As Jesus Passed By!
"And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom:
and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him." (Matthew 9:9)
This is Matthew's modest way of telling all generations how he was converted.
Matthew could have made a great deal more of that epoch-making moment in his life.
Sometimes, I think when he wrote just as much as our text, and he would not write any more that day.
When you read between the lines you see that there is a story that is not told.
He does not even tell you that he lived in a big house.
He does not tell you that he made a big feast.
He does not tell you that he invited all his old friends to come and meet with Jesus at the feast.
He leaves others to tell you that little bit of the story.
He simply says there was a feast.
Matthew is very modest.
It just says that Jesus saw Matthew, and said to him, "Follow Me" and Matthew followed Him -- that's it!
Some of us, at certain moments of our lives, cannot trust ourselves to tell the whole story.
We keep something back for we cannot begin to put the story into words.
There are pages in every life that will never be written.
There are stories untold to mortal ear that cause even the angels to rejoice.
There are moments when only the sky and the sun, the moon and the stars, the birds and the flowers,
and the eternal heaven can hear all we have to say of His wonderful grace and mercy.
We can only tell a bit of it -- just a little bit of it.
I want you to think of this wonderful moment with Matthew, and it was a wonderful moment.
It was a moment when gospels were born.
It was a moment in which history began to breathe.
It was a moment when in his soul was placed the joy that will makes heaven pulsate with hallelujahs.
It was a wonderful moment in his life when he saw Jesus standing there, and calling him by name
-- speaking to him as a man would speak to his friend -- appealing to him.
Why should Jesus go to this man, Matthew?
It was because he needed Jesus.
I believe deep down in his heart he was longing for Jesus.
I don't know if he had heard John the Baptist preach.
I don't know if he was already a convicted sinner.
I don't know if he had heard John say, "Behold the Lamb of God!"
There were moments in his life when he longed to get a look at the dear face of Jesus,
and to hear the music of that voice, and catch some inspiration from His life-giving message,
and to feel His healing touch.
And I can imagine that even that day that he could not see his books before him for his tears.
He was at his business.
He sat at the place of his work with everything in front of him, and while he was thinking
of the inward longings, while the soul-hunger was gnawing, and while the man within the man
was talking to him, and setting in motion thoughts and feelings that were eternal,
He might have been saying to himself, "Oh, shall I ever see Him?"
And maybe he laid his head on his hands in his grief, and at that moment Jesus said,
"Matthew, Matthew, follow Me."
Matthew was ready to do it.
He did it instantly, without asking a question, without any hesitation.
He acted as though he had made his plans as to what he would do if he had the chance.
He left it all!
He does not tell you everything, he leaves others to add that bit to the story.
And to tell us that he was on his way to become very wealthy.
He left it all:
He left his books,
He left his business,
He left his office,
He left his position,
He left his friends,
He left all to follow Jesus.
Matthew had counted the cost, and knew what he would do if the chance came.
Jesus knew it too.
He knew where Matthew sat, just as He knew where Nathanael was when he prayed under the fig-tree.
He knows where you are.
It could be a Matthew at the place of is business or a Nathanael under the fig-tree, or a Zaccheus up in the tree.
He knows -- He sees it all.
There is no look heavenward,
There is no desire heavenward,
There is no aspiration after goodness,
There is not an honest struggle for a nobler life in your heart, in your home, anywhere, everywhere,
but what God sees and God knows.
And, listen to me:
There never is a good desire,
There never is a noble thought,
There never will be an aspiration for a holier life, other than that which is God-given and God-inspired.
And He knows where you sit -- father, mother, sister, brother.
Here is a handicapped person.
Here is a jewel in an unlikely place.
Here is a man that nobody wanted.
Here is a man that is ostracized by his very profession.
He is separated from decent people by his calling.
He is not popular, and he is even hated by some.
There was Matthew; he never had had a chance.
The Church did not want him, but Jesus Christ did, and took the time to save him.
The Church of his day did not want him.
And there are churches today who would not want to fill them with the harlots, the publicans,
the gamblers, the drunkards, and the sinners.
And yet, heaven opens its doors to them.
Don't forget that.
They are the people for whom Christ died -- not the righteous, but sinners.
There are people who would sit in a committee and dictate to the Son of God as to who He is to save.
They did it in Matthew's day.
There are people today who would sit in judgment on the Christ of God.
They would question the authority of Omnipotent God to save the sinner.
"This Man eateth with sinners."
It shows how much they knew of this Man, Jesus, and His mission to the world.
What does this story mean?
It means this: that for every person there is a chance.
The Jesus Christ about whom I preach gives a chance:
To the worst,
To the most unlikely,
To the most degraded,
To the most hated,
To the most sinful,
To the most despised,
To the people who were born into the world with the devil in their blood,
the blood of the gambler in their veins, the blood of the prostitute in their veins.
And when I think of it all, and look at some people; the wonder to me is that they are not worse than they are.
God have pity on the little boys and girls in the world who are made drunk before they are a year old!
God have pity on the children who are abused and neglected -- such children Jesus came to save.
And He chooses to find people that nobody wants, and He says,
"I want you; I am for you."
It was a new way of treating sinners.
Did you ever think of it?
It was a new way of treating sinners and wrong-doers.
Prison is for wrong-doers, the law courts are for wrong-doers; the whole fabric of society is built up to keep
wrong-doers away from society, to keep them shut up, and even to those Jesus comes with opens arms,
and says, "Come to Me; I will receive you -- I'll give you a new life."
Jesus who came to set the prisoner free, to break the chains of them that are bound,
to open the prison doors and say, "Come on out; I will make you free by My mighty power."
It means a chance for every person.
And Jesus sees far more in people who are down and out, and are far from Him than we have seen in them.
If you and I had the eyes of Jesus , we would see in the filthiest person that walks the street
-- someone worth saving.
If you and I only had the vision of Calvary we should never be weary, we should never tire,
we should never lose heart, and we should never lose hope.
We should believe that for the worst there is a new life, and joy and a home in heaven.
Why did Jesus go to Matthew?
Because Jesus knew that Matthew needed Him
Nobody could do for Matthew what Jesus could and did.
We must never forget that.
Matthew had never had a chance.
Nobody but Jesus could give him one.
He was in a bad setting.
His whole life was a mess.
His life was hated.
Nobody wanted him.
And you know people like that.
There are some that are close to you that you would rather not see.
You may tremble when you see them, and when their name is mentioned.
There are some names that you do not talk about to others.
You just try to forget them.
You don't want to talk about them.
There is a skeleton in every closet.
Most of us here have somebody close to us that we don't like to mention.
We try to forget; and yet, God knows, the agony of it, and that it eats the life out of us.
They are the the people who need Him.
It is no good to say to some people, "Believe, believe."
They need somebody to unravel the knots, to untie and straighten things out; and who is able to do it?
There are those whose whole life has been cursed from their birth, they are handicapped from the beginning
by those who have hurt them, and who is to deliver them?
Can anybody do it?
Is there no God who can do it?
Listen to me!
"The fingers that woved the rainbow into a scarf, and wrapped it around the shoulders of the dying storm,
The fingers that painted the roses, and threw the planets into space.
The fingers that were dipped in the mighty sea of eternity and shook out on this old planet,
making the ocean to drop and the rivers to stream;
Those same fingers can take hold on these tangled lives and can make them whole again,
for He can make the crooked straight and the rough places plain.
Blessed be God!
Jesus can do for Matthew what nobody else can, and He can do for you, what your friends cannot do.
He can take the desire for drink out of you;
He can cure the love of gambling that is eating the soul out of you;
He can put out the fires of lust that are burning in your being and consuming you by inches;
He can take the devil of lying out of you, the devil of cheating out of you, of fraud out of you, of hypocrisy out of you.
Jesus can do what nobody else can -- the preacher cannot, the Church cannot;
but the Lord Jesus who loves you, is mighty to save.
Then there was something that Jesus wanted Matthew to do that nobody else could do.
And there are services that Jesus would have you do.
They looked at Him and said of Matthew, "He is a sinner."
"Yes," said Jesus, "and he will write my first Gospel."
Just give him a chance.
We do not know what hidden potential there is in the drunkard.
There may be a preacher in him, there may be an evangelist in him -- we do not know.
Give them a chance; give them all a chance.
They were fond of using these words. "He is a sinner."
They used them about the man up in the tree.
"Yes," said Jesus, "he is a sinner, and he is a son of Abraham."
And it was Jesus who spoke on both occasions.
You would not have gone as the Son of God did to a publican.
But Jesus has a wonderful way of showing what He can do with unlikely material.
A little child cried just now.
Its little voice in coming days may startle the nation.
The waving of its little hand may marshal the hosts of God.
Who can tell?
That little boy at your side may become a Spurgeon, a McLaren, a Whitefield, a Wesley, a Billy Graham.
Who can tell the possibilities of a child?
That little girl may be a a Florence Nightingale, a Marie Curie.
Who can tell?
And God wants them all.
There are gospels hidden away, untold yet, but they will shine out and flash in letters, golden capitals,
and make the world glad with a great gladness.
You saw the sinner, Jesus saw the man.
He saw the sinner too, and He knew what the sinner would be when grace has a chance.
The world sees the face and the clothes and the house, the street you live in, where you work,
and evaluates you up by how large a salary you make.
Jesus does not reckon that way.
See that drunken sailor -- he is filthy, he curses in every breath, and he is a drunken sailor.
Nobody wanted him -- nobody cared for him.
God looked at him with His eyes of love and grace, and saved him.
His name was John Newton, who wrote, "Amazing Grace."
God could see the theologian, the preacher, in the drunken sinner.
See another man -- a swearing sinner.
When he began to swear, his neighbors shuddered.
Nobody wanted that sinner.
But God looked at him and saved him; and his name was John Bunyan, the immortal dreamer.
You would not have looked for the "Pilgrim's Progress" in that swearing sinner.
God looked at another man, a publican, and he was helping his brother sell beer in Gloucester.
God looked at him and saved him -- and his name was George Whitefield, the mighty preacher.
Look another man selling shoes in a shoe store in Chicago.
God looked at him and saved him, and when He took the trouble to save him -- that young man
went to join a Congregational Church as a church member.
They saw so little in him that they put him on trial for twelve months.
His name was D. L.Moody.
D. L. Moody put one hand on America and another hand on Britain,
and there was a mighty movement of thousands of souls giving themselves to the Lord Jesus.
Look at another picture
Look into a a gipsy tent; there is a father and five little motherless children, without a Bible, and without a school.
Nobody wanted them - who would want a gipsy?
They were outsiders -- they were ostracized, despised, and rejected.
But God looked on that poor father and those five motherless little things and saw them in their ignorance
and heathenism, and hungry for Him.
And He looked again, and He said, "There are six preachers in that tent."
And He put those arms that were nailed to the tree around the father and the children and saved them all.
Rodney "Gipsy" Smith was one of them.
Gipsy Smith was a British evangelist who conducted evangelistic campaigns in the United States
and Great Britain for over 70 years.
He was an early member of the Salvation Army, and a contemporary of Fanny Crosby and G. Campbell Morgan.
It takes a godlike love to truly see.
Jesus saw more in Matthew than anybody; and sees more in you than anybody else;
Even if no one wants you, He does,
Even if no one loves you, He does.
Even if no one cares, He cares;
If you think there is not a friend in the world, you have more friends than you think,
and they are closer to you than you dream.
God is here, and He says, "Come to Me, follow Me, and I will save you;
I will give you a chance for this world and the next. Only follow Me."
Following Jesus was the wisest decision that Matthew ever made.
Matthew took Jesus home with him; and He will go home with you if you will ask Him,
and He will go with you this very moment.
Think of what it would mean for your home if you took Jesus Christ home with you.
Your wife/husband and your children would have a chance they have never had before.
If both of you, husband and wife ill bow at His dear feet together, what joy there will be in heaven and on earth!
I ask you now -- who will leave all to follow Jesus -- right now?
Who will sacrifice everything for Jesus' sake -- right now?
Who will take their stand for Jesus -- right now?
Who will go home and say to their friends,
"I have come to tell you what great things the Lord hath done for me"?
Jesus calls you!
Will you follow?
"Down in the valley with my Savior I would go,
Where the flowers are blooming and the sweet waters flow;
Everywhere He leads me I would follow, follow on,
Walking in His footsteps till the crown be won.
Follow! follow! I would follow Jesus!
Anywhere, everywhere, I would follow on!
Follow! follow! I would follow Jesus!
Everywhere He leads me I would follow on!
Down in the valley with my Savior I would go,
Where the storms are sweeping and the dark waters flow;
With His hand to lead me I will never, never fear,
Danger cannot fright me if my Lord is near.
Down in the valley, or upon the mountain steep,
Close beside my Savior would my soul ever keep;
He will lead me safely in the path that He has trod,
Up to where they gather on the hills of God."
-- William O. Cushing, 1878
Sermon was adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White