Jesus has just called the tax collector, Matthew. Matthew has responded by getting up out of the tax collection booth and following Him. The very next sentence is, “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples.”
This sentence is not just there to impart a fact. It tells us how Matthew began his new walk of faith. He begins by inviting not only Jesus, but all his friends to his home. He wants those in his circle of influence to know this Jesus who has so radically altered his life. That might seem like a small thing, but it is a very important thing. So important it is of Scriptural note.
Matthew is a person of influence. He had many relationships with those who shared his unsaved culture. Many are tax collectors, despised by the rest of society. Others are known to be people that the majority of society would not want to be associated with. Matthew is the bridge whereby these individuals gain access to The Way.
Moreover, Matthew knew that following Jesus would mean his life and the life of his friends would soon be on divergent tracks. He may even lose touch with many of them – not because he wanted to necessarily, but because the path of the disciple and the path of the unsaved are far more intersecting than parallel. Matthew knew that Jesus was an itinerant minister. A tax collector has a booth. Matthew knew his days of being imminently accessible to his friends on a daily basis were coming to a close. If he was ever to be a witness to them, he had to capitalize on the opportunity he had in this moment.
Discipleship (following Jesus) is much more than just sitting under some of Jesus’ teaching. It is doing life together with Him. It means eating with Him, listening to Him, talking to Him, and following His direction throughout our lives. It also means being an intentional witness for Him. Many today balk at such notions, because it is an unfortunate reality that some churches have professionalized the evangelistic effort to the point where ‘regular’ disciples feel unqualified. But being a witness for and of Christ is not a role reserved for clergy or the heavily trained. Being a witness is for all of us.
In fact, it is perhaps the most basic part of being a disciple. One can know that Romans 10:9-10, (“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”) teaches us that the irreducible minimum of a saving faith is a confessed faith. That can be as simple as a testimony to other believers at our baptism, but ideally it also includes a declaration of our belonging to Jesus in front of others. Sometimes to a whole group of our unbelieving friends.
To that point, intersecting moments of time with groups of unsaved people must be seen for what they are meant to be from God’s perspective. They are more than just opportunities to socialize. They are divine appointments. Occasions when we can bring something of the blessing of God to others. Occasions that often give us an opportunity to identify with Jesus to that others can see Jesus in us and through our relationship with Him. This is the nature of our calling. Discipleship is radical. It is the insanity of daily life in obedient relationship with God.
I have ample opportunity to talk about my faith—if I don’t let deficient spiritual self-esteem hinder meCalvin Ratz
A.W. Tozer prayed, “Lord, give us boldness to share this vital message with anyone with whom we come in contact who may be facing a Christless eternity.” Let us pray likewise!