Message 2: Jesus and the Custom's Officer of Capernaum
October 4, 1944
by John N. C. Hiebert
Our Scripture lesson tonight brings before us the story of Jesus and His dealing with a well-known, though less well-loved, business man of Capernaum. Capernaum, we remember, was the city which Jesus used as the headquarters for His great Galilean ministries. The story is a very short one, but it contains the essential elements of what took place. From the rest of the Gospel records we can fill in the needed details so that we know what happened when Jesus met this business man on the streets of this busy little city. During recent weeks I have been interested in studying how Jesus met individuals from the various walks of life and how He dealth with them.
Throughout the centuries Jesus has attracted all classes of men. Kings and potentates have found Him as their own Saviour and have been better rulers becuase of it. Great statesmen of various nations have found Him and have been better statesmen because of their meeting with the Saviour. Learned men have found Jesus as their Saviour and have been all the wiser because of it. Peasants have found Him and in their poverty they have become richer because of it. Jesus brought contentment and satisfaction to them in their huts and meager surroundings. He was their Friend. Even slaves found Jesus as their friend and were made inwardly free though bound by a cruel, injust social system. But tonight it is the business men that especially interest us. Jesus met a Jewish business man on the streets of Capernaum. That meeting completely changed the life of this man. Throughout the ages men of business have found their Saviour and have been better men because of it.
The Hindus of India believe that a merchant has no soul. At least he is not supposed to have a soul. He lives only for money. When you see him enter the hut of an undernourished, poverty-stricken outcaste who is dying and who all his life time has paid interest on a small debt he had contracted with the merchant long ago, and then see how he demands everything he can lay his hands upon before the outcaste dies, you almost believe that he has no soul . You are sure that he has only a shriveled soul. Yet inspite of the fact that many business men have a shriveled soul because of their love for gain and money, it is true that throughout the centuries there have been prominent men in business who have met Jesus and have obeyed His call to follow Him. They have been a great blessing to the world. We are glad for all the business men who tune in to this broadcast and it is the prayer of my heart that the simple Gospel story we have before us may help them to come into personal touch with this great Saviour of men. This is my prayer for all of you who are listening to us tonight.
I have before me a pamphlet which is entitled "Fourteen Prominent Business Men Look at Life." It contains the testimony of leading business men all over our country who have met Jesus like Matthew met Him long ago in Capernaum. Let me quote to you what one of them, a leading banker in our nation, has to say about Jesus, Whom he has personally met and Whom he now serves, quote, "I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Saviour of the World. Furthermore, the Lord Jesus became my personal Saviour many years ago. To Him alone I look for salvation--by His blood alone have I been cleansed from sin. I believe the Bible to be God's Word--His revelation to man. Through this Book I learned what Christ had done for me; from it I learn what He is still doing and will yet do for me and for all who believe. Without the Bible and the Saviour it reveals, I would be like a rudderless ship on a storm-tossed sea. Christ alone gives true security." "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." Unquote.
Thousands of others could join him in a testimony like that. Yes, my friends, Jesus called a business man to become His disciple long ago and He still calls the business men of our day to follow Him. Let us look more closely at the way He called Matthew and especially at Matthew's response to this call.
Matthew, whose other name is Levi, was in the employ of the Roman government, although he was a Jew. The more orthodox Jews despised men who served this foreign government and Matthew must have shared their stigma but he evidently felt that his gains were such that it was worth the price. He collected customs. Some of us know quite a bit about custom officers in this land and in other lands. Matthew knew all about their job. Capernaum was located on a great highway that led from that great trading center, Damascus, to the cost of the Mediterranean. Capernaum was also located on the shores of Galilee. Thus caravans along the highway and litle boats from the other shores of this sea brought merchandise on which customs were collected. While Matthew was busy collecting customs Jesus met him and called him. Matthew responded and from that hour Matthew was Christ's man. It is this response to the call of the Lord that most concerns us.
I. Notice first of all that this response to the Master's Call was immediate.
There was no hesitation. There was no arguing. There was no questioning. Matthew rose and followed Jesus. I ahve no doubt but that Matthew knew about Jesus since this city had been Jesus' headquarters for some time. He knew about His miracles, he most likely had heard Him preach. There had been a quiet heart preparation for a great decision. Now the hour of decision had come. Matthew did not hesitate. Jesus called, Matthew responded. That is all we read, but it is sufficient for in this response all of Matthew's Life was changed.