I MET JESUS: Matthew the traitor (Mark 2:13-17)

Who do you choose to be your friends?  Do you choose people like you or people who are different?  Do you have any friends who are the opposite of you in many ways?  How about people you find annoying or difficult to get on with?  Do you avoid them or befriend them?

What if you have kids?  Do you tell them to stay away from the ones who are naughty or mean to them?  Or do you tell them, "Sounds like they really NEED a friend like you!"

And who would you expect God to choose to be his friends?

Again, Jesus does the unexpected...

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’

Levi, also known as Matthew, was a Jew who has betrayed his own people to work for the Roman authorities, collecting taxes from his own people.  So he was a traitor.  Worse, he extorted money from them and took more than he had to, in order to make himself rich in the process.  So he was a greedy traitor. 

He was hated.

But Jesus tells Matthew to follow him!  And he does!!  Jesus goes and has meal round Matthew's house with a whole bunch of people that most others hated for being thieves, traitors, sexually impure, etc.  Jesus made friends with people no matter what they'd done.

The religious leaders didn't like this because they thought if Jesus really was anything special, he should hang out with them - not the prostitutes, drunks and thieves!  So they start having a go at Jesus' disciples about the company he keeps.

Jesus' answer is simple and stunning:

‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’

In other words: "These guys need me and they know it.  You guys need me too but you don't know it, so you're not ready for what I've come to do to save sinners."  

See, the Bible says everyone's a sinner - not just the worst ones.  The religious leaders needed God's forgiveness, just as much as anyone.  But they think they're doing fine as they are.  This is their mistake.  The "sinners" Jesus spend his time with, on the other hand - like Matthew etc - they knew they were sinners.  They knew they weren't good enough for God.  And maybe they'd given up any hope of God taking any interest in them, except to punish them.  But Jesus says he's come to save them and make them his friends!!

It should remind us of John the baptist.  He came to prepare people to meet Jesus by calling them to turn from their sin and to have sorry hearts.
  Those who did this were ready for Jesus to be their saviour and friend.  Those who didn't, weren't.

Are you more like Matthew?  A sinner who's grateful that Jesus would come to save and forgive?

Or are you more like the religious leaders?  Sinners so full of pride they think they have no need of God or his forgiveness?