Sat at meat in the house - The words “at meat” are not in the original. The phrase means “as he reclined at his meal,” or “as he was eating.” This feast was made by Matthew in honor of the Saviour. See Luke 5:29.
Publicans - See the notes at Matthew 5:47.
Sinners - Sinners of abandoned character - of the same character that publicans commonly sustained - fit companions of publicans - great sinners.
There were many - That is, many “disciples.” Their following him, leaving their homes, and going with him from place to place, was proof of their attachment to him. There is no doubt that our Saviour, in the early part of his ministry, was extremely popular. Multitudes of the common people attended him, and gave conclusive evidence that they were his real disciples, and it was only after much opposition from the rich and the great that he ever became unpopular among the people. Perhaps no preacher has ever attracted so universal attention, and produced so decisive effects upon mankind, as did our Lord in his personal ministry.
Of the Roman officials in Palestine, none were more hated than the publicans. The fact that the taxes were imposed by a foreign power was a continual irritation to the Jews, being a reminder that their independence had departed. And the taxgatherers were not merely the instruments of Roman oppression; they were extortioners on their own account, enriching themselves at the expense of the people. A Jew who accepted this office at the hands of the Romans was looked upon as betraying the honor of his nation. He was despised as an apostate, and was classed with the vilest of society. DA 272.1Read in context »