It was the publicans' job to collect from the Jews the taxes levied by the Roman government. Often the publicans took more money
than the government charged. In this way they stole from the people and became rich themselves.
Not all publicans robbed the people by taking too much tax money. Because some did, the people thought all tax collectors were
dishonest. For that reason the people called them sinners.
One day Jesus walked along a street in the city of Capernaum. There he saw Matthew sitting at a publican's table, collecting tax
money from the people. Even though many Jews hated Matthew, Jesus knew that Matthew had a good heart, that he would make a good disciple. To Matthew he said, "Follow me."
Gladly Matthew left his money table and followed Jesus. As Matthew walked away, he thought about his many friends who would like to see Jesus. How much Matthew wanted them to hear Jesus' words!
At his home Matthew gave a great banquet. He invited many friends who were also tax collectors. Jesus and his disciples were the guests of honor.
Even though they had not been invited, the proud scribes and Pharisees gathered in the courtyard of Matthew's house. They watched the dinner party and talked to each other about what they saw. They criticized Jesus for being with these publicans and sinners. No good Jew would do such a thing.
Finally the scribes and Pharisees called Jesus' disciples aside and asked, "Why does your Master eat and drink with publicans and sinners?"
Jesus heard what the proud Jews had said. He answered, "Those who are well do not need a doctor, but the people who are sick. I
have not come to call the righteous people, but I have come to call sinners to repent."
The scribes and Pharisees thought they were too righteous to need repentance. The publicans and sinners admitted they had done wrong.
Many of them listened to Jesus' words and repented of their sins.
Matthew, the publican, became a true disciple. One of the books in the New Testament is called the Gospel According to Matthew.
It records more of Jesus' words than does any of the other Gospels.