Good morning or evening, whenever you’re reading this. Great to have you with us. We continue our study in Matthew. Matthew 9:10-11 says this:
“Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and began dining with Jesus and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?'”
What an amazing scene here. Jesus clearly making it known that He is indeed happy to be around anyone and everyone. His love knows no boundaries.
For the first time in this writing, Matthew has introduced himself (Matthew 9:9). He described the moment when Jesus said to him, “Follow me” while Matthew was sitting at his tax collector’s booth. Jewish tax collectors were among the most despised people in Israel. They collected taxes for the oppressive, Gentile, occupying Romans and often took money for themselves while they were doing it. Such men were thought of as immoral traitors by the Jewish people.
After being officially added to Jesus’ group of disciples, Matthew hosted Jesus and the disciples for dinner at his house, along with his other friends. Describing the same event, both Mark (Mark 2:15–17) and Luke (Luke 5:29–32) make clear this was Matthew’s house. They also describe Matthew’s friends as being tax collectors and “sinners.” All were reclining together with Jesus and the other disciples around Matthew’s table.
“Sinners,” as used in this context, is a broad term describing people who broke the moral codes of Jewish society. This would have included tax collectors, harlots, and others. The Pharisees will show in the following verse that they did not approve of Jesus’ dining companions.
The Jewish religious leaders known as the Pharisees were very careful about who they shared a meal with, for that reason. They hoped to avoid even the appearance of associating with disreputable people. The law itself did not forbid this, but they had established rules for themselves beyond the law to protect their reputations as righteous men. Discretion about a person’s companions is not unwise, in and of itself. However, the Pharisees were brutally arrogant, and their rules of conduct came to carry nearly the weight of the law itself.
Jesus simply ignored rules and standards that went beyond the requirements of the law. He is doing so again in this passage: sharing a meal in the home of a tax collector. Also present are His disciples and more tax collectors and “sinners.” In this context, “sinners” are those people who broke religious rules and even the law itself (Matthew 9:9–10). These are people considered dirty, flawed, and even unclean by their culture.
The Pharisees didn’t get it. Jesus was a popular rabbi who spoke passionately about God and righteousness. In their eyes, they wonder why He’s being foolish about those with whom He is seen sharing meal. Why would He sully His reputation by associating with these people? That’s what they asked Jesus’ disciples. Christ’s answer (Matthew 9:12–13) reveals both His mission and the true motives of His critics’ hearts.
True motives of the heart. Yes…that’s what we’re getting down into. What are you motivations? What are the true motivations of your heart?