St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. Chapel Sermon. September 21, 2016
St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Wednesday Chapel (Matins), St. Peter Lutheran School
Ezekiel 2:8-3:11 (St. Matthew 9:9-13)
September 21, 2016
September 21st is the day that Christians have set apart to remember St. Matthew. Who was St. Matthew? He was the man the Holy Spirit inspired to write the first book in the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew. He was also one of the 12 men Jesus called to be an apostle, which means “someone who is sent out.” After Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent out the apostles into the world to proclaim how Jesus died for our sins and rose again to declare us righteous before God. Then they baptized those who believed what they preached and continued to teach them everything that Jesus taught. The apostles planted Jesus’ Church, His community of saints in a world of darkness. And wherever you find Jesus’ Church in this world, you also find Jesus, because, as St. Matthew recorded in his Gospel, Jesus promised to be with them “every day until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Now it’s right that we should remember and honor the apostles of Jesus. We remember and honor them when we learn and believe the Gospel Jesus sent them to proclaim and thank Him for sending them with the message of salvation. On the other hand, when people make gods out of the apostles or other saints, when they trust in Christians through whom God did great things instead of trusting in God, that is not honoring the apostles and the saints. Faithful Christians never want other believers to put their trust in them. Faithful Christians always boast in Jesus and what He has done for us. They trust in Him and teach other people to do the same.
A lot of times when a faithful Christian dies, people start to talk about how great he was. But when faithful Christians are alive, that’s not how it usually goes, particularly for those Christians who are called to preach God’s Word, like St. Matthew was.
When Jesus called Matthew, there was nothing great about him. He was sitting in his tax booth. To the people at that time tax collectors were terrible sinners. They were known for cheating and stealing. And yet while he was still a sinner Jesus called Matthew to follow Him. He forgave Matthew’s sins and had plans to send Matthew out to preach how God freely forgave all sinners through Jesus, who received the punishment for our sins in our place.
And the first thing Matthew did after Jesus called him was have a feast, a party, where he invited all the other tax collectors he knew so they could come and meet Jesus and also be saved. But the Pharisees didn’t like this. They criticized Matthew—and Jesus—for being willing to hang around with all these sinners. To which Jesus responded: “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus came to save sinners! That’s the good news. That’s the Gospel! It’s the joyful message that Matthew preached. But it’s not a joyful message to many people, even to most people. Why not? Because they don’t want to hear that they are sinners before God. That’s true of people outside of the church. It’s also true of people inside the church. People in the church will usually agree, in a general way, that they are sinners. But if they are confronted with their specific sins, they often get mad. Understanding that all people are sinners is one thing. Accepting that you have sinned and deserve God’s punishment in hell is something else.
That’s why the saints are not usually loved when they are alive, especially preachers.
In the reading from Ezekiel, we heard how God called Ezekiel to be a prophet. He told Ezekiel not to be rebellious like the people of Israel, and gave him a scroll to eat. It had bitter words written on it—words of judgment from God, meant to bring people to repentance. But when Ezekiel ate the scroll, it tasted sweet. That’s how God’s word is. When it tells us we are sinners and calls us to repentance, it is bitter; but when we receive it, it becomes sweet—because God takes away our sins.
But God told Ezekiel before Ezekiel went out to preach, “The house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all of the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.” But God told Ezekiel that he had made Ezekiel as hard as the house of Israel, so that Ezekiel would not lose heart when he preached and the people got angry, refused to listen, or hated him.
God made Ezekiel as stubborn in preaching His Word as the Israelites were in rejecting it. Why did God do that? Because God stubbornly keeps working for the salvation of sinners. Even when they fight Him and don’t want to listen, He keeps preaching His judgment until they are broken and terrified. Then He proclaims the good news that Jesus was broken for our sins and took them away.
People are stubborn. They don’t want to admit that they are sinners. Matthew knew he was, and when Jesus called him, he came. The Pharisees didn’t accept that they were, and they fought against Jesus, until finally they got their way—they thought—and had Him put to death on the cross.
We rejoice today that Matthew didn’t give up when many people rejected his preaching of Jesus. He was faithful until death. Because of that the Gospel continues to be preached to us that we may be saved.
Honor St. Matthew today for preaching Christ…see that you have a heart that listens to God when He rebukes you. Then you will find that His word is sweet, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Soli Deo Gloria