The Scriptorium

Called to Repentance

We will always need to practice repentance. Matthew 9.9-13

Matthew 9: Enlarging the Harvest (2)

Pray Psalm 51.14, 15.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.

Sing Psalm 51.14, 15, 18.
(He Leadeth Me)
Deliver us, from guilt, O Lord, You Who have saved us by Your Word;
and let our tongues Your mercy bless, and sing of Your great righteousness!
Refrain vv. 15, 18
Lord, open now our lips to raise to You sweet songs of joyous praise!
Thus let Your favor on us fall, and build and strengthen Zion’s wall!

Read Matthew 9.1-13; meditate on verses 9-13.

1. To what did the Pharisees object about Jesus?

2. To what does Jesus call us?

Jesus added Matthew to His band of disciples, calling him from his work as a tax collector to become a different sort of collector by following Him.

Tax collectors were not popular in Jesus’ day. They were Jews who worked for the Roman government, and thus were seen to be at the cutting edge of Roman confiscation of Jewish liberty and wealth. Matthew and his colleagues were looked upon as “sinners” – that is, as turncoat collaborators who were working against the Lord and His people.

Jesus doesn’t call people to get their act together or to rebuild their reputation before they can follow Him. He calls them to repent. But to repent of our sins – to embrace a different attitude toward them, hating and despising them, and turning away from them altogether (Pss. 97.10; 119.59, 60) – we first need to admit that we are sinners. In Matthew’s case, the daily glares and muttered condemnations of his neighbors, and the scorn of those from whom he collected the tax, would have let him know just where he stood in the eyes of his neighbors. He may well have agreed with them?

Had Matthew heard of Jesus? I think that’s likely. The fact that he walked off his job to follow Jesus says that something happened within him that gave him new priorities and new hope. He immediately brought Jesus into his home for a meal (cf. Mk. 2.15), perhaps out of gratitude, or just to have the opportunity to get to know Him better (By the way, some scholars take Matthew’s referring to the house, rather than his house, as an indication of Matthew’s authorship of this gospel.). Notice, too, that Matthew invited “many tax collectors and sinners” to dine with them. Had he begun to identify his own Personal Mission Field?

Jesus did not come to call the righteous to repentance. What did He mean by that? His comment was pointed toward the Pharisees, who supposed themselves to be righteous. Since, in their mind, they were doing just fine, they didn’t need Jesus to help them on their way to eternal life. Jesus did not waste His time with people whose hearts were set against Him and whose minds were closed to His Word. Those who considered themselves well enough, thank you very much, didn’t need the great Physician of the soul. It was those who were weighed down with guilt and shame, unable to deliver themselves from self-loathing, and knowingly involved in wickedness but helpless to escape from it – these are the ones to whom Jesus came preaching repentance. And these are the ones whose hearts He prepared to come when He called.

The irony of Jesus’ quoting Hosea 6.6 is that He came with both – mercy and sacrifice. But only His sacrifice can lead to the mercy of God, and empower us for showing mercy to others.

Let us ever be ready, like Matthew, to leave our old and shameful ways behind, and follow Jesus as He leads us into His Kingdom and righteousness. And let us keep repentance as one of our primary disciplines for growing in the Lord.

1. What is repentance, and who needs to practice it?

2. Sin can be difficult to break free of at times. How can hearing Jesus in His Word enable us to do so?

3. How can you know whether your righteousness is Kingdom righteousness or self-righteousness?

The Jews were seething with envy that the Lord was spending time with publicans and sinners. He declared to them that the words of the law were being concealed under a cloak of faithlessness. He gave aid to the sick and medicine to those in need. For those who believed they were healthy, however, no cure was necessary. But in order for them to understand that none of his followers were healthy, he advised them to learn the meaning of “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.”.
Hilary of Poitiers (315-367), On Matthew 9.2

Show me my sins, O Lord, and I will repent, so that I…

Pray Psalm 51.16-19.
Wait on the Lord to break you over any sins you have not confessed, then surrender to His good pleasure for the remainder of your day.

Sing Psalm 51.16-19.
Psalm 51.16-19 (He Leadeth Me)
No sacrifice, no offering would You have us, Your people, bring;
but broken spirits, cleansed of lies, and pure hearts You will not despise.
Refrain vv. 15, 18

Now build Your Church, raise high the wall of those who on Your mercy call.
And take our lives and let them be sweet sacrifices, Lord, to Thee!
Refrain vv. 15, 18

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).


T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore