He Couldn’t Get Past His Past
A Devotional Thought From Matthew 9:35-10:4
35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
10 And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. 2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.
He couldn’t get past his past.
When I read today’s passage from the gospels my heart felt sadness for Matthew the inspired author of the gospel that bears his name.
He couldn’t get past his past.
Jesus saw the multitude of needy and hurting and was moved with compassion for them. I believe this one who is the same yesterday, today and forever is still moved by all the pain and spiritual blindness in the world.
He turned to those following him and told them to pray for laborers to be sent into the harvest.
After that prayer he set aside the twelve apostles. The answer to the prayer was just around the corner and Jesus knew it. I wonder how often the answer to our prayers was equally close but we failed to pray.
“…ye have not, because ye ask not.”
Matthew lists this diverse group of men. One example of this amazing variety can be seen in Matthew and the one he referred to as Simon the Canaanite. Matthew calls himself, “Matthew the publican”. Read that closely, he didn’t say “republican”, those are two different things.
I knew that you knew that, but I made myself smile by writing it. Don’t judge me for my corniness please.
A publican was a person who joined with the Roman occupation in order to assist them collect taxes for the empire. Publicans would naturally be pro-Roman politically. These tax collectors made quite a bit of money from their profession and even more enemies among their people.
When referring to Simon, the word Canaanite was not a reference to where he was from but actually a word that means zealot. The Zealots were those opposed to the Roman occupation. They were so anti-Roman that they often resorted to violence. It was not uncommon for a zealot to slip into a crowd and assassinate a publican traitor to the people.
Somehow, Jesus was able to unite two men from totally different perspectives politically and socially. He changed both men. Matthew no longer robbed money from his people but ministered to them. Simon no longer violently attacked anyone but instead delivered the life giving words of Christ.
I would like to see him do some similar things in our world today wouldn’t you? I believe he can and am trusting that he will.
One thing that struck me is that Matthew was still referring to himself as “the publican”, but he wasn’t. He had walked away from that life and followed the Lord. Maybe he just referred to himself that way because that is how others did. Maybe he did it because he was guilt ridden over his past life. Jesus had forgiven him, changed him and given him an all new calling.
Matthew couldn’t get past his past.
I too have allowed things that I have done to define me. I have prefaced many a conversation with mistakes and failures from my past. Jesus has forgiven me but I suppose I haven’t forgiven myself. I am reminded of the words of John Newton,
“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am”