Sermon for the Feast of St. Matthew, AD 2020

Matthew 9:9-13

Gone are the days where the pastor was the most educated person in town and a respected civic leader - if those days ever existed. Perhaps it’s just as well we are returning to a more first-century setting where the respected civic leaders are particularly opposed to Christ. Then the call goes to those like St. Matthew, a civic leader of the more infamous variety.
It’s notable that only Matthew calls himself the tax collector, for the just man is his own accuser. Like the notable penitents David and Manasseh, St. Matthew is quite open about his former failings. Far from ‘testimony time,’ St. Matthew’s story particularly emphasizes the effectiveness of Jesus’ call. While Matthew would not have been particularly well-liked as a tax-collector, it’s not as if he had nothing to lose. He had a lot of money, and the opportunity to make even more money for a long time. All this he gave up to heed Christ’s call.
Of course it would be going too far to say that Christ called Matthew because he was particularly wicked. This is not found in the text at all. Jesus summoned Matthew because he wanted him for the ministry of preaching, not because he was a wicked, condemnable person. We should not think that we are more suited to a call because of our sin, that we know the gospel better because we have fallen further. Sin is never beneficial, never gains us anything. This is just another way to put the credit for the call back on ourselves.
Equally dangerous is the position of the Pharisees, who would rather revel in their position as leaders while turning people away from Christ. From their venomous hatred we learn how not to be, yet also by Jesus’ response to them we receive words of great comfort. In fact, these words, written by Matthew at his call, could be thought of as his ordination verses. How often he probably turned them over in his mind, meditating on Christ’s life-giving words throughout his ministry. Let us consider them as well:
Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” For weak sinners, the great physician is here to save not the strong and healthy and sick. He sends his ministers to the sick and weak in faith. Those who are fragile and troubled, terrified by their sins, thinking they are unworthy of Christ’s benefits yet with a desire to serve God in stronger faith and purer obedience most need a physician. For them Christ himself has set aside his body and blood as their medicine, to strengthen and preserve in body and soul.
For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Christ does not call the righteous, either to believe or to the ministry, because these he cannot find, but only sinners. He shows with Matthew that he can even call foolish, despised, and weak sinners to the ministry. There is no partiality with God. The world crucifies him and he conquers death, rising from the grave. The world sends Pharisees, kings, and armies to silence the gospel and through fishermen, tax-collectors, and the rest of us weak men his kingdom still expands. Through the weakness and particular personalities of preachers God laughs at the attempts of Satan and the world to overcome his kingdom, which will never be defeated.
Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’” We, like, Matthew, should keep this in our hearts and minds, being obedient of all that God desires for us. God appointed the Pharisees to teach the gospel to sinners, comfort them, show them Christ, and instead they neglected it for the sake of many sacrifices, tithes, and other things. May we have a strong healthy faith, knowing God’s wrath against wanton sinners and the unrepentant, and his mercy and grace to the repentant and believing. God first is merciful to us, granting us all good things for the sake of Christ’s sacrifice. Clinging to his gracious promises, we can be merciful to others, the strength of the weak, the comfort to the sick, and the righteous for the sinner.
Matthew gave as he had been given because of Christ’s mercy to a poor, sinful tax collector. Surely he will not abandon those he has called, who also hear his world and recline with him at table. Amen.
This sermon was preached at the September matins service for Northern Illinois Confessional Lutherans.

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