Luke 5:27
In introduction show that the three evangelists all place this call of Matthew in the same order, viz. after the healing of the paralytic, but go on at once to the account of the "great feast" which be gave, and which was attended by the "disciples" of Christ. This feast, we learn from the narrative of Mark and Luke, belonged to a little later period, when Jesus had crossed to the other side of the lake. The occasion of it is there identified by the application of Jairus, spoken of in our present chapter (ver. 18). Notice -

I. THE DOUBLE NAME, THE NATION, AND THE EMPLOYMENT HITHERTO OF THE "MAN" NOW CALLED TO DISCIPLESHIP. Dwell on the change herein, and the contrast of his business - how possible, with God's grace and the Holy Spirit's might to alter and to renovate, such changes are; how welcomely the change was ever traced in this instance; how blessed hereafter was its course and success; and how divinely refreshing to the Church of the present day to read of, to hear of as a modern spiritual miracle, and to know in all the practical reality of this typical original case.

II. THE SUDDENNESS OF THE CALL. Such suddenness not unsafe with Christ, the omniscient; Christ, who knew all that was in man, at the helm. Guard against human haste, human incaution, human confidence. "Lay hands suddenly on no man" is the text for man, but not needed for the "chief Shepherd," "the Shepherd and Bishop of souls," the "great Shepherd of the sheep."

III. THE SWIFT OBEDIENCE, THE READY HEART, THE UNDELAYING AND UNRESERVING SELF-SURRENDER OF THE MAN CALLED. All this was an auspicious omen, so far as it went. Illustrated by the future, it was all a perfect vindication of the foreknowledge and the grace of him who called. - B.







And saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom.
Publican was the name given to an employe of low degree, whose duty it was to get in the tribute money. He was the agent of the farmers-general, great personages who lived by their depredations, after the publicans themselves had kept back an exorbitant percentage on the money levied. The Talmuds often betray the scorn felt for the publicans. Their testimony was not accepted in a court of justice. Probable that the publicans were allowed no more rights than the heathen, and that the Court of the Gentiles alone was open to them.

(E. Stapfer, D. D.)The Jews, who bore the Roman yoke with more impatience than any other nation, excommunicated every Israelite who became a publican; and the disgrace extended to his whole family. Nobody was allowed to take alms from one, or to ask him to change money for them. They were even classed with high-way robbers and murderers, or with harlots, heathen, and sinners. No strict Jew would eat, or even hold intercourse, with them.

(Dr. Geikie.)

AT THE RECEIPT OF CUSTOM.

From fishers' net, from fig-trees' shade,

God gathers whom He will;

Touch'd by His grace all men are made

His purpose to fulfil.

But not alone from shady nooks,

Fresh with life's noontide dew

From humble walks or quiet books,

Calls He His chosen few.

Out of the busiest haunts of life,

Its most engrossing cares,

Its mighty travail, daily strife,

Self-woven golden snares —

He for His vineyard doth provide,

His gentle voice doth move

The world's keen votaries to His side,

With its persuasive love.

ST. MATTHEW THE APOSTLE.

At once he rose, and left his gold;

His treasure and his heart

Transferred, where he shall safe behold

Earth and her idols part;

While he beside his endless store

Shall sit, and floods unceasing pour

Of Christ's true riches o'er all time and space,

First angel of His Church, first steward of His grace.

(J. Keble.)

Matthew was the son of Alphaeus, or Cleopas who had married the sister, probably the elder sister, of our Lord's mother. Not unlikely that he was the Cleopas who walked to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). A holy family — Israelites indeed. To such a family, what calamity could be more terrible than that one of the sons should become a publican, a renegade to the Hebrew faith, a traitor to the Hebrew commonwealth? Levi had taken service with the Romans. Day by day, in their own city of Capernaum, he was to be seen sitting at the receipt of custom. Whenever boats came into the little port, it was his duty to take dues of them. Whenever a caravan reached the city, he had to take toll of the goods with which the weary camels were laden. And these tolls and dues were paid, not into the Jewish treasury, but into the purses of the Roman knights. For the true publicani were Romans of wealth and credit who "farmed" the taxes of a province. In the collection of these taxes they commonly employed natives of the province, who were, as a rule, infamous for their extortions. Only the lowest and most profligate of the people would accept so degrading an office. What led Levi thus to wound and put to shame those who loved him so well? It may be that the very austerity of their piety alienated him from them. It may be that he was simply thoughtless and pleasure-loving. It would be a keen joy to the Lord Jesus to give joy to such good people as His uncle and aunt and cousins, to restore peace and union to the family in which He had lived so long. This was His pleasant errand this morning as He left the house in which His mother dwelt with her sister, and Cleopas, and their children, and passed through the city to the shore of the lake. As He passed through the official quarter, He saw Matthew sitting at the receipt of custom. Possibly He had not seen him for a long time. In all likelihood Matthew had hitherto slipped out of His way. But now at last He sees him sitting at his post. What a Divine constraining power there must have been in the words of Him who spake as never man spake! As He looks at Matthew, He says simply, "Follow Me"; and His cousin, so hardened and degraded by his sins, rises, leaves all — his work for the moment, his official post and wage — and follows Him as though drawn by an irresistible power. Hitherto he had been called Levi, after the son of Jacob. And the word "Levi " simply meant "link." But Jesus had found and saved him; and He brings him back to the old home a new man with a new name. Henceforth Levi, now a true and strengthening link, is to be called Matthew, i.e., the gift of God; the very moment he rises to the level and meaning of his old name, a new name, a new ideal is given him. A true gift of God was this recovered son to the wounded and sorrowful hearts of his father and mother end brethren. Matthew, then, was the scapegrace of a holy family. Father, mother, brothers, sisters were ashamed of him. Yet even he was not beyond the reach and sway of Christ.

(S. Cox, D. D.)

THE CALL OF MATTHEW.

"Arise and follow Me!"

Who answers to the call?

Not Ruler, Scribe, or Pharisee,

Proud and regardless all.

"Arise and follow Me!"

The publican hath heard;

And by the deep Gennesaret sea

Obeys the Master's word.

Thenceforth in joy and fear,

Where'er the Saviour trod,

Among the twelve his place was near

The Holy One of God.

His is no honour mean,

For Christ to write and die;

Apostle, Saint, Evangelist,

His record is on high.

(Dean Alford.)

I. THE REALITY OF THIS CONVERSION proved by —

1. The change of occupation in obedience to Christ.

2. The sacrifice endured.

3. His identifying himself with Christ.

4. His concern for his fellow-men.

II. LET US TRY OURSELVES BY THESE TESTS.

1. What is Christ's power over us?

2. What sacrifices are we making for Christ?

3. How do we identify ourselves with Christ?

4. What are we doing to bring others to Christ?

(W. W. Patton, D. D.)

God calls busy men to do His grander work. Moses, the shepherd; Shamgar and Elisha and Gideon, the farmers; James and John, Andrew and Peter, the fishermen; Matthew, the tax-collector; Luke, the physician, &c., &c. This same Jehovah-angel appears also to Joshua. The case of the Roman Cincinnatus, called by his people from the plough to be dictator of Rome, and saving it from the enemy, is also in point. Many of God's most distinguished workmen have been called from scenes of the humblest labour. It was when toiling over a shoemaker's bench that Carey's soul was filled with a zeal for missionary labour. Yet he became one of the most successful missionaries of his age. By his labours a magnificent college was erected at Serampore, sixteen flourishing stations were established, the Bible translated into sixteen languages, and the seed sown of a moral revolution in India. Morrison, another laborious missionary, was once a maker of shoe-lasts. Henry Martyn's father was a Cornwall miner. John Williams, of Erromanga, left the blacksmith's shop to teach the is landers of the Pacific the way of life. Dr. Livingstone supported himself through a course of study by working in a cotton mill.

(Teacher's Storehouse.)

In the diary of the lamented Dr. Livingstone was found the following passage, written thirteen months before he died: — " My own Jesus, my King! my life, my all I have given Thee; I dedicate my whole self to Thee. Accept me, O gracious Father, and grant that ere this year has gone I may finish my task. In Jesus' name I ask it. Amen." There is the key to the life of Dr. Livingstone.

I. CHRIST CALLS.

1. We cannot tell what preparation may have been previously made for this abrupt summons. If Matthew was son of the Alphaeus elsewhere named, then his connection with our Lord would account for it.

2. In any case we are sure that our Lord's appeal was reasonable. Resting on grounds intelligible to St. Matthew.

3. The call involved sacrifice. He was following a lucrative calling, and he had to abandon it.

4. Our Lord's calling is always substantially the same.(1) It bids us leave the world.(2) It bids us follow Him. Whatsoever is inconsistent with a close earnest following of Him must be abandoned.

II. MATTHEW OBEYS. Mark the brevity, yet sufficient fulness, of the account given. This was all that was required of him, and he did it.

1. Great difficulties lay in his way.(1) His manner of life.(2) The peculiar character of his employment.(3) Perhaps also acquired habits in connection with his employment.

2. Yet his obedience was ready and prompt.(1) No rashness. He certainly knew what our Lord asked, and what he was bound to render. Christ repressed those who came thoughtlessly.(2) On the other hand, no vacillation or hesitation.

III. THE REALITY OF HIS ADHESION TO CHRIST. This was shown —

1. By the evident sacrifice he made. An example to all who hear Christ's voice, and follow Him. No royal road to perfection. Jesus by suffering conquered, and all who follow Him must enter into the spirit of sacrifice.

2. By his seeking for Christ's communion. He "made Him a great feast."

(W. R. Clark, M. A.)

Matthew is of the number of those saints who, once living in sin, gained heaven by perfect repentance. As a true penitent he deserves our veneration, which we shall best exhibit by learning from his life what we should do, and what avoid, in order to gain heaven.

I. THE OCCUPATION OF MATTHEW BEFORE HIS CONVERSION.

1. The occupation of a money-changer, which is perilous.

2. The trade of a usurer, which is vicious.

3. The office of a toll-collector, which was odious.

II. THE SUPPER PREPARED BY MATTHEW FOR THE LORD.

1. The reasons for which he prepared it.

(1)To show his true joy, and to give an evidence of his willingness to forsake all things and to follow Jesus.

(2)He would do the little He could, in order to gain the love of Jesus.

(3)To give other publicans an opportunity of becoming acquainted with Jesus.

2. The reasons for which Jesus accepted the invitation to the supper.

(1)To afford pleasure to Matthew, to encourage and reward him.

(2)To exhort also other publicans, and to give them grace.

3. The reasons for which the Pharisees grumbled, and reprimanded the disciples.

(1)To deceive the disciples, by making them distrust their Master, and to turn them from Jesus.

(2)Because they envied Jesus.

III. THE HONOURS OF ST. MATTHEW AFTER HIS CONVERSION.

1. He became an apostle.

2. An evangelist.

3. A martyr.LESSONS.

1. Let sinners learn from St. Matthew conversion without delay.

2. Let the converted learn from him zeal.

3. Let the zealous learn from him perseverence.

(Laselve.)Great honour was put upon the simple work of the fisherman, and the keen pursuits of the custom-house, when Christ chose of fishermen and publicans to become His first disciples and His apostles. His parables, also, cast the same reflection of honour on all honest work. Let us then ask how our common business in warehouses and shops may bring glory to Christ.

I. IN BUSINESS MAY BE FOUND A SERVICE FOR CHRIST. May be found; but, alas! sometimes it is lost; often it is not even sought.

II. WE MUST NOT THINE TOO MUCH OF DAILY WORK, and set too great a price on it.

III. WE SHALL SEEK TO GIVE OF THE FRUITS OF OUR TRADING TO CHRIST. All we spend may be spent with express thought of Him; but to make full proof of our ministry, we shall seek for special expenditure in works of Christian philanthropy.

IV. WE SHALL BE WILLING TO GIVE UP, NOT ONLY THE FRUITS OF DAILY WORK, BUT DAILY WORE ITSELF, FOR CHRIST. It is not only to ministers that Christ says "Follow Me." Others also are called to self-sacrifice. To say that business keeps me from Sunday-school teaching, or that business keeps me from visiting the sorrowful, and taking help to the needy, may not be a plea that ever covers neglect in the sight of our great Master, Christ. His word may be, "Then have less business. Follow Me." It is possible that God calls one and another to make some sacrifice of apparent opportunities of making money, in order that there may be more time for spiritual service. Willingness to make sacrifice for Christ is essential to true discipleship.

(T. Gascoigne, B. A.)

Some years ago I remember having my notice drawn by a little picture that hung in the window of an Oxford book-shop; it was a simple German lithograph, and it represented the call of Matthew. I do not know the name of the artist, but he seemed to me to have caught the whole spirit of the scene. In the centre was Matthew himself, eagerly leaving his booth, with treasures of untold money lying untouched on the counter for his helpers to reckon. Before the booth was the crowd of fishers and traders entering the seaside city, almost aghast at the sudden leaving of the business by one till then so strict in all his dealings with them, so ever ready to receive tribute. And just behind appeared a company of Christ's disciples, not altogether unwondering at so ready a departure from all that wealth; half sorry for sacrifice so great; and yet half feeling, from what little they had learnt already of the Master, that He was worth the sacrifice. And in front was the Christ Himself, patient, tender, calling, waiting — the Lord of all, knowing calmly how life in the Father's kingdom was worth any earthly sacrifice, that the Father could yet give to His own all they ever might have need of.

(T. Gascoigne, B. A.)

It is related in Roman history that when the people of Collatia stipulated about their surrender to the authority and protection of Rome, the question asked was, "Do you deliver up yourselves, the Collatine people, your city, your fields, your water, your bounds, your temples, your utensils, all things that are yours, both human and Divine, into the hands of the people of Rome?" And on their replying, "We deliver up all," they were received. The voluntary surrender which you, Christian, have made to Christ is equally comprehensive; it embraces all you are, and have, and hope for.

(H. G. Salter.)

Two persons were walking together one very dark night, when one said to the other, who knew the road well, "I shall follow you, so as to be right." He soon fell into a ditch, and accused the other with his fall. The other replied, "Then you did not follow me exactly, for I have kept free." A side step had caused the fall. There is like danger in not following Christ fully.

I. WE ARE TO LEAVE ALL OUR EVIL PRACTICES THAT WE MAY FOLLOW CHRIST. We must relinquish our former iniquities altogether, and without reserve. Suppose that St. Matthew, when Christ commanded him to become His follower, had answered, that he would attend upon Christ occasionally, when his occupation afforded him leisure: and that for the future, when employed in collecting tribute, he would commit acts of extortion only seldom. Would Christ have accepted such service? You muse surrender yourselves entirely to Christ. You must follow Him wholly. You must follow Him alone. When you reserve some favourite sin for your occasional gratification; is that to leave all for the sake of Christ? No man can serve two masters.

II. WE MUST RENOUNCE, FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST, ALL OUR EVIL INCLINATIONS. This step is necessary to make repentance complete. St. Matthew not only relinquished his occupation, but abandoned it with gladness. You do not see him taking leave of his home with reluctance and sorrow. In conformity to this example every Christian is not merely to abstain, as by constraint, from sinful actions; but to glorify his God by cheerful obedience, and to bring his will under thankful subjection to his Redeemer. He is to be holy in thought, holy in heart, holy in his designs, holy in his wishes.

III. We, like St. Matthew, ARE TO RENOUNCE PRIVATE INTEREST, WHENEVER IT INTERFERES WITH OUR OBEDIENCE TO JESUS CHRIST. Behold a decisive proof of sincerity l He does not honour his Saviour with his lips only. He glorifies the Son of God by making large sacrifices for His sake; by immediately making every sacrifice which is required. He counts all things but loss that he may win the approbation of his Redeemer.

IV. We are to renounce our own righteousness; TO CAST AWAY ALL RELIANCE ON MERIT OF OUR OWN FOR ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD. Why did St. Matthew become a disciple of Jesus Christ? Why did he leave all to be with that man of sorrows? Because he beheld in that man of sorrows one who bare our griefs; one who bare the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. He recognized the appointed Saviour; the Lamb of God which took away the sins of the world.

V. We must, in the last place, FOLLOW OUR REDEEMER UNTO THE END. Such was the stedfastness of St. Matthew. He remained constantly with Christ until the evening before the crucifixion. On that evening he showed, in common with the other apostles, what man is, when the Divine grace withdraws itself, and leaves him to his native weakness. All the disciples of Christ forsook Him and fled. Of that guilty flight St. Matthew was a partaker. After the Resurrection, he received, in conjunction with the other apostles, pardon and strength from his forgiving Lord. When Jesus had ascended into heaven, we behold St. Matthew continuing closely in prayer and supplication with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and the brethren; and bearing his part as an apostle in the election of a successor to the traitor Judas. Boldly remaining at Jerusalem, when havoc was made of the Church after the martyrdom of Stephen, he proved that he was not of those who have no root, and in time of persecution fall away. And the early history of the Christian Church informs us that, in the face of danger and death, he persevered until the end of his days in preaching the gospel of his Lord. From every Christian patient continuance in well doing is indispensably required.

(Thomas Gisborne.)

But, in the event which succeeds, we have an instance of still greater power than that which is involved in the healing of any temporal disease. We find Him controlling not merely the elements of nature, as he had often done, or the circumstances which conduce to the health of our temporal frames, as in the instance of the paralytic man, but we find Him swaying the very elements of the mind and will, and proving that the moral and the intellectual powers of man are no less subject to His sovereign control. "After these things," we are told, "He went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and lie said unto him, Follow Me."

1. In the first place, the individual named Levi, who is spoken of by St. Luke, is said to have been a publican — a term which is explained in some degree, when it is mentioned that he was found "sitting at the receipt of custom." It was thus that the name of publican became expressive, in their mind, of all that was abandoned and profane. There was nothing, for instance, in the character or condition of the individual before us to warrant his selection to this high and distinguished calling. There was no title existing in himself whereby he could claim it as peculiarly his own. He was a member of an obnoxious profession, and he was, so far as we know, unadorned with any lofty or brilliant attainments. We are not referring in the meantime to the condition of these men as poor and illiterate, and as affording from their original circumstances, as contrasted with the noble future discharge of their apostolic duties, a powerful argument for the truth and efficacy of our holy religion. We are referring to it simply as pointing out in the term, publican, in the present instance, and in the ideas which were usually associated with that term, the very condition in which by nature we are placed, and from which Christ is so willing to redeem us. Naturally, we say, there is nothing in any one of us to entitle us to selection on the part of Christ. On the contrary, there is everything that might lead Him to reject us, and dispose Him, in the purity of His character and the beauty of His own perfections, to pass us by as unworthy of His notice. In all our character and condition, naturally considered, and as seen in the light of His untainted holiness, there is nothing which His pure and omniscient eye can possibly desire. We are not engaged in His service. We are not contemplating His works. We are not endeavouring to ascend through the survey and admiration of these to the adoring contemplation of His excellence, or aspiring in the light of His perfections to have our natures assimilated to His. There is nothing of all this, when He comes to us on His errand of mercy, and calls upon us to follow Him as His disciples and His friends. We are engaged in the service of the world at that very time, intent, like the fishermen of Galilee, or the despised receiver of customs, on the affairs of a life which is only preparatory to another, but for which other we are not mindful or solicitous to prepare. Yes, my friends, we are either busied in the pursuit of some gainful and engrossing occupation, or we are sitting at destructive ease in the degradation of sin, reviewing our extending treasures, and yet thirsting to increase them. If active, we are not active in God's service — if at ease, we are not at ease in Zion, or because we have sought peace and found it of the Lord. We repeat, then, that we are selected by Christ in the exercise of free and sovereign compassion. We are called to be disciples of His, not because we have loved Him, but because He has loved us.

2. The inclination or willingness to follow onward to know the Lord, is not occasioned by any exercise of our own powers, but is wrought in us by the operation of Christ's own mighty power. But in Jesus there was nothing outwardly to distinguish Him. He was surrounded with no trappings of external dignity, no insignia of honour, no symbols of opulence or power. He was meek and lowly in His deportment — the reputed son of a carpenter; arrayed like the meanest of the people, and bearing in His aspect the suffering, yet subdued, expression of the man of sorrows. And yet He called the disciples, and they implicitly obeyed Him. No sooner did He issue the command than they hastened to fulfil it. He said to them, " Follow Me," and immediately they left all and followed Him. Now, we argue from this, that a great and decided change must have instantaneously passed upon their minds. The mere command of Jesus, considered apart from His divinity — considered apart from His power over the understanding and the heart, could never have produced this effect. We say, then, that the grace of God must have operated directly in this instance to the enlightenment of their minds, and the regulation of their wills. On no other principle can we account for the conduct they displayed. The Spirit of the Lord was with them, and at once they felt it to be their duty and their privilege to obey. They resembled the men who acknowledged Saul to be their king, when Samuel announced him to be the chosen of God to the throne of Israel, and when the children of Belial were despising and setting him at nought: they resembled these firm and devoted men, of whom it is said, in the expressive language of Scripture, "that when Saul went up to Gibeah, there went up with him likewise a baud of men, whose hearts God had touched." In the case of the disciples, God also had touched and influenced their hearts.

3. We would remark, that when the Spirit of God does touch our hearts, and the power of Christ is thus made manifest in our lives, we are at once enlightened as to two things — the right of Jesus to command, and His worthiness as a King and Saviour to be obeyed. All this was exemplified in the conduct of the disciples. True, they had not at this time the most clear views of His character, or the most spiritual notions of the kingdom He was to establish, but still they saw, or rather felt enough, to convince them that Christ was worthy of their obedience and love; and, therefore, without a moment's hesitation or reserve, they yielded the submission which He required, and determined to "follow Him whithersoever He went." We admit, then, that they were not enlightened all at once, and that they were still imperfect as to their conceptions of Christ's heavenly kingdom. But this is the way in which the Spirit of Divine grace in general acts upon the human understanding. He works in a gradual and progressive manner, disclosing more and more of the beauty of Christ, and of the loveliness of sacred truth, and shining inwardly upon the soul with somewhat of the brightening effulgence of that light of heaven, which rises at first with the faint dawnings of the eastern sky, until at last it opens and expands into the glorious lustre of the perfect day. But still the work of the Spirit leads us at once to exercise confidence in Christ. Now, the right which Christ has to the obedience of us all, is simply this: He has created us, and we are bound to serve Him; He has preserved us, and we are bound to honour Him; He has redeemed us, and we are bound to love Him. In every character and relation He is entitled to our love, and homage, and gratitude, and esteem. But superadded to this, there is now the powerful, the constraining tie of sovereign and redeeming love. In following Christ, my friends, we must follow Him to duty. When the Saviour issued His command to His disciples, there was before Him the chequered scene of His labours; and they, as the companions of His wanderings, had to go forth and mingle in the work. Again, my friends, we must follow the Saviour in the path of suffering. When Christ told His disciples to follow Him, He had yet before Him the scenes of His agony and death — the privations of His wanderings to feel, the hall of Pilate to encounter, the garden of Gethsemane to bear, the torture of the cross, in unmitigated anguish, to endure. And His disciples, whom He had called to follow Him, had likewise their griefs and sufferings to undergo. "In the world ye shall have tribulation," was the warning which He gave them. Not that the way of life is a dark and painful career, unsoothed by a single comfort, unalleviated by a single joy. The truth is, that the follower of Christ has joys which the world cannot understand, just as he has sorrows which it cannot share. He has a peace of mind which passeth knowledge, which rises far above the comprehension of the mere natural man; but then he has griefs which a stranger cannot interfere with. There is encouragement, however, the amplest and surest encouragement. Hear the language of Christ to His people: "I will make My grace to be sufficient for you; I will perfect My strength in your weakness; I will guide you by My counsel, and receive you to My glory."

(W. Maclure.)

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