Called to Be a Disciple
William Nicholson, 1862
"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
The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation!
No sinner is too vile,
no sins are too numerous,
no guilt is too black —
for its powerful efficacy!
This is proved by the conduct of Christ, in offering his mercy to such sinful characters, and by the death of Christ, which was for the chief of sinners. How rich his grace! How impartial his love!
The context contains an account of the grace and favor of Christ to despised publicans, particularly to Matthew, verse 9-13.
I. The Character of Matthew When Called to Follow Christ.
1. Who was Matthew?
Matthew, surnamed Levi, was a Galilean by birth, a Jew by religion, and a publican by profession. Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27. The other evangelists call him Levi, his Hebrew name; but he always calls himself Matthew, probably his name as a publican, or collector of taxes. Some think that Christ gave him the name of Matthew when he called him to be an apostle; as Simon, he surnamed Peter. Matthew signifies the gift of God. Ministers are God's gifts to the Church, their talents and ministry God's gifts to them.
2. His employment.
He was sitting at the tax collector's booth, for he was a publican, Luke 5:27. He was a custom-house officer at the port of Capernaum, a collector of taxes levied by the Romans upon the Jews. These taxes were heavy and oppressive; they indicated the servile subjection of the Jews to the Romans, and therefore both the taxes and the collectors of them were abhorred by the people; and no wonder, for these taxes were sold to the highest bidder, and the collectors were generally covetous and cruel. Hence for a Jew to hold such an office, was regarded as extremely degrading.
OBSERVE: when Matthew was called,
(1.) He was a sinner, and needed salvation.
(2.) He was engaged in a sinful occupation, the tendency of which was to harden the heart and blunt the kinder feelings, and no doubt Matthew partook of the influence of his calling.
How important to have a calling which can be conscientiously followed — and in which God can be glorified!
II. Matthew Was Called to Follow Christ.
1. The Nature of his call.
(1.) It was a discriminating call. "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 is probable that Matthew had a previous knowledge of the miracles and doctrines of Christ, whom he might have heard preach.
Matthew might have been dissatisfied with his own occupation — have felt the burden of his sins, etc., etc. All this appears probable considering the promptitude with which he followed Christ. The eye of Christ saw all this — and that he had natural talents for preaching and writing his Gospel for the good of successive generations.
(2.) It was an enlightening call. When he said, "Follow me," a flood of light was poured into his mind. He immediately saw that it was high time to abandon his sins — to give up his degrading employment, and to submit to Christ. The Spirit operated to open his mind to his sin, and the Savior.
(3.) It was an efficacious call. He spoke as one having authority, etc. That call subdued his will — and subjugated his heart for "he arose and followed him."
(4.) It was a gracious and merciful call. To call a sinner — a vile publican, designing to pardon him, justify him, adopt him, and finally crown him! O amazing grace to man!
(5.) It was a prospective call. That is to say, Christ intended to make him an apostle, an evangelist.
2. The conduct of Matthew.He followed Christ, that is, he became his disciple. To follow Christ implies:
(1.) A knowledge of Christ and his truth. Some of Matthew's relatives were followers of Christ, and therefore he must have had some knowledge of him. As he sat in the custom-house his mind would frequently revert to Christ, of whom his friends had told him. The design of preaching is to give the knowledge of Christ. No man can really follow the Redeemer, without some understanding of him.
(2.) It implies dissatisfaction with a life of sin, and a conviction of the superior excellence of a holy life. This also is the result of the Spirit's enlightening operations.
(3.) Decision for Christ. The resolve of the heart to love him and follow him. "Lord, I am yours."
(4.) Renunciation of everything that stands in competition with Christ. Matthew surrendered a lucrative employment, a good business, etc., etc. Luke mentions a circumstance omitted by Matthew himself, and indicative of great humility and sacrifice of self-interest, "he left all." Luke 5:27, 28. The sinner must surrender . . .
his darling sins,
his impure pleasures,
the creature, however dear, if it is a competitor with Christ.
"Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it!" Mark 8:34-35
(5.) Dependence upon Christ's Sacrifice for acceptance with God — and for all needful blessings.
(6.) Prompt obedience to all Christ's commandments. So did Matthew. So must the repentant sinner.
III. The Advantages Resulting from Following Christ.
1. The enjoyment of all spiritual blessings. As pardon of all sin, peace with God, a life of holiness, eternal glory, etc.
2. Rest of mind. The transgressor has no rest. The man whose occupation, or connections, and practices are sinful, must have a restless mind. When these are abandoned for Christ, there is peace.
3. Honorable employment in doing good. So Matthew. A true Christian delights in well-doing.
4. Acknowledgment by the Redeemer at the day of judgment.
Christ is passing by you in preaching — in providence — in the operations of his Spirit. Young person, old person — he calls you to follow him. Arise, forsake the world, and sin — and follow him now.