediate wrath of God. This, of course, was to become one of the trademarks of Jesus’ ministry, as such notables as Mary Magdalene and many other nameless men and women would attest. Jesus saw a man in Levi, not a category, and he knew what that man could become.

Matthew Got A New Job

As Michaelangelo saw the worth of the block of marble rejected by a galaxy of great sculptors (DaVinci among them), so Jesus saw in the lowliest of Capernaum, in the flawed life of Levi (tax collector) a Matthew (writer and evangelist).  And that is exactly what He sees every day in the men and women we point to Jesus. The Scripture says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works…” (Ephesians 2:10). He sees in us what no one else sees.

 

Matthew 9:9-13 (NKJV) As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. (Luke 5:29 29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house) 10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (132/682) Mark 2:13-17 (NKJV) Then He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. 14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. 15 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (152/783) Luke 5:27-32 (NKJV) After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. 30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (121/630 )

 

Matthew writes the second longest Gospel yet only has two sentences about himself. That’s humility. He uses the OT well and quotes it 99x (more that Mark, Luke & John combined).

Only justified people go to heaven; all justified people god sanctifies. Ot and nt stories are all about how god takes us as we are and then starts the life long process of sanctifying us to be more and more useful.

 

Discipleship: Knowing & Following Jesus Christ: Christ’s first words, to His first disciples, should be our first priority as His disciples today. “Follow Me” is still the essence of Biblical Christianity.

 

Those two words were what He spoke to Peter, Andrew, James and John as they fished (Matthew 4:19) and to Matthew as he sat at the tax office (Luke 5:27); and those two words are what He still calls for as He walks through this world.

 

The call of Matthew is not only an event in the Gospels, it is also an opportunity for each of us to renew or begin the same call from Christ.

 

Most of the people profiled in the Scriptures are shown in two lights: whether they were justified or not (believed and followed the Lord) and if so, how the Lord shaped their lives through sanctification (making them more and more useful to Him).

 

Matthew’s justification is the call from Christ Jesus to “follow Me”. The rest of the account is how God used the events of his life to sanctify Matthew and make him more and more iuseful.

 

How many times do we see Matthew saying anything?

We know so little about Matthew yet his book he wrote for God is used so often by the Lord to touch people’s lives.

 

 

LIFE OF MATTHEW

MATTHEW, formerly called Levi, one of the twelve apostles, was originally a publican or taxgatherer at Capernaum, and hence well acquainted with Greek and Hebrew in bilingual Galilee, and accustomed to keep accounts. This occupation prepared him for writing a Gospel in topical order in both languages. In the three Synoptic lists of the apostles he is associated with Thomas, and forms with him the fourth pair; in Mark and Luke he precedes Thomas, in his own Gospel he is placed after him (perhaps from modesty).  Hence the conjecture that he was a twin brother of Thomas (Didymus, i.e., Twin), or associated with him in work. Thomas was an honest and earnest doubter, of a melancholy disposition, yet fully convinced at last when he saw the risen Lord; Matthew was a strong and resolute believer.

Of his apostolic labors we have no certain information. Palestine, Ethiopia, Macedonia, the country of the Euphrates, Persia, and Media are variously assigned to him as missionary fields. He died a natural death according to the oldest tradition, while later accounts make him a martyr. When called, while sitting in Oriental fashion at his tollbooth, to follow Jesus, he “forsook all, rose up, and followed Him,” whom he at once recognized and trusted as the true king of Israel.  No one can do more than leave his “all,” no matter how much or how little this may be; and no one can do better than to “follow Christ.”

Luke is the largest, with 72 pages (in Westcott and Hort’s Greek Testament); Matthew comes next, with 68 pages; Mark last, with 42 pages. (John has 55 pages.) Number of words in: Matthew has 18,222; Mark has 11,158; Luke has 19,209;  Total words in the Synoptics is 48,589.

Matthew served King Herod Antipas in Capernaum of Galilee collecting tariffs on goods passing on the road from Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea. To function in this capacity Matthew would have been an educated man, acquainted with the Greek language as well as the native Aramaic, thus qualifying him to write the Gospel of Matthew. As a tax collector Matthew may have been a man of wealth, but this occupation also caused him to be despised by the Jews and considered among the lowest of people. The Pharisees consistently spoke of tax collectors in the same breath with sinners (Matt. 11:19; Mark 2:16; Luke 7:34; 15:1).

“This Levi is here said to be the son of Alpheus or Cleophas, husband to that Mary who was sister or near kinswoman to the virgin Mary and if so, he was own brother to James the less, and Jude, and Simon the Canaanite, so that there were four brothers of them apostles. It is probable that Matthew was but a loose extravagant young man, or else, being a Jew, he would never have been a publican. However, Christ called him to follow him. Paul, though a Pharisee, had been one of the chief of sinners, and yet was called to be an apostle. With God, through Christ, there is mercy to pardon the greatest sins, and grace to sanctify the greatest sinners. Matthew, that had been a publican, became an evangelist, the first that put pen to paper, and the fullest in writing the life of Christ. Great sin and scandal before conversion, are no bar to great gifts, graces, and advancements, after; nay, God may be the more glorified. Christ prevented him with this call; in bodily cures, ordinarily, he was sought unto, but in these spiritual cures, he was found of them that sought him not. For this is the great evil and peril of the disease of sin, that those who are under it, desire not to be made whole.”

Capernaum: (a) draught of fishes—Luke 5:1-11; (b) demoniac healed—Mark 1:21-28; (c) Sermon on the Mount—Matt. 5-7; (d) Peter’s mother-in-law healed—Matt. 8:14-15; (e) centurion’s servant healed—Matt. 8:5-13; (f) paralytic healed—Mark 2;1-12; (g) woman with issue of blood healed—Mark 5:25-34; (h) Jairus’ daughter raised—Luke 8:40-56; (i) two blind men healed Matt.—9:27-31; (j) dumb demoniac healed—Matt. 9:32-34; (k) man with withered hand healed—Matt. 12:9-13; (l) blind and dumb demoniac healed—Matt. 12:22-37; (m) tribute provided—Matt. 17:24-27; (n) Bread of Life discourse—John 6:22-59.

 

APPENDIX:

Life of Matthew.

Matthew, formerly called Levi, one of the twelve apostles, was originally a publican or tax gatherer at Capernaum, and hence well acquainted with Greek and Hebrew in bilingual Galilee, and accustomed to keep accounts. This occupation prepared him for writing a Gospel in topical order in both languages. In the three Synoptic lists of the apostles he is associated with Thomas, and forms with him the fourth pair; in Mark and Luke he precedes Thomas, in his own Gospel he is placed after him (perhaps from modesty).  Hence the conjecture that he was a twin brother of Thomas (Didymus, i.e., Twin), or associated with him in work. Thomas was an honest and earnest doubter, of a melancholy disposition, yet fully convinced at last when he saw the risen Lord; Matthew was a strong and resolute believer.

Of his apostolic labors we have no certain information. Palestine, Ethiopia, Macedonia, the country of the Euphrates, Persia, and Media are variously assigned to him as missionary fields. He died a natural death according to the oldest tradition, while later accounts make him a martyr. When called, while sitting in Oriental fashion at his tollbooth, to follow Jesus, he “forsook all, rose up, and followed Him,” whom he at once recognized and trusted as the true king of Israel.  No one can do more than leave his “all,” no matter how much or how little this may be; and no one can do better than to “follow Christ.”[2]

 

 

Luke is the largest, with 72 pages (in Westcott and Hort’s Greek Testament); Matthew comes next, with 68 pages; Mark last, with 42 pages. (John has 55 pages.) Number of words in: Matthew has 18,222; Mark has 11,158; Luke has 19,209;  Total words in the Synoptics is 48,589.

 

Matthew served King Herod Antipas in Capernaum of Galilee collecting tariffs on goods passing on the road from Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea. To function in this capacity Matthew would have been an educated man, acquainted with the Greek language as well as the native Aramaic, thus qualifying him to write the Gospel of Matthew. As a tax collector Matthew may have been a man of wealth, but this occupation also caused him to be despised by the Jews and considered among the lowest of people. The Pharisees consistently spoke of tax collectors in the same breath with sinners (Matt. 11:19; Mark 2:16; Luke 7:34; 15:1).

 

This Levi is here said to be the son of Alpheus or Cleophas, husband to that Mary who was sister or near kinswoman to the virgin Mary and if so, he was own brother to James the less, and Jude, and Simon the Canaanite, so that there were four brothers of them apostles, It is probable that Matthew was but a loose extravagant young man, or else, being a Jew, he would never have been a publican. However, Christ called him to follow him. Paul, though a Pharisee, had been one of the chief of sinners, and yet was called to be an apostle. With God, through Christ, there is mercy to pardon the greatest sins, and grace to sanctify the greatest sinners. Matthew, that had been a publican, became an evangelist, the first that put pen to paper, and the fullest in writing the life of Christ. Great sin and scandal before conversion, are no bar to great gifts, graces, and advancements, after; nay, God may be the more glorified. Christ prevented him with this call; in bodily cures, ordinarily, he was sought unto, but in these spiritual cures, he was found of them that sought him not. For this is the great evil and peril of the disease of sin, that those who are under it, desire not to be made whole.[3]

 

 

Capernaum: (a) draught of fishes Luke 5:1-11; (b) demoniac healed Mark 1:21-28; (c) Sermon on the Mount Matt. 5-7; (d) Peters mother-in-law healed Matt. 8:14-15; (e) centurions servant healedMatt. 8:5-13; (f) paralytic healed Mark 2;1-12; (g) woman with issue of blood healed Mark 5:25-34; (h) Jairus’ daughter raised Luke 8:40-56; (i) two blind men healed Matt. 9:27-31; (j) dumb demoniac healedMatt. 9:32-34; (k) man with withered hand healed Matt. 12:9-13; (l) blind and dumb demoniac healedMatt. 12:22-37; (m) tribute provided Matt. 17:24-27; (n) Bread of Life discourseJohn 6:22-59

 

 

 

New Testament Names of Christians

 

Those who are part of God’s family are called by an amazing galaxy of terms in the New Testament. Most of us have heard of the top seven, but all together there are almost 100 different ways that born-again believers are named in the New Testament.

Beyond the top seven there are many different combinations of words used one, two, three times like aliens and strangers” (1 Peter 1:1, 17; 2:11);  “kingdom of priests” (Rev. 1:5-6; 5:10); and “chosen people” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Here is a brief summary that may surprise you. Let me give you the top seven in reverse order:

 

Seventh place: “Christians” = 3x  (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16);

Sixth place: Followers of “The Way” = 5x (Acts 9:1-2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 23:14; 24:22);

Fifth place: “Witnesses” = c. 27x (Luke 1:2; 24:48; Acts 1:8, 22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39, 41; 13:31; 26:16; 1 Pet. 5:1; 2 Pet. 1:16-18);

Fourth place: “Saints” = 62x;

Third place: Those Jesus asked and they were “Following/Followers” = c.100x;

Second place: Those who were “Believing/believers” = 266x;

First place, and most used is: “Disciples” = 274x (John 13:35 ; Acts 6:1-2 ; 11:26 ; 14:21-22 ; 18:27).

 

That’s why we refer so often to the truth that:

 

Jesus Christ Commissioned His Church to Make Disciples

 

Jesus Himself sums all of those various ways of naming and describing us into one overarching term: “disciples”. That is why it is the most frequent term for us in the New Testament, and the clearest target for all of our lives to be focused upon in “making disciples”.

All the promises of the Old Testament may be seen as finding their fulfillment in and through the Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus Christ, who stood on a mountaintop in Galilee and commissioned His Apostles.

All of the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ in the four Gospels may be seen as distilled and crystallized in those powerful words of Matthew 28:18-20.

All of the truths of God taught through the New Testament Scriptures from Acts to Revelation may be seen as an outflow of that amazing declaration by God the Son that we know as the Great Commission.

The clarity and scope of those words demand our attention. Please join me listening again to Him challenging them and now us with these wonderful words:

 

Matthew 28:16-20 (NKJV) Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

For us on this side of the Cross, what Christ said is so simple: Disciples Follow Christ & Make Disciples. That’s it. Everything else is tied to that simple statement: worshipping God, Biblical ministry, and glorifying God all flow from God’s purpose to show the world that He is a Savior, Who so loved the world that He sent His Beloved Son to be the Savior of the world.

Welcome to a study of the central theme of our earthly lives. We glorify, please, and serve God to the degree that we are a part of what He has so clearly asked us to do and to be for Him. That takes us back to how we got here, in 1 Timothy 4, Paul is training Timothy in how to keep the church on target through the centuries. Paul gives Timothy a set of exercises that if done in the power of the Spirit, would keep Timothy and his church members he served, spiritually healthy. We have been looking at these as:

 

Biblical Exercises for Spiritual Health & Fitness in 2014

 

  1. The Discipline of Truth (our source is in God’s Word of Truth v. 1-6a) leads us to >
  2. The Discipline of Devotion (we love of God’s Word that feeds us v. 6b) leads us to >
  3. The Discipline of Time (we invest our lives in the eternal not the worthless v. 7a) leads us to >
  4. The Discipline of Integrity (we actually personally pursue godliness v. 7b-10) leads to >
  5. The Discipline of Disciple-Making (we explain to others what knowing & following Jesus is all about) v. 11. Note how short, sweet, and to the point Paul gets, here in 1 Tim. 4:11:

 

1 Timothy 4:11 (NKJV) These things command and teach.

Our purpose as believers, disciples who follow Christ, is to continue reaffirming Christ’s commands (that is the “command” part of v. 11), and following up with explaining how to do what He said (that is the “teach” part of v. 11).

What are the “commands” that Christ taught, and how are we to continue in His steps, making disciples and teaching them what He wants us to teach them? To understand the elements of the “making disciples” command, we will first look at what Jesus did, and then what His Apostles taught from what they learned.

 

What Jesus Christ Taught & His Apostles Heard

 

First, we need to trace how Christ actually described “Who is a disciple?” That is making disciples. Since Jesus Christ actually did what He left us to do, this study is the heart of what we need to know.

Second, when those closest to Christ obeyed the command to “make disciples”, how did they explain: “What does a disciple do”? That is teaching them to observe all things. How did they do so themselves, and what did they write down for us to see as the process that we are to follow. Throughout all the centuries since the Great Commission, we have had the record of what Christ did in the Four Gospels; and we have in Acts & the Epistles, the Divinely inspired explanation by those closest to Him, and sent by Him: actually doing and recording what they did in obedience to His call.

 

Who are Disciples: Disciples Follow Christ

 

Trace with me Christ’s explaining what following Him as a disciple really means, starting in Matthew 4:19. The next three passages we will look at are each almost exactly a year apart if you use the standard harmony of the Gospels that has Christ’s three and a half year ministry starting near the end of AD 26, and the Cross being early in AD 30.

Watch how over three years of recorded ministry, Christ’s call to His disciples is also used for others who want to follow Him. Jesus begins to use His distinct call of those He wanted as disciples by asking them to “Follow”. Christ goes on to repeat this call 22x in the Gospels[4]. Read along with me starting there in Matthew and heading towards the Gospel by John.

Note the instructive nature that Matthew’s record of Christ’s first spoken words in ministry about were a call to “repent”; and His second recorded words were the call to “follow”.

 

Matthew 4:17-19 (NKJV) From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Now move onward in the sequence of Christ’s ministry, one year later to halfway through AD 29, as we turn to Mark 8:34, and see the continued explanation by Christ of discipleship.

 

Mark 8:34 (NKJV) When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

 

 

160124AM   Jesus Path SWS-10.docx

Following Jesus:

The Gospel Path Jesus Left for Our Safety

Matthew 4:1-11; 6:13; 1 John 2:15-17

 

 

The simplest description of what we are as Christians comes from Christ’s first call to those first disciples in Matthew 4:19. Jesus explains the new life He was offering, and the salvation He was purchasing, and the Gospel of repentance He was preaching.

He reduces everything down to two words:

 

Follow Me

This two-word call summarizes the simple yet hard choice that had to be made, because either we are following or we are not. There are degrees of following (closely, distantly, sporadically, etc.) but there can be no doubt. If we are following someone it is intentional and it is a choice.

Trace with me now these six times Jesus asks people to follow Him, here in Matthew.

Matthew 4:19 (NKJV) Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 8:22 (NKJV) But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Matthew 9:9 (NKJV) Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.

Matthew 16:24 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

Matthew 19:21 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

 

Hearing & Following Christ Starts With Salvation

Now, turn onward to John 10.

Always remember that one of the most powerful verses of assurance and blessing for us as believers comes from Christ’s words in John 10:27. Please stand as we hear what Jesus said.

John 10:27 (NKJV):

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

 

Pray

 

Salvation is when we are found by our Good Shepherd.

We hear Him, forsake going our own sinful way, and begin the rest of our life listening for His voice in His Word, and following Him.

Those who hear and follow Christ are believers, who are called Christians, who are called disciples.

 

 

Who are Disciples: Disciples Follow Christ

 

Trace with me Christ’s explaining what following Him as a disciple really means, starting in Matthew 4:19. The next three passages we will look at are each almost exactly a year apart if you use the standard harmony of the Gospels that has Christ’s three and a half year ministry starting near the end of AD 26, and the Cross being early in AD 30.

Watch how over three years of recorded ministry, Christ’s call to His disciples is also used for others who want to follow Him. Jesus begins to use His distinct call of those He wanted as disciples by asking them to “Follow”. Christ goes on to repeat this call 22x in the Gospels[1] [1] Matthew (six times) 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 16:24; 19:21, 28; Mark (four times) 1:17; 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Luke (five times) 5:27; 9:23, 59; 18:22; John (seven times) 1 :43; 8:12; 10:27; 12:26; 13:36; 21:19, 22.

 

. Read along with me starting there in Matthew and heading towards the Gospel by John.

Note the instructive nature that Matthew’s record of Christ’s first spoken words in ministry about were a call to “repent”; and His second recorded words were the call to “follow”.

 

Matthew 4:17-19 (NKJV) From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Now move onward in the sequence of Christ’s ministry, one year later to halfway through AD 29, as we turn to Mark 8:34, and see the continued explanation by Christ of discipleship.

 

Mark 8:34 (NKJV) When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

 

Then in Luke 14:26-33, we are in the events just prior to the raising of Lazarus, we are into AD 30, just before Christ’s final week. So we are near the end of Christ’s public teachings, and we see another enlargement of the call to following Christ that the disciples heard Jesus present in ministry.

 

Luke 14:26-27, 33 (NKJV) “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

 

Now turn to the Gospel by John where we find the most complete treatment of the word disciple, since John uses that word “disciple” (81x) as well as “follow” (7x) more times than any other Gospel.[2] First in John 1 we see that disciples believe on Christ and follow Him.

 

John 1:37 (NKJV) The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

 

John 2:11 (NKJV) This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

 

John 6:66 (NKJV) From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

 

John 8:31 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

 

John 13:35 (NKJV) By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

John 15:8 (NKJV) By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

 

[1] 000716AM

[2]Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997.

[3] Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.

[4] Matthew (six times) 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 16:24; 19:21, 28; Mark (four times) 1:17; 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Luke (five times) 5:27; 9:23, 59; 18:22; John (seven times) 1 :43; 8:12; 10:27; 12:26; 13:36; 21:19, 22.

 
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