At one point in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is eating with a bunch of tax collectors. The religious people can’t understand it at all, because these were, well, tax collectors. The tax collector was pretty much the most despised person in all of Israel. This was because they were mostly Jewish people contracted by the Roman government to collect taxes on trade. This not only meant that they were traitors during the Roman occupation, but, since there was a scale of collectors so that the highest up would overcharge the ones underneath, the trickle down economics was such that the Jewish citizen paid much heftier taxes due to the collectors’ corruption.
So how is it that so many tax collectors are gathering around Jesus? How is it that so many people who are hated in society because of their crimes can actually feel comfortable approaching Jesus and sitting with him?
Because he’s got Matthew with him.
See, the other tax collectors see Matthew with Jesus, and they then feel, hey, I can approach him, too.
Jesus doesn’t need Matthew to do anything special, anything else but to follow him. Just be with him.
And with one, the door opens for many more.
About 15 years ago, I was an engineer and a program manager in a research and development company. I had been working for 7 years in that, and it was a time of change for me. I had started sensing that I was being called by Jesus in my life. I know that might sound strange to some people, and I can’t describe all the details here, but I remember one day at my work, as I sat in my office looking out my window with tears flowing down my face, I could sense in my heart, “The time is now. It’s time to get up and go.” I didn’t know where I’d end up being or what I’d end up doing. I just knew that the time was now, that Jesus was calling me to follow him. It was time to get up and go.
I’m glad I did.
And after all these years, what was true then always comes back to me from experience. I don’t know how many people have gotten to experience Jesus through me. But I do know this: that if it happens, it’s not because I’ve done anything special.
It’s just because I’m following him. Just being with him is all that’s needed. That opens the door for others.
If you ever reach a moment in your life that you feel in the depths of your heart that “The time is now to get up and go,” then don’t worry about where you’ll end up or what you’re going to do.
Don’t be afraid to follow your call.
Because just being with Jesus is all that’s needed.
And with you, the doors will open for many more.
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. (Mt 9:9)