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His Surprising Companions

In a popular song from the 1960s artist Dobie Gray sang, “I’m in with the in- crowd.” According to the song, “You ain’t nowhere until you’ve been in.” One of the obstacles Jesus faced was a result of the company He kept. He was definitely not in with “the in-crowd.”

The furor that arose after Jesus called Matthew is one example. The writer of this Gospel had made himself rich by collecting taxes for the Roman authorities. Unlike our taxes, which are regulated and standardized, Roman tax collectors were more like extortionists. They were contracted for a certain amount by the Roman government and were paid from the extra amount they collected for themselves. Locals considered them traitors for collaborating with the enemy.

That’s what makes the choice of Matthew as a disciple so surprising! Jesus not only allowed Matthew to become one of His disciples, He actively recruited this unpopular man. What’s more, Jesus did this publicly by calling Matthew away from the tax collector’s booth (v. 9) and by accepting an invitation to eat a meal in Matthew’s house with the tax collector’s disreputable friends and colleagues (v. 10). This scandalous behavior intensified the criticism Jesus had elicited when He declared the sins of a paralyzed man forgiven (v. 3). Not only did He associate with the wrong sort of people, Jesus’ enemies felt He overstepped. After all, only God can forgive sins. Jesus’ enemies were right. Jesus did what God alone can do.

Jesus did not come to ingratiate Himself with the in-crowd. He came to call outcasts and sinners as His followers. There is only one in-crowd that matters. Where sin is concerned, we are all outsiders.

>> Do you feel pressure to impress your friends, coworkers, or neighbors? Today, we see that Jesus did not make this a priority. In fact, he chose unlikely people as His disciples and dinner companions. How can you follow His example today?

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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