9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
“She was the prettiest girl at the dance, and she could really dance.” Ken’s eyes sparkled when he told me how he and Berry had met those many years ago. They were still in love and wholly committed to each other. She responded with, “I couldn’t believe that this handsome young officer wanted to dance with me.”
I wonder what Matthew felt like when Jesus singled him out. The picture I have reproduced here is a photo of a painting made by the Renaissance artist Carravagio. It is entitled the “The Call of Matthew.” It hangs in San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. I love the picture because of the surprise on Matthew’s face. You see Jesus’ hand extending out of the shadows where our Lord stands. Matthew seems to think there must be some mistake. Surely, He is calling someone else.
Matthew, the author of this Gospel account, puts this story immediately after the great climax of forgiveness in which Jesus heals the paralyzed man lowered through the roof. To prove that he had the power to forgive, he said to that man, “Get up and walk.” And he did.
Matthew knew what he was, a tax collector. Everyone reminded him of what a terrible person he was every day. Tax collectors had few friends. But one day, to everyone’s surprise, Jesus saw him and called him. That same Jesus has called you. It probably surprises some folks and should surprise you too. But Jesus does things like that. He loves us, despite us.