Planting Doubt: Matthew 9:9-13

Focus Passage: Matthew 9:9-13 (NCV)

When Jesus was leaving, he saw a man named Matthew sitting in the tax collector’s booth. Jesus said to him, “Follow me,” and he stood up and followed Jesus.

10 As Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with Jesus and his followers. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked Jesus’ followers, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 When Jesus heard them, he said, “It is not the healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I want kindness more than I want animal sacrifices.’ I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners.”

Read Matthew 9:9-13 in context and/or in other translations on!

Part way through Jesus’ ministry, immediately after inviting Matthew (also known as Levi) to follow Him, Matthew invites Jesus to his home for a big dinner. It’s uncertain how many disciples Jesus had at this point, but regardless of the size of Jesus’ group, Matthew invited many of his tax collector friends over to eat and to meet Jesus.

When reading Matthew’s gospel, specifically about this event, a subtle detail stands out to me as strange, and maybe even a little underhanded. While the supper was going on, Pharisees saw what was going on and “they asked Jesus’ followers, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” (v. 11)

Perhaps at this point, the Pharisees had been stumped enough by Jesus that they decide to take aim at His disciples instead, or maybe they simply wanted to plant seeds of division among Jesus’ group of followers. Whatever the reason for singling out Jesus’ followers, the motive was almost certainly negative.

Luke’s gospel describes it a little differently. Luke records the Pharisees and teachers of the law “complaining” to Jesus’ followers: “But the Pharisees and the men who taught the law for the Pharisees began to complain to Jesus’ followers, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’” (Luke 5:30)

While Jesus overhears them and responds to their question, when we instead focus on the tactic these men use, we see something that is incredibly effective at sabotaging a movement. If they can get the disciples talking and taking sides over Jesus’ unconventional actions, then their group will be weakened and less effective.

It seems as though Jesus was well aware of this, and before the disciples even have a chance to respond, Jesus speaks up with an answer. The answer Jesus gave both validates the decision each of Jesus’ followers made when choosing to follow Jesus and Jesus’ answer defuses the Pharisee’s subtle attack.

Satan knows he can win if he can simply plant enough seeds of doubt in a person’s mind. Plant the right seeds that question God and undermine His character, and Satan has succeeded in closing that person’s heart away from God. Some of the seeds Satan plants are questions that cannot be answered before we reach heaven, but many of them can.

The remedy for doubt is by testing the challenges themselves. Look at both sides of the challenge and then make a decision. If Satan is attacking God’s loving character, take a look at God’s unloving actions included in the Bible, but instead of stopping there, also look at God’s loving actions. Only after looking at both sides of an issue can we truly be informed enough to make a decision.

Satan wants each of us to doubt God to the point we are unwilling to even claim His promises. If Satan can succeed with his seeds of doubt, we won’t even bother thinking God has something better for us. The best way of answering Satan’s doubt is by bringing the challenge to Jesus. Jesus does have an answer to Satan’s challenges and His answer will validate our faith while also undermining Satan’s challenge.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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