Jesus called Matthew to follow him and he responded by leaving his job as a tax collector and becoming Jesus’ disciple! Later Matthew hosted a feast at his house and he invited other tax collectors and sinners to eat with Jesus. It was his way of celebrating that Jesus was happy to be friends with them, even though none of them were perfect.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”
– Philippians 4:4 (ESV)
Lesson Intro (An Invitation)
The story could go something like this, but feel free to personalize it (you can think of something that you’ve been invited to) and get creative with your props, etc:
Hey kids, I’m really excited because the other day I got an invitation to a friend’s party/wedding/dinner [you could hold up an invitation–even if it’s not real]. I’m really happy that I get to go because there’s going to be food/games/fun, but I’m also happy because it shows that my friend cares about me and likes to hang out with me … Think about when it’s your birthday and you’re going to have a celebration or a party. You normally get to decide who you’re going to invite. Today’s story contains a special invitation!
Here’s an expanded version of the story from Luke 5:27–32
One day Jesus was on his way towards the shore of the Sea of Galilee. There was a tax booth there on the outskirts of the town. Farmers or fishermen who wanted to take their produce (vegetables, or livestock, or fish) to the other side of the lake had to pay a transit tax at the tax booth before they could cross over. A tax is money that you pay to the government to help run the country, but the Jewish people didn’t like these taxes at all! Israel was being ruled by the Romans and they did not like that the Romans were taking their money.
Now, the people who sat at the tax booth and collected the moneys were called tax collectors. The Jewish people, especially the religious leaders, did not like the tax collectors! They did not want to be friends with them because they were friends with the Romans. So, the only friends that the tax-collectors had were other tax collectors and outcasts—people who were seen as bad!
When Jesus came toward the tax booth the tax collector was sitting there by the booth. His name was Matthew (some people called him Levi), and he was probably thinking to himself: “Oh no, here comes that man Jesus! He’s a Rabbi, a religious teacher. He’s probably going to be mad at me and be mean to me like all the other people!” But instead of being mean to him, Jesus invited him to follow him! [hold up your invitation]
As soon as Jesus said to him “follow me”, Matthew left his job as a tax collector and he became a disciple of Jesus! He accepted Jesus’ invitation.
Later, Matthew decided that he wanted to have a feast at his house. He probably wanted to celebrate that somebody special wanted to actually be his friend!!! He decided to invite Jesus to the feast. He also decided to invite many other people who nobody wanted to be friends with, because Jesus would be friends with them too!
So, they had their feast at Matthew’s house and they were having so much fun! Pretty soon though, the Pharisees and the religious leaders saw what was going on and they didn’t like it. They said: “Why is Jesus being friends with those horrible people?” When Jesus heard that he said to them: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Lk 5:31–32 NIV).
What can we learn from this story? Jesus showed that he came so that everyone could be close to God. Jesus wants everybody to be his friend, even those people who others don’t want to be friends with. It was fun to see how kind Matthew was because even though he now had a very special and important friend, he didn’t forget about his old friends who weren’t popular.
The wonderful news for us is that Jesus has invited each one of you to be his follower too! Each one of you are special to him and he wants each one of you to know him and to be his friend. That means that we can talk to him, we can tell him about things that bother us and ask him for help. It also means that we can share joyful moments with Jesus.
It honors Jesus when we invite Jesus to be part of our lives too. We can invite Jesus to be part of everything we do because everything is better with Jesus!
Prayer: Thank God that he has invited each one of us to be a his friend and that God has called each one of us to follow him. Pray that the children would hear God’s voice and find the courage to follow him the way that Matthew did.
- What was Matthew doing when Jesus came to him?
- What did he say to Matthew?
- Who did Matthew invite to his house?
- Why were the Pharisees upset?
- What did Jesus say to them?
Get to the feast on time (Balloon Follow The Leader)
Supplies: an equal number of red, yellow, blue and green balloons.
Object: Just as Matthew chose to follow Jesus, the kids will follow a leader and do as they do with a balloon. Then kids will get their balloons to the feast!
To play: part one- choose someone to be the leader. (I recommend a volunteer to lead to start). Hand out one ballon to each child, giving out the same amount of red, yellow, blue and green balloons. (This is for part two of the game.). Have the children spread out so they are not too close to one another. The leader will do an action with their balloon and the children must follow. Examples: hold balloon over your head, pass between your legs, throw in air and catch it, throw in air and spin around one time and catch it, bounce off knee or foot or head. Be creative. It’s ok if kids drop their balloons. Just have fun! Pick a new leader and play several rounds.
Part 2- Have children sit criss cross, spread out in the middle of the room holding their balloon. Select a volunteer with a second hand or cell phone to be the timer. Designate one corner of the room to be red, one yellow, one blue and one green. Put a volunteer in each corner. They are the “Host of the Feast.” Without moving from their spot, the children need to bat each balloon to their designated corner..all the yellow balloons to the yellow corner, all the green to the green corner, etc. Time how long it takes to get all the balloons to the correct corner, i.e., their feast. Hand balloons back to the kids and play again and try to beat the time! (This is adapted from Fun and Easy Games, by Group)
Another option. Once the balloons are in their corners, Write one word of the memory verse on each balloon. Split kids into 4 teams designated to a color. Line teams up across from the corner where their balloons are. Have them relay to retrieve one ballon each, then have them put the verse in order. First team done is the winner.
Image Credit: Jacopo da Ponte, The Last Supper, circa 1546