In this lesson, we will learn about how Jesus called one of the most hated and rejected persons of his time to be His disciple. This lesson relates to pre-teens and teens and by the end of this lesson, they should have learnt about the following:
- God’s mercy and love.
- Following Jesus
- Loving others as God loves them.
BIBLE PASSAGE: Matthew 9:9-17
MEMORY VERSE: “But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” Matthew 9:12
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BIBLE STUDY NOTES FOR TEENS
BACKGROUND TO THE STORY
During the lifetime of Jesus, Israel was under the rule of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was expanding its kingdom by colonizing and dominating the surrounding nations. Therefore, it was common to find Roman soldiers and officials scattered across Israel at that time.
To further their empire and fund their armies, the Romans collected taxes from the controlled nations. The Romans recruited tax collectors who were citizens of the controlled nations to collect the tax from their fellow citizens. This was a job whereby you literally worked for the enemy. Tax collectors were typically dubious and harsh. A tax collector usually bought a franchise from Rome that gave them the right to collect the taxes, the tribute, that Rome placed on the countries they had conquered. The advantage to the tax collector who held the franchise was that Rome asked for a fixed amount, but anything collected above that could be kept by the tax collectors. This led to all sorts of abuses of the system. They used their position to enrich their pockets by cheating their fellow citizens. Tax collectors were seen as traitors to the nation. For this reason, tax collectors were one of the most hated people during that time.
Historians report that although they were Jewish citizens, a Jewish tax collector was barred from the synagogue and social contact with his fellow Jews. He was put in the class alongside robbers and murderers and to be treated like an unclean animal.
Furthermore, anyone who associated with a tax collector was guilty by association. Nobody wanted anything to do with a tax collector, except Jesus.
Regardless of the rejection and stigma attached to tax collectors, Jesus went ahead not only to associate with Matthew but also to call him as one of His disciples. It’s so wonderful to know that Matthew, a tax collector who was hated by everyone was still loved by Jesus. He became one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, wrote the gospel of Matthew and help found the early church later. How wonderful is God’s love and transforming power!
KEY POINTS FROM THE PASSAGE
- JESUS IS FULL OF GRACE AND INVITES US TO HIM – EVEN THOUGH WE ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH (Matthew 9:12)
Have you ever felt like you’re not good enough for something? Not good enough to represent your school, or to play on the sports team? Not good enough to sing at church? How about good enough to be saved and to be a follower of Jesus?
The truth is that no one is good enough, but God is full of grace. (2 Corinthians 3:5 and Ephesians 2:8).
Jesus wants everything to do with you because He came for people who are not good enough. Jesus is the great physician. As shown in our memory verse, a physician usually deals with people who are sick or weak. Jesus will always accept all who come to Him in need of help. No matter how rejected they may be among their peers.
If Jesus went out of his way to call Matthew, a tax collector, one of the most hated people in society to follow Him, then He will certainly receive all who will come to Him.
- GOD IS MERCIFUL AND FULL OF LOVE (Matthew 9:13)
We all need someone to show us mercy at some point in our lives. Sadly, people have a tendency to be slow to show mercy to each other. People lie against others, purposefully misunderstand those they disagree with, or even hate another group for no just cause.
Matthew was an outcast. No one really wanted to hear from him. Society didn’t care whether he was sincere or desired to repent. People placed a label on him and so it was. He suffered this situation till Jesus called him to be a disciple.
When Jesus met Matthew, He looked past the usual filth associated with tax collectors and showed him love. This shows how loving and merciful God is. Even when no one will understand, God always understands. He shows mercy to one and all, no matter the situation we find ourselves in. God desires mercy and not sacrifice, (Matthew 9:13) so he is always drawn to all who need His mercy.
- MATTHEW LEFT ALL BEHIND TO FOLLOW JESUS (Matthew 9:9)
As soon as Jesus called Matthew, he left all he had known to follow Jesus. Matthew left his former lifestyle, his office as a tax collector and his dubious ways to follow Jesus. Indeed, we really can’t follow Jesus if we have not turned our backs on something.
As Jesus called Matthew to follow him, he calls us all today to follow him. We too must respond the same way Matthew did. We must leave all to follow him. Leaving all means we surrender our lives to Him and crown Him as Lord over our lives. We must give up anything that stands in the way of following Jesus to become His disciples. We give up all and yet gain so much more when we follow Jesus.
- DON’T BE LIKE A PHARISEE (Matthew 9:11)
The Pharisees were so proud and arrogant that they almost dictated to God how people should be treated. They were primarily behind judging and condemning people. When Jesus sat with Matthew in his house, they became angry at Jesus for doing this.
In their view, Jesus should instead be having a banquet with upright and respectable people like them, not ‘sinners’. Not that they had invited Jesus to a banquet. God does not want us to act this way. He wants us to love people just like He loves them.
The Pharisee saw themselves as better than others. Have you ever met someone who is sick but refuse to admit it or to visit a doctor? It is obvious to everyone they need a doctor, but they won’t admit it. Only people who recognize that they are sick go to the doctor.
The Pharisees were as sick as the tax collectors. They were sinners in need of God’s saving grace but blinded by self-righteousness. They refused to seek the spiritual physician. Matthew and his friends knew they were sinners in need of a saviour.
We too must guard our hearts again self-righteousness. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Paul mightily used by God never forgot his own depravity outside of God’s grace.
In conclusion, review the following points considered in the lesson with the pre-teens and then, pray with them to round up the lesson:
- Jesus accepts all who come to him, no matter how bad they may be.
- God’s mercy and love are greater than our faults and mistakes.
- Following Jesus requires giving up some things.
- Be happy for others when God does great things for them.
YOUTH GAMES AND ACTIVITIES FOR JESUS, FRIEND OF SINNERS (MATTHEW)
COLLECT THE TAXES
- Each player is given an envelope with a number inside. The same numbers should be written on pieces of paper and placed inside a bowl.
- The first player picks a number from the bowl.
- If it is the same number as in their envelope, they win the envelope.
- If it is a different number, they get two guesses for who has that number. If they are right, they get to keep that persons envelop.
- Numbers are put back into the hat if not found.
- Envelopes are found are won by the guessing player and safe until the end of the game.
- Go around the circle repeating the above. Once all envelopes are found and no numbers remain in the bowl, the player with the most envelopes wins.
- Set up some board game tables. Talk about how Matthew was sat at his table collecting taxes when Jesus called him.
- Select a leader. At any point, the leader can shout ‘Follow me’. All children must then immediately stop what they are doing and run to the leader.
- The first player to reach the leader can win a small prize.
- Talk about how Matthew left everything to follow Jesus.
- Have two players to sit on the same side of a table. Give both players five coins of the same value.
- Players take turns to use one finger to slide their coins across the table. The aim of the game is to get the coins as close to the edge of the other side of the table as possible. Any coins which fall off the edge are out of play.
- The player with the closest coin to the edge at the end wins.
- This is a game of speed and accuracy. Place an equal number of coins in front of each player or team.
- The leader then shouts a number. E.g., 12.
- The teams must then make a stack of 12 coins as fast as possible, and shout “done”.
- Leaders should count the coins to make sure the number is correct. The team which does it the fastest wins a point.