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The shocking truth of a really good dinner.

December 27, 2017

7There’s a fascinating story about the Dark Side.

The Empire of a couple of millennia ago.

The first-century Roman domination of the world, which included little Israel.

Rome was an oppressor, with a brutal taxation system that inflicted deep financial pain  to every country they conquered.  The conquered nation would suffer a heavy, relentless and systematic double-fisted pounding of both poll tax and ground tax.  Paying the poll tax was your paying a sort of income tax, and you would also be obligated to pay the ground tax, something similar to a property or land tax.

Rome’s taxation system was unique – wealthy Roman senators and leaders would bid for a five-year ownership of the tax revenues of a defeated nation country by paying the government a fixed price and then arranging a system to squeeze as much income as possible in order to pad their own pockets.  These wealthy citizens – known as publicani – would hire local people (known as publicans ) to do the tax gathering.  The local publican could then charge as much to line his own pocket once he paid off the Roman publicani.

A publican was a traitor to his own country, considered as disgusting as a prostitute or a robber.

This is Matthew Levi.

He is working for the Dark Side.

But…

 

Matthew 9:9“As Jesus passed by, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting at the tax office; and He said unto him, ‘Follow Me!’  And he rose and followed Him.” 

I believe that Matthew had been spiritually unsettled, seeing and hearing Jesus while sitting at the table where he was collecting his taxes.  His heart was ready; a mere mention of invitation from Jesus was enough to transform him.  He would become one the the Twelve, and the writer of the first Gospel.

But back up and look at this

 

Look at verse 10.  Matthew threw a dinner party to celebrate Jesus.

“And it came to pass, as Jesus sat eating in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.”

In first century Palestine, when you threw a dinner for multiple guests, you had a serious event going on that the whole city block would know about.  Now you know that this much fun couldn’t be ignored by the Pharisees:

“And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, ‘Why does your Master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ “

Jesus turns from the revelry and shuts them down:

“… when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, ‘They that are well need not a physician, but they that are sick.’ … But go and learn what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Jesus is referring to the “ugly crowd” of people who are hungry, not so much for food, but to to gain access to Him.  The Pharisees are too stupid to grasp this.  But that’s not my point.

My point is that Matthew threw a party not to celebrate himself but to celebrate Jesus.

Jesus.

Oh, Matthew could have preached and he could have raved at fellow sinners to repent, but he instead made a wide-open invitation to happily come see who Jesus is and what He has done … and what else He could do.

Doesn’t that make sense? 

I mean, many people are confused and intimidated by the thought of singly trying to figure out the Savior – wouldn’t a gentle presentation by a fellow human be greatly helpful?

Really, that’s how I came to Christ.  I was drawn in by the gentle and excited persuasion of friends who were really, totally fascinated by Jesus and spilling forth their excitement in a way that erased the confusion and, yes, fear that I had.

Matthew threw a dinner.

And then I remembered that it was indeed at a kitchen table when I myself started to see the Light as I listened to a caring Christian – – over a glass of iced tea – share the magnificence of the Bible.

Isn’t there something we can take away from this?

 

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