Matthew 9:9-13 – The Call of Matthew


Matthew 9:9-13


Jesus calls a tax collector to be his disciple and the resulting party offends the Pharisees.


The Roman system of colonization in Judaea required the cooperation of part of the population. Judaea was not an important province to the Romans. Even in provinces closer to Rome, the Romans generally did not have enough troops or administrators to handle minor matters such as the collection of village taxes. Instead, they recruited Judeans to the role. These tax-collectors occupied a strained position in society. Some saw them as traitors and they were often branded as dishonest and extortionary. The latter came about because they were reputed to acquire wealth by extracting more taxes than necessary from their fellow villagers. This reputation makes it all the more surprising that Jesus selected Matthew as one of his followers. 

In contrast to the scribe who made the bold claim to follow Jesus, but who then falls out of the narrative, Matthew not only follows Jesus, but then throws him a party to celebrate. Naturally, as a tax collector, Matthew invites other tax collectors and a general collection of sinners to join in. This offends the Pharisees, who were not religious hypocrites. The Pharisees were concerned with the well-being of their fellow Judeans. They opposed Roman oppression and sought to guard their religious heritage against the intrusion of colonial culture. Jesus’ response acknowledges their concern. He agrees that the tax collectors and sinners are sick and in need of healing. But Jesus does not stop there; he reminds the Pharisees that God has called them to show mercy and that they are in danger of getting consumed by their own quest for righteousness.