Matthew 9:9

In the paragraph preceding we have notable examples of the heart-searching powers of Jesus. These powers he manifested again, when, in going forth, he saw Matthew at the receipt of custom, and called him. The sequel proved the wisdom of his election.


1. He called a publican into his discipleship.

(1) Publicans were hated by the Jews as representatives of Roman oppression. For they were public tax-gatherers, or rather farmers of the revenue. "The publican's trade is dirty and sordid" (Artemidorus). "There is no sinful calling but some have been saved out of it, and no lawful calling but some have been saved in it" (Henry).

(2) They were hated because many of them were extortionate in their exactions. So common was this that it became a saying that "all publicans are thieves." None are too vile to be reclaimed by Christ.

(3) Publicans were particularly obnoxious to the Pharisees because of their commerce with the Gentiles in the pursuit of their calling. Hence "publicans and sinners" are familiarly associated (cf. Matthew 5:46 with Luke 6:32; see also Matthew 11:19). Hence also Pharisees would have no communion with publicans. It was a maxim with the orthodox, "Take not a wife from the family of a publican" (Theocritus). Yet from this despised and hated class Jesus called Matthew to be one of his beloved and trusted disciples.

2. He ate with publicans and sinners.

(1) Gentiles, who came not under obedience to Moses, were accounted sinners (see Matthew 18:17; Matthew 26:45; Romans 5:8; Galatians 2:15). Some of these may have been at Matthew's feast. If so, then Jesus in eating with them would portend the calling of the Gentiles, as also did the favour he showed to the centurion and to the Syro-phoenician woman.

(2) Jews who were lax in respect to the ceremonies of the Law, as well as those who violated its precepts, were by the Pharisees accounted little better than heathen (see Matthew 8:30).

(3) Another class of "sinners," no less obnoxious to the Pharisee, were those who, while they honoured the Law, paid little respect to the traditions of the elders. Such sinners might be morally superior to the Pharisees who despised them.

(4) In eating with sinners Jesus did not evince sympathy with sin. Had he done so he would not have been the Friend of sinners. Those are net friends of sinners who encourage them in evil. His sympathy was for their souls. Christ comes to those who welcome him, and to none is he more welcome than to those who feel themselves to be sinners.

3. He encourages his disciples to go and do likewise.

(1) The sensual man enters the company of sinners for gratification. In this sense the holy Jesus could never join them. Neither in this sense could he encourage his disciples to join them.

(2) The spiritual man enters the company of sinners to do them good. There is no heart so vile that the Lord will not enter it when invited (cf. Revelation 3:20).

(3) The self-righteous man shuns the "sinner" from contempt. This unworthy feeling Jesus would discourage in his disciples. Therefore he had them with him to eat with the despised.

(4) The man of the world will shun the company of notorious sinners for the sake of reputation. Such a motive is hypocritical. Jesus would have his disciples true men. There is no fear for the reputation of any man anywhere if he be in the company of Jesus.


1. He rested his defence upon the mind of God.

(1) Had man remained innocent he would have required neither mercy nor sacrifice. Man being fallen mercy is required; and sacrifice is instituted for the sake of mercy. To set forth the mercy of God in Christ's sacrifice of himself for us. To beget mercifulness in the heart of the believer. Mercy is the end, sacrifice the means, and the end is preferable to the means.

(2) Hence God will have mercy rather than sacrifice. He prefers mercifulness to ritual (see 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 50:13, 14; Isaiah 1:11; Luke 7:22, 23; Joel 2:13; Hosea 6:6; Mark 12:33).

(3) The Lord willed mercy; but the Pharisees chose sacrifice, in a very different sense, however, from that in which Jesus came to offer himself instead of the many "burnt offerings" previously required. When Jesus spake, sacrifices were being offered in the temple by a disobedient and gainsaying people who had little respect for mercy. In such sacrifices God had no pleasure.

(4) Another kind of sacrifice will surely come in the day of vengeance (see Ezekiel 39:17-19; Zephaniah 1:7, 8; Revelation 19:17). But this is the "strange work" of God, to which he greatly prefers the mercy in which he "delighteth."

2. He rested his defence also upon his special mission.

(1) In coming into the world Messiah says, "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared for me" (cf. Psalm 40:6-8; Hebrews 10:5-10).

(2) Where should the Physician be but among the sick? This was a home-thrust; for the Pharisee recognized a teacher of the Law as a "physician of the soul."

(3) Jesus came into a world of sinners. All men need healing.

(4) But men must acknowledge their need. The whole need not a physician. The self-righteous are outside the mission of Jesus. The most inveterate disease is that in which the sinner imagines himself a saint, and therefore will not seek the Physician of souls.


1. The worthiness of the sinner is seen in the promptness of his obedience.

(1) Matthew arose at once responsive to the call Who amongst us has yielded obedience to the earliest call of Christ?

(2) Though conversion may at last take place, yet how much happiness and glory are forfeited through delay!

(3) How fatal are delays!

2. The worthiness of the sinner is seen in the completeness of his devotion.

(1) Jesus found Matthew in the midst of his business. Satan calls the idle to temptation. Christ calls the active to holy service (cf. Matthew 4:18-22). Matthew, like Saul of Tarsus, "conferred not with flesh and blood" (Galatians 1:15, 16).

(2) Matthew renounced a lucrative employment to embrace a life of poverty and persecution. There are better things than money. Yet the sacrifice shows up the man.

3. The worthiness of the sinner is seen in saintly zeal.

(1) In giving a great feast, Matthew sought no personal glory. It is from other evangelists we learn that Matthew gave it (see Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29).

(2) He gave it in honour of Christ. He gave it also in the interests of humanity. The service of Christ is the service of humanity. Humanity is blessed when brought under the influence of Jesus.

(3) When Matthew invited Jesus he invited the disciples of Jesus also. Those who welcome Christ to their hearts will welcome his disciples.

4. The worthiness of the sinner is honoured in the confidence of the Saviour.

(1) He is called to righteousness - the righteousness of faith. Matthew never forgot that he had been a publican (cf. 1 Timothy 1:13).

(2) Obedience, devotion, and zeal will be rewarded. Matthew was subsequently elected into the apostleship (Matthew 10:3). He was, moreover, distinguished as the first evangelist. The publican is immortalized through his connection with Jesus. - J.A.M.

He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the receipt of custom.
Whom are we to follow, and on what road, and to what place?

I. WE ARE TO FOLLOW CHRIST. Do not the soldiers follow their captain? Do not the redeemed follow their deliverer? Do not the disciples follow the teacher? We must follow Him further and further. Immediately, lest we never have the invitation given us again. He has something worthy to be obtained by such as follow Him. Will a man shut his ears to such a merciful invitation? If a rich man were to call a famished man to come into his house and be fed, would tie not instantly follow? The state of those who refuse is one of miserable bondage.

II. WHAT IS THE WAY ALONG WHICH HE CALLS US TO FOLLOW? Christ has opened a new and living way, in every sense of the Word. Our old, corrupt nature dislikes a new was. Christ gives the power, hence no excuse. But is this new way unpleasant? It has good company and entertainment; at the end, the house of the Almighty Father.


(R. W. Evans, B. D.)

I. CONSIDER THE EVENT AS ILLUSTRATIVE OF DIVINE GRACE. God seeks whom He will to serve Him. The change rapid.

II. WE ARE TO FORSAKE ALL INORDINATE LOVE OF RICHES. Discriminate between the possession of riches and inordinate love of them.

III. Subsequently to his conversion Matthew ENTERTAINED HIS MASTER, INVITING GUESTS FROM HIS FORMER COMPANIONS — a proof of the sincerity of his conversion. We should silently and sedulously seek others. What mariner, rescued from the fury of the waves, would refuse to extend a charitable hand to his companions who are plunging in the abyss he has escaped.



1. It was a call of sovereignty. There was no miracle; the attraction of personal authority.

2. It was a call of grace. What was there in St. Matthew to recommend him?

3. It was a call of love (1 John 3:1).


1. It was an answer of faith. He followed because he believed — had trust — in Christ.

2. It was an answer of decision.

3. It was an answer of self-sacrifice.

(Canon Titcomb, M. A.)



1. He was in a degrading business.

2. He was in an ensnaring business.

3. He would not have dared to follow Jesus even if he had wished to do so.


1. He saw all the evil that had been in him.

2. He saw his adaptation for holy service.

3. He saw all that He meant to make of him.



1. Few were the words.

2. Clear was the direction.

3. Personal was the address.

4. Royal was the command.


1. He followed at once.

2. He followed spiritually as well as literally.

3. He followed wholly.

4. He followed growingly.

5. He followed ever after.


(C. H. Spurgeon)

I. We may learn also THE NECESSITY of our immediate and cheerful obedience to the commands of God. When our Saviour called him to arise and follow Him, He

(1)called him to give up a gainful profession for a life of hardship, toil, and danger.

(2)To expose himself to the mockery of his former companions.

(3)To the scoffs of the wise, and the

(4)persecution of men in power.

(5)To enter into a situation for which neither his former habits, nor, as he might plead, his general education suited him. Should we have wondered if, under such circumstances, St. Matthew had offered an excuse?

II. ST. MATTHEW DID NOT ANSWER, "NOT YET, LORD, WHILE SO MANY PERSONS ARE LOOKING ON; at night I will come to Thee. Not yet, Lord, while my fortune is beginning to thrive; another year and I will give up my business."

1. He arose immediately, and followed Him.

2. With joy, as having attained the highest honour which mortal man could obtain.

3. To prove that joy he makes a great feast: calls together his brother publicans.

4. In defiance of their ridicule or wonder.


(Bishop Heber.)

I. THE CALL; in a word of command, "Follow me": a word very well befitting the Captain of our salvation, when He was to list soldiers or officers in His militia. Some have not come at the call. Others, though they have come, have not followed Him as they should do.

II. THERE IS SOMETHING OH OUR PART, WHEN WE ARE CALLED, TO BE DONE BY US. There must be concurrence and obedient compliance of our will. Else we may resist the word as well as the ,Spirit.

III. THE OBEDIENCE — "He arose and followed Him.' His rising up shows

(1)reverence and respect, as well as


(3)Henceforth he owns Christ as his master.

(4)He was wealthy, but now sees nothing before him but poverty and persecution. Yet he accepts the condition at first word.


1. He followed his master to the end.

2. Till His departure.

3. Till his own death.

(Adam Littleton, D. D.)

Some articles of produce are taxed as they are brought into the town. A booth of branches, or a more substantial hut, is erected at every entrance into the city or village, and there, both day and night, sits a man at the "receipt of custom." He taxes all the produce, piercing with a long, sharp iron rod the large camel-bags of wheat or cotton, in order to discover concealed copper-wire, or other contraband.

(Van Lennep.)

The people of this country sit at all kinds of work. The carpenter saws, planes, and hews with his hand-adze sitting upon the ground, or upon the plank he is planing. The washer-woman sits by the tub, and, in a word, no one stands where it is possible to sit. Shopkeepers always sit; and Levi sitting at the receipt of custom is the exact way to state the case.

(W. M. Thomson, D. D.)

How easy it is for some men to rise and follow Christ, as compared with others. They seem to fall into the way of faith: it is like bringing the sun to bear upon a bud that wants to open, and that is just waiting for light in order that it might unfold its deep and sacred beauty. It is so easy for some men to pray: they seem to be walking up a gentle green slope to meet God at the height of it. When other men try to pray it is like climbing up a rugged, steep rock, some of the stones loose, and if you put your foot upon them you will fall. It is so easy for some men to do the act of benevolence.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

"Come," says the sea to the river. "Come," says the magnet to the steel. "Come," says the spring to the sleeping life of the field and forest. And, like the obedience of the river to the sea, of the steel to the stone, of the earth's charmed atoms to the spring's effectual call, is the obedience of the soul to Christ's wondrous spirit.

(C. Stanford.)He that said " Let there be light," says now, "Follow me." That power sweetly inclines which could forcibly command; the force is not more irresistible than the inclination. When the sun shines upon the icicles, can they choose but melt and fall? When it looks into a dungeon, can the place choose but be enlightened? Do we see the jet drawing up straws to it; the loadstone, iron? And do we marvel if the Omnipotent Saviour, by the influence of His grace, attract the heart of a publican?

(Bishop Hall.)

1. We must remember how in business may be found a service for Christ.

2. We may learn not to think too much of daily work, and set too great a price on it.

3. We shall seek to give of the fruits of our trading to Christ.

4. The true servant of Christ will be willing to give up, not only of the fruits of daily work, but daily work itself for Christ.

(T. Gasquoine, B. A.)

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