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The Church, a Spiritual Hospital

By Matthew Black, Pastor

Text: Matthew 9:9-13

Date: Sunday, September 06, 2009, 11am

Series: Serve the Lord Sunday

Tabernacle Baptist Church

7020 Barrington Road

Hanover Park, Illinois 60133

Website: www.GodCentered.info

Introduction: Open your Bible to the book of Matthew 9:9-13.  Today is “Serve the Lord” Sunday.  Let’s read our verse for the year, Psalm 100:2, “Serve the Lord with Gladness”.

This morning I want us to see how we are to serve one another.  Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”


The title of our message is “The Church, a Spiritual Hospital”.  What we are going to see is that the church is not a trophy case, but a hospital.  When you go into a hospital, people are in different stages of recovery.  Some are in critical condition; some are nearly well, and there are some that are strong enough to care for others. 

As Christians we are like doctors.  We always need to have a spirit of compassion and love for those who are not quite where we might be.  Remember whatever spiritual mountains you have climbed in your life, it is only by the grace of God!  There is never room for a spirit of spiritual pride.  We must remember that we have all been rescued from hell, and we are to rescue those who have destroyed their lives with sin, and we are to show them the grace of God so that God can save them and bring on their way to Christlikeness.

Context: What is Happening in Matthew 9

In Matthew 9, Jesus is confronting the distain that the Pharisees had for anyone who was not like them—and it is right here in this chapter that we see the conversion of Matthew, one of the greatest sinners of his day, and we see a gathering together of hurting broken people in Matthew’s house.  We see those who gathered around Jesus were people who came out of the worst sort of background.  Let’s never forget our church is a spiritual hospital to see people come to know Christ and watch them grow and change in Him. 

With that in mind, let’s stand as we read Matthew 9:9-13, “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. 10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? 12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. 13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”. 

[Prayer for Guidance]

Today we are going to talk about Matthew’s conversion.  And in talking about that, we are going to see the kinds of people God saves.  We are going to see that Christ followers are very imperfect people. 


I.          Consider the Surprise that any one of us is serving the Lord!  In Matthew chapters 8 and 9, we see Jesus healing all kinds of people.  A Gentile centurion’s servant is sick with some kind of palsy, and Christ heals him without even going to his home.  A leper is healed of his leprosy.  Many who were possessed of devils were healed.  We see Jesus calming the wind and the waves with His command.  Jesus later even encounters Jairus, a ruler of  the synagogue, and raises his daughter from the dead!  The message Matthew is getting across is that here is One who can stop and reverse our body’s decay! 

Now the very centerpiece of the passage is the greatest miracle of all—the conversion of Matthew.  The point of the passage is if Jesus can do anything and He is God, He can also forgive sin!  His greatest miracle is that He calls a sinner out of His sin and into a new life. 

Jesus calls us out of the world, but He doesn’t make us perfect over night does He?  We will struggle against sin until we leave this world. 

People say, “Well, Christians are not perfect people”. All you have to do is look in the mirror and we all know that.  The church is a very, very imperfect place. Churches are filled with very imperfect people.  Often people think, church is for good people, or for almost perfect people.  The exact opposite is true. The church is a spiritual hospital!

The Lord gives His purpose for entering into the world in verse 13, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”.  God has come to earth to rescue those who have sinned against Him.  There is in all of us the temptation to continue in sin, but thank God He is changing you if you’ve been born again.  It is true that in our flesh “dwelleth no good thing”.  We can have no confidence in our flesh. 

Jesus said in Mark 2:17, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”.

You cannot miss the message of Jesus’ miracles in light of Matthew and all his sinner friends around Jesus.  Jesus has come to bring healing and wholeness to the broken lives of sinners.  Sinners are ravaged by sin. God calls sinners to Himself, and they are born again.  The seed of new life is in all of us, but there begins a process of deep spiritual change.  We are all different conditions and levels in our journey to Christlikeness.

II.       Consider the Sort of People Who God Calls to Serve Him.  We must ask, who was Matthew?

A.   Matthew was a tax collector.  “Matthew was categorically the vilest person in Capernaum.”[1]  The Bible does not say this specifically about Matthew, but look at the context.  Jesus just told the Pharisees that He has the power to forgive sins.  The question is asked—how far can Christ go in forgiving sinners?  So Matthew seems to think of the most extreme example of a sinner, and he ends up using himself as the example!

Explanation: “When Rome moved in and took over Palestine they wanted to exact taxes and individuals living in the land of Palestine would buy franchises from the Roman government, which gave them the right to operate the taxation system in a certain district or a certain town.  So when Matthew bought into the Roman system he revealed himself as a traitor to the cause of Israel”.[2]  Tax collectors had a certain amount they had to pay to Rome, but after that, they could demand anything they wanted out of their own people.  They were traitors.  They were sort of the Israeli mafia.  They were surrounded by thugs, people who could extract the money out of people to fill their coffers.  These tax collectors were hated by the people, put out of their own families, cast out of the synagogues, and completely disassociated from society.  They then took bribes from the rich, they extorted from the middle class and the poor, they became hated and despised. 

B.   Matthew was a man under conviction.  We read verse 9, and we find Jesus saying, “Follow me.” and we are told that Matthew “…arose, and followed him”.  We read this account and it seems like all the sudden, Matthew arises and follows a stranger.  No, it wasn’t like that.  Matthew’s tax booth was located in Capernaum.  Miracle upon miracle upon miracle had happened there.  So Matthew knew about the Lord.  That's why he followed so fast when Jesus invited him.  There was mercy for Matthew! 

C.   I believe Matthew was converted here.  When Matthew hears the Lord’s voice to follow Him, it opens up Matthew’s heart, and it seems that this is where Matthew is converted.  Amazingly, there is no prolonged appeal.  We find simply that Jesus approached Matthew’s tax booth, and said, “Follow Me”.  He must have heard Jesus preach the word of God in the open air around Capernaum because God gives the increase! 

Explanation:  In case we have any questions about it, Luke adds a little statement that says, “He forsook all” (Luke 5:28).  Matthew doesn't talk about what he left.  If you were a fisherman and Jesus said “Follow Me”, you could follow and you could always go back to the fish?  I mean they're always going to be there, but if you're a tax collector and you get up and say goodbye I'm leaving you can't ever go back because next day Rome is going to have somebody in your place and it's all over.  So the price that Matthew paid is much greater than the others paid.  He walked away and Luke says he forsook all of it.  He didn't say well I'm coming Lord, but hey I can finance this whole operation if you just let me grab these bags.  He didn't say that.  He just followed.    

Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, wrote a beautiful poem called “Come Follow”.

I heard him call, “Come follow!” That was all.

My gold grew dim,

My soul went after Him.

I rose and followed. That was all.

Who would not follow

If he heard Him call?

When a person is born again, the beauty of Christ comes alive.  All the treasures of this world lose their brilliance.  But we know that Matthew was born again because of the work of the Spirit in his heart.  The Scripture says, “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Corinthians 12:3); and, 1 John 5:1, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God”. 

Knowing that Jesus was the Christ made Matthew forsake everything!  He lost material things and gained a spiritual fortune!  He became an “heirs of God, and joint–heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).

III.     Consider the God’s Schooling of those who Serve Him.   Look at verse 10, “And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.” 

Explanation: Who is it that Jesus gathered around himself? 

·         We’ve spoken already of the Tax Collectors.  The publicans, or tax-collectors, who gathered at Matthew’s house were the lowest of the low. These guys were filthy rich.  They had plenty of money because they took it from the people of Israel.  They were the most hated people of all.  It would be like today saying someone was an ax murderer or a sociopath.  Now people aren’t going to cough up the money just because you ask, so tax collectors were usually surrounded by another group of people, namely sinners.

·         Sinners.  This referred to the thugs and criminals that went along with the tax collectors to help collect the taxes.  They were like the street mafia of Israel, and they hung out with all the criminals and prostitutes that carried on much of the outward immoral activity in Israel.  These people did the tax collector’s dirty work by any means their depraved hearts could imagine.

These were the people that gathered with Jesus at Matthew’s house.  They were messed up people!  Think of the church as a spiritual ER, and you are a doctor.  People are hurting. 

A.   First, we need to have the Faithfulness of a doctor.  This is one of the reasons it is important to be at church when we gather together.  God has given you gifts, think of those gifts as medicine.  God wants you to disperse your medicine as a doctor of Christ’s grace and love to your brothers and sisters in Christ around you.

B.   Second, we need to have the Love and Joy of seeing a patient healed!  If you had the cure to heart disease, you’d be handing it out.  Matthew threw a banquet!  He had found that Jesus was a friend of sinners!! 

C.   Third, we need to have the Skill of a doctor.  We read in Romans 15:1, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves”. 


Application:  There are different situations and circumstances in the lives of those Christ calls.  One thing though, all have in common.  We are sinners in need of the grace of Christ!  Hurting people need to be handled with care!  You don’t take a person with a serious neck injury and handle them roughly.  That’s malpractice!  You can serve Christ by loving each other. 

D.  Fourth, we need to have great Compassion of our Great Physician. Look at the lack of compassion the Pharisees had in verse 11, “when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? 12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. 13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”.  Those who were gathering with Christ at Matthew’s house were not accepted in society as a whole.  Jesus did not start condemning them, but he was called “a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!” (Luke 7:34).  You can serve Christ by reaching out to people you are not familiar with.  When new folk come into the service, you ought to be like Clarissa Cormier used to be.  She’d be inviting them to her home and reaching out to them!

IV.     Applications.

A.   Remember, the church is not a building, but a body of people.  In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Certainly Christ lives in all Christians.  We are united to Him spiritually. Jesus tells us: “Abide in me and I in you” (John 15:1).  We can all say with Paul, “Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20).  But each of us as part of the church is used by God to bring people to spiritual healing.  We are to help each other grow and change to be more like Christ. We are still all struggling with our growth in Christ.

I think sometimes we expect too much from one another and not enough from ourselves.  We give ourselves room to grow and change, but are we giving those around us room to grow and change.  Because we are still fighting against sin in our own heart, and will be until we die or Jesus comes again, we will find that the environment of the church will at times be difficult.  In a hospital you see some ugly things. The people around you this morning at times will encourage us, and other times, challenge us. But for the person who is truly devoted to Christ, the church will always serve to make us stronger, more mature Christians.

B.   Second, remember the Gospel is about GRACE!  Who do you spend time with?  Do you ever spend time with the irreligious who live outside the conservative culture?   Do you ever go outside your comfort zone to tell people about Christ?  We are to go to the neglected people of our cities. God can save anyone!

Conclusion:  Are you serving the Lord or serving yourself?  The church is a spiritual hospital.  We ought to want to be together so that we can give out the medicine of our spiritual gifts.  We serve one another by being here, by talking with each other, by serving others.

We also serve the Lord by bringing more hurting people among us!  Verse 13, Jesus said, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”.   Let us gather together for the healing of the Lord.  This gathering is not a convention center to show off trophies.  It is a spiritual hospital.  Jesus is the doctor, but He ministers to us through each other.  John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”.  


[1] John MacArthur, commentary on Matthew 9, from “Receiving the Sinner”.

[2] Ibid.

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