9 As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow Me,” He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him.
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with Him and His disciples. (NIV)
This account is so abrupt, like the call of the fisherman, that it’s difficult for me to get past the incredible decision that seems to have been made in an instant. Matthew was working a heinous, and even criminal, job until this day and then he answered the invitation of a stranger to leave and “follow Him”. This commitment, and the surety that is obvious from his actions, is a miracle in itself. How many strangers would I follow based merely upon a request?
But as compelling as the call and response is the implied aftermath. It is our tendency to make “following” Jesus our to be a bizarre thing that includes jungles and passports, and malaria shots, and complete separation from the life that we once knew. But this text would seem to have something different to say about that. Not that all of those things (travel, forsaken homes, and friends, etc…) aren’t associated with following Jesus for some people in a very specific way, but maybe jumping straight to that is a leap ahead of where Jesus is going.
What is interesting about these two verses back to back is the space between them. Jesus clearly tells Matthew to “follow” Him, but where? Where is Jesus going? What exotic, mosquito infested, fever inducing locale is Jesus off to? Apparently He’s going to Matthew’s house.
The obvious here is profound. Jesus’ destination is Matthew’s original destination. Why? Because for some of us our home is an unexplored mission field. For some of us, our social circles are mission fields. Why would we run away from our homes if the Gospel is needed there? What crazy notion would be quick to ignore “lost” people to go find more “lost” people? Jesus and His disciples went to Matthew’s place for a barbecue / get together that would allow the “Great Physician” to encounter sick people that the “church” may never see. The church leaders even questioned the disciples about this unorthodox behavior (v. 11).
Though I want people to know Jesus through me, and I want God’s glory to be made known in my life to strangers and acquaintances, i cannot overlook the need to show the love of God to my wife, daughter, parents, in-laws, and close friends. Jesus may want me to follow Him to my house.