Matthew the Publican

Matthew 9; Luke 5

I.         Introduction


A.      Studying through the twelve apostles of the Lamb


1.        Peter – man of Zeal

2.        Andrew the Soul-Winner

3.        James the Hot-headed

4.        John the Beloved

5.        Philip, the Active Apostle

6.        Last week, Bartholomew, or Nathanael as he is called in the Gospel of John

7.        This week, it is Matthew


B.       What is so cool about Matthew is the complete change that Jesus made in the life of such a sinner

C.       Oh if we could be so simple as Matthew, and see such success in our own Christian lives as he did!


I.         Background


A.      No Deep Biographical Expose

B.       Here is a man who was from the area around the Sea of Galilee

C.       His father’s name was Alphaeus

D.      He had two names


1.        Levi – very proud name (one of the names of the tribes of Israel

2.        Matthew – means a gift of God

3.        For most of his life, until the day he met Jesus he was known as Levi, the Publican

4.        But because of Jesus Christ, he would be known as Matthew, the Gospel Writer


II.       Message


A.      His Career – A Publican (Mt 9:9)


1.        Not a good career choice

2.        As a publican you worked for the occupying army as a tax collector

3.        Sounds ok enough, until you learn of their methods

4.        A Publican was a “public” official, who decided how much taxes you owed the Roman Government, and then made sure that you paid that amount. And boy could he convince you to pay! He had full authority from the Romans to use fear, intimidation, extortion, bribery, and whatever it took to squeeze every penny from your pockets that he could.

5.        Sounds a lot like revenue officers even today!

6.        Do you want to know why they used such tactics?


a.       It was not because he was patriotic for the Roman Empire

b.       It was because the Romans expected a certain amount from every region to be collected in taxes. Anything above that belonged to the tax collector

c.       It was called, “Commission” – lots of people are paid “commission” – they are called “middle-men.”


7.        Here we find Levi sitting at the seat of Custom


a.       A seat of power

b.       With lines of people who have been notified that today is the day they were expected to pay their taxes

c.       He was of all things, a JEW, extorting burdensome sums from his own people, only for his own profit – only out of greed!

d.       Here was a PUBLICAN

e.       He usually owned lots of property, and had great wealth, and coordinated as much of the city’s buying and selling though his fingers as possible

f.        His establishments were known as Pubs – places where deals were done – around a table of beer

g.       People hated the publicans.  They were on everybody’s most hated list

h.       Jesus never condoned their lifestyles or career-choices (Mt 18:16-18). Everyone knew just how wicked publicans were.


8.        What a career! You and I would despise such a man, but Jesus came to save such a man! AMEN!


B.       His Encounter (Mt 9:9)


1.        Jesus has been ministering at this point for months, and people have been attracted to such a man as He was

2.        Levi sat week after week in his seat of authority, and met every walk of life, and walked all over them

3.        You better believe he already had met Peter, and James, and other disciples, but only on a professional basis – as their tax-collector

4.        But today Levi meets a Man like no other man

5.        Today, instead of the tax-man calling (which would strike fear and dread in anyone’s heart), it is the Messiah calling on Levi!

6.        What a marvellous surprise Levi experienced!

7.        Let’s see the event through the eyes of Luke 5:27-28


a.       You can bet that NOTHING was going to move Levi from that comfortable seat of custom

b.       You can bet that no one impressed Levi as he saw every walk of life pass before like he was a little god

c.       That was until Jesus passed by and called his name!

d.       Notice the simplicity – Follow Me!


8.        Jesus came to call sinners, lepers, demoniacs, harlots, and PUBLICANS to follow Him

9.        Can you imagine how this went against the religious mind-set? For a spiritual man like Jesus to want to be associated with such riff-raff? Spiritual people should know better (Cf Lk 7:38,39)


C.       His Joy (Lk 5:27-32)


1.        His Joy Was To Abandon All (Lk 5:27,28)


a.       You wouldn’t believe it, but look closely

b.       Levi left everything


1)       No settling of his accounts

2)       No completing his days work

3)       No waiting until closing time


a)       If I were not born again and following Jesus, and somebody gave me a Gospel tract, or witnessed to me on the job, I wouldn’t wait until closing time to get saved – I’d do it NOW!

b)       If I were in this church, and I knew I was lost and on my way to hell, and I heard a preacher say YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN, I wouldn’t wait until the end of the meeting – I’d fall on my face right here and now and cry out to Jesus to save my lost soul!


c.       He abandoned everything


1)       The money on the table

2)       The potential earnings

3)       The authority he had over the Roman soldiers around him

4)       The power he held over the lives of others

5)       The responsibility he had to the Roman governor

6)       He abandoned it all as he came to sit at Jesus’ feet

7)       And not only that…


a)       He abandoned his plans

b)       He abandoned his dreams

c)       He abandoned his LIFE in order to be with Jesus


d.       Whatever it costs you to be with Jesus in heaven, it will be worth it

e.       Whatever it costs you to spend time with Jesus in your Bible reading and prayer time, and in church time, will be eternally worth it!

f.        The apostle Paul knew the truth of this (Philp 3:8-9)


2.        His Joy Was To Follow Christ


a.       This is where people go wrong

b.       This is why so many are not getting saved today

c.       They are presented with a plastic god – a Barbie-kind of Jesus that is not real, nor impressive

d.       Matthew would only have considered throwing away his old life, IF Jesus was “out of this world awesome!”

e.       Matthew was delighted to leave his old life, and step into something guaranteed better!

f.        To follow Jesus meant:


1)       To be a disciple of Jesus

2)       To be a student, a learner – someone who wanted to be LIKE Him in all His ways and attitudes

3)       Day in and day out – not a part-time occupation


g.       Though you may find the fishers occasionally fishing again, we never find Matthew at his sinful career again!

h.       Notice the Requirements to follow Jesus


1)       A Desire – hunger – this was something that he had wanted all along


a)       You better believe me

b)       There is no peace saith my God for the wicked

c)       The way of the sinner is HARD, and he knows it!

d)       What this world secretly desires, is not found in drink, or new drugs, or in betting, and money-making, but in Jesus!


2)       God’s word – the voice of God speaking to your heart

3)       Simple surrender

4)       Commitment – not a once off, or just an attempt at living the Christian life – it was an all or nothing decision!


i.         Notice the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:35-39)


1)       It was his joy to be able to believe on such a Saviour

2)       And such a joy to be baptized as a Christian

3)       And such a joy to live a life differently now

4)       JOY! A fruit of the Spirit! JOY! Do you have any???


3.        His Joy was To Get Others to Personally Meet such a Saviour! (Lk 5:29-32; Mt 9:10-13)


a.       Uses his money for the gospel now

b.       Makes a great feast – food usually attracts people

c.       Jesus is sitting at the head table

d.       Levi invites every one of those sinners, and publicans to meet Jesus

e.       Matthew knew what Jesus could do – Jesus had done it for HIM

f.        Birds of a feather flock together – so go out and get your same feathered birds, and bring them to Jesus (to church to hear preaching, to Bible Study, or to prayer)

g.       Oh does THAT make the religious leaders MAD!


1)       Not just a few friends, but MANY publicans and sinners

2)       And not only were they talking, but they were EATING together – they were actually enjoying talk about heaven, and forgiveness, and salvation, and repentance, and Jehovah God

3)       There were so many people that the Pharisees couldn’t even get into the house


a)       Picture this

b)       A house full of people

c)       Jesus and His disciples spread out throughout the house

d)       All of the people were talking about spiritual things – not the weather, or sports, or even the oppressive Roman government

e)       A bunch of envious Pharisees were all standing outside, grunting

f)        And they ask a disciple, WHY?


h.       Jesus, over all the conversations going on, hears their question, and then announces loud enough so that everyone can hear


1)       Well people don’t need a physician

2)       Only sick people do

3)       Go back to your libraries and learn about God’s mercy


a)       God doesn’t want ceremonial sacrifices, and masses

b)       God wants us to understand His great mercy on SINNERS


4)       Repentance is what Jesus calls on us to do


a)       To change our MINDS

b)       And our WAYS

c)       To make our minds think like Jesus’

d)       To make our lives live like Jesus

e)       God will settle for nothing less – and neither should you!


4.        This event affected a whole host of publicans (Lk 18:10-14)!!!


D.      His Passion – New Life Work


1.        Had spent years being a tax-collector


a.       Someone who took careful records of people’s incomes, and whereabouts so that he could tax them for his own benefit

b.       Someone who had had such great authority as a jew to be able to command Roman soldiers in his line of work


2.        Now, he had a new career – a new life

3.        He set out to write out the life of Jesus Christ – the Gospel according to Matthew. Didn’t write it of himself – was guided by the Holy Spirit

4.        Writes around 37 AD – that would make it about 4 years after the death, burial, and resurrection of His Saviour

5.        When Matthew writes, he hides nothing – reveals even his own failures (Mt 26:55,56)

6.        But his life’s work now is that ALL the world would know about Jesus, the Christ – His Saviour, and Lord (Mt 28:19,20)

7.        There is no greater purpose than the preaching of the Gospel

8.        God chose to place this man’s work at the start of the New Testament


III.     Applications


A.      Levi turned people off and mad them mad

B.       Matthew built bridges to the very ones who ruined society – the harlots and sinners and publicans

C.       Matthew did end up making the Pharisees mad, but so what – they were crazy to begin with

D.      What is your life accomplishing for the Lord

E.       The next time you feel liked God can't use you, remember the following people:


1.        NOAH got drunk.

2.        ABRAHAM was too old.

3.        JACOB was a liar.

4.        LEAH was cross-eyed.

5.        JOSEPH was abused.

6.        MOSES was a murderer & couldn't talk.

7.        GIDEON was afraid.

8.        RAHAB was a prostitute.

9.        NAOMI was a widow.

10.     DAVID committed adultery& was a murderer.

11.     JOB went bankrupt.

12.     JEREMIAH and TIMOTHY were too young.

13.     ELIJAH was suicidal.

14.     JONAH ran from God.

15.     JOHN THE BAPTIST dressed poorly & ate bugs.

16.     JOHN THE BELOVED had a bad temper and was selfish.

17.     MARTHA worried about everything.

18.     MARY MAGDALENE was demon possessed.

19.     THE SAMARITAN WOMAN was divorced....more than once!

20.     ZACCHEUS was too small.

21.     PETER denied Christ.

22.     PAUL was too religious.

23.     TIMOTHY had an ulcer....

24.     And LAZARUS WAS DEAD!!!


IV.    Conclusion


A.      Matthew’s Joy needs to become YOUR joy (Lk 5:27-32)


1.        To Abandon All (Lk 5:27,28)

2.        To Follow Christ

3.        To Get Others to Personally Meet such a Saviour!


B.       But that will never happen until Matthew’s Saviour becomes YOUR Saviour

C.       And until Matthew’s commitment is YOUR commitment

Craig Ledbetter

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