Sunlight shining through clouds. God's Call of Grace


"I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Matt 9:13 NKJV)

Matthew gives us a genealogy of Jesus Christ, and for reasons of his own he mentions four women who were ancestors of the Messiah. And all four would have been despised by the religious types of Matthew's day. 

There was Tamar, the daughter of Judah who played the harlot and conceived twin boys out of wedlock.

There was Rahab, the liar and "innkeeper" who harbored the Israelite spies.

There was Ruth, the Moabite widow who abandoned her own people to live with the people of God.

And finally there was Bathsheba, the adulterer whose husband David murdered and who later gave birth to Solomon.

Of Jesus female ancestors, he makes the point of mentioning three Gentiles and three women of questionable moral backgrounds. No mention of Sarah and none of Rebekah. Instead he singles out these four women. That's a strange way to introduce the Messiah! Unless you have a questionable background yourself.

In the ninth chapter of his gospel, Matthew reveals a bit of his own history. Matthew was a tax collector, one of the most despised of professions in first century Israel. The tax collector was an agent of the hated Roman occupiers. Not only were they hated because they were traitors, they were hated because they were thieves. Under the rules of the game, the Romans demanded a fixed levy from their subjects. Anything collected above that belonged to the tax collector personally. This privilege was often abused.

So when Jesus called Matthew, and Matthew responded - and not only Matthew but many other publicans and sinners - these people experienced the grace of God. Lifted from them were their past indiscretions. Lives were changed and sinners came to repentance.

But it also caused consternation among the religious types of the day: "Why does your master eat with publicans and sinners?" Jesus answer? "They that are whole need not a physician, but those who are sick."

Matthew understood the grace of God. He had experienced it, as had those four women. So Matthew wrote about not despising the little ones (18:10), that the Son of man has come to save that which was lost (18:11) and about the joy of finding the lost sheep (18:12-13). He wrote of Jesus being a "friend of publicans and sinners" (11:19). He was the only one to record Jesus words: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matt 11:28-30 NKJV)

Matthew understood the grace of God, and he wanted us to understand that he understood.

Lenny Cacchio
Sabbath Morning Companion
December 21, 2002 All rights reserved.