THE THIRD CASE—A TAX COLLECTOR
The tax collector in chapter nine is a case which further illustrates the kingdom. Matthew 9:9 says that Matthew was a publican, a tax collector, a Jew who collected taxes for the Roman imperialists. Such publicans were despised by the Jews because they were helping the Roman imperialists to damage the Jewish nation. Matthew was such a person. Spiritually speaking, he was a leper who was cleansed. Although his natural situation was that of a leper, he received faith. The leprosy went and faith came, so the Lord Jesus went to feast with him. The feast mentioned in verse 10, the great feast of Luke 5:29, was prepared by Matthew. Matthew held a great feast to celebrate his entrance into the kingdom. This was certainly a worthwhile celebration, for a publican had entered into the kingdom. While the Lord Jesus was enjoying the feast, the religious people who had so many regulations were troubled. Both the old-time religionists, the disciples of the Pharisees, and the new-time religionists, the disciples of John the Baptist, were troubled (9:11-14). They were all offended because the Lord Jesus was feasting with tax collectors and sinners. Hence, the Lord Jesus told them that the strong had no need of a physician, but those who were sick. He also told them that He desired mercy and not sacrifice for He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners (9:10-13).
At that time, John’s disciples also asked the Lord a question: "Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?" The Lord answered them in a wonderful way: "Can the sons of the bridechamber mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?" (9:15). A bridegroom is always a very pleasant person. As the seed of the kingdom, the Lord Jesus is not only the Savior, Lord, and King, but also the Bridegroom. He is very pleasant. How strange it would be for people to fast on the wedding day, especially in the presence of the bridegroom. That would be an insult and a shame to the bridegroom himself. In the presence of the bridegroom we must have enjoyment. The more we enjoy ourselves, the happier the bridegroom will be. We all need to enjoy the Lord.
The first case, the leper, signifies cleansing; the second case, the centurion, signifies faith versus natural birth. The third case, the tax collector, represents the enjoyment of those who are in the kingdom. Once we are cleansed and have received faith, we must feast with the Lord Jesus as the Bridegroom. We must enjoy Him as the most pleasant Person.
THE WEDDING GARMENT AND THE NEW WINE
The Lord Jesus is not only the Bridegroom; He is also the wedding garment (9:16). We cannot feast with Him unless we are clothed with the proper garment. He Himself is our new garment. He is also the new wine which fills us within (9:17). Thus, He is the new garment without and the new wine within. As the new garment covering us, Christ is our righteousness, and as the new wine that fills us up, Christ is our life. He is our Bridegroom whom we enjoy, and He is also our qualification for enjoying Him. He is the new garment, and He is the new strength, the inner energy, that we need to appreciate and enjoy Him. Christ is also the new wineskin, the proper church life, that preserves the wine. We were lepers, but we have been cleansed by the blood and life of the Lord Jesus. We have received faith and believe in Him. Now we are feasting with Him as our pleasant Bridegroom.
(The Kingdom, Chapter 21, by Witness Lee)