“a man called Matthew.” The calling of Matthew (also called Levi) is recorded in Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:14-17; and Luke 5:27-32. The three Gospels that record the calling of Matthew differ in some significant details. That is typical of the Gospels because each of the four Gospels has its own purpose and significance. Matthew emphasizes Jesus as the king, Mark as the servant of God, Luke as a human being, and John as the Son of God (see commentary on Mark 1:1, “the Good News of Jesus Christ”). Before we get into some of the differing details, we must remember that this exchange between the Pharisees and Jesus Christ was more than just a couple of sentences. The Pharisees were the religious leaders in the Galilee and they were possessive and stubborn men, which is one reason they spoke to Jesus’ disciples and not directly to Jesus, and so the conversation between them and Jesus would have taken some time and many things would have been said—much more than is recorded in a very abbreviated form in Scripture. The back-and-forth between Jesus and the Pharisees gives room for each Gospel to record the event in light of its particular emphasis.
Matthew has the most intense engagement between Jesus and the Pharisees. For one thing, it is the only Gospel that mentions that Jesus quoted the Old Testament, saying, “I want mercy, and not sacrifice” (Hos. 6:6). This would have mainly been a rebuke, but also was an instruction to anyone with ears to hear. However, Matthew, Mark and Luke also have an intended rebuke in Jesus’ statement, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13; Mark 2:17). Calling the Pharisees “righteous” was a tongue-in-cheek rebuke because the Pharisees were not actually righteous in the sight of God (even though they thought they were), a point Jesus made on more than one occasion (cp. Matt. 5:20; Matt. 23:15-17). It makes sense that the Gospel of Matthew would have the most intense interaction with the ungodly Pharisees because it was the duty of the king to protect his people.
The Gospel of Luke shows the most interest in the “sinners” that Jesus was with, which is typical of Luke, which emphasizes Jesus’ humanity. Luke points out that Matthew made the feast for Jesus, indicating the honor that Matthew had for Jesus, and obviously Matthew’s friends were welcome, they did not “just happen” to be there. Also, it is in Luke that Jesus clearly stated a major part of his purpose for being at the feast: that he came to call sinners “to repentance” (Luke 5:32). That Jesus was there to make an impression that would lead the sinners to repent is not stated in Matthew or Mark, but shows Jesus’ love for the people. Jesus loved the sinners and did not want them to die in their sin, so he was not around them just to “hang out,” he was there to call them to repentance so they could have everlasting life (see commentary on Luke 5:32, “to repentance”).
“sitting at the tax collector’s booth.” The tax office was close to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. See commentary on Mark 2:14.