Matthew could have made it complicated. Matthew could have made it clear.
Matthew is telling the story of his own decision to follow Jesus. He could have provided lots of background about what his life had been like, what his business practices were. He could have provided us with pictures of his heart, his soul, his motivation. He could have really helped us understand.
But he didn’t.
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. (Matthew 9:9)
Jesus saw Matthew. Jesus invited Matthew. Matthew followed.
I’m sure Matthew knew about Jesus. I’m sure Matthew had heard stories. He may even have had conversations.
I also know, however, that some people just decide things. They quickly count up the costs and benefits. They weigh the choices efficiently. Matthew, after all, was a tax collector. He was familiar with assessments. And he makes his description of this assessment efficient.
And then he has a party. He invites his old friends and his new friends. He doesn’t know any better. They don’t know any better.
Only the pharisees know better.
“Jesus,” they said. “you aren’t supposed to be eating in places like this. You aren’t supposed to be eating with people like this. It’s ruining your reputation. It’s damaging any hope you have of being rabbi of the year.”
Jesus shrugs. There isn’t much he can do. He tries to explain that a doctor who never sees patients, who never spends any time with sick people, who never touches burns and cuts and blood and pain, isn’t much of a doctor at all. Somehow, I think, they miss the point.
Although, I wonder.
Did they wish they could laugh with Jesus, too?