Key Verses: “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13
Over this next month, we will be studying the Gospel of Matthew together. Today’s as an introduction we will consider together the author of this gospel.
Matthew was born a Levite. Consequently, he would have been expected to carry on the family line and become a priest. There was no more respectable job for anyone in Israel. From a young age, he would have learned the Hebrew scriptures with his father, preparing for the day when he too would minister in the temple.
We are not sure what happened in Matthew’s life to knock him of course, but he went from following the most respected position in Israel to one of the most hated. Matthew became a tax collector. Tax collectors were hated by the people because they not only collected money for Rome but charged over and above to line their own pockets.
Matthew was responsible for collecting taxes in the busy town of Capernaum, situated on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee. Consequently, his main source of income would have been from fishermen.
If we had been putting together a group of twelve disciples, Matthew would not even have been on our radar. He was a traitor and a sinner. At least four of Jesus disciples were fishermen, the very people Matthew had robbed. Simon another of the disciples was a Zealot. They had declared war on the tax collectors. Calling Matthew into the group didn’t make any sense, it was as if Jesus was looking for trouble. Once again we are reminded that God doesn’t look at our present circumstances but at our heart.
Jesus said to Matthew “Follow me,” and that was enough for him to instantly leave everything behind. Two words from Jesus and Matthew left his sinful life behind to become a disciple of Jesus. Next, Matthew responded they way all people should when they meet Jesus. He wanted everyone he knew to meet him also. Matthew invites all the tax collectors and sinners he knows to come and have dinner with Jesus. Matthew knew that if Jesus could change his life, He could also change theirs.
Matthew spent the next three years of his life following Jesus. He walked all over the promised land. He saw with his own eyes the miracles Jesus performed, including the ones not recorded in Scripture. He listened carefully to all his words and teaching. He made notes as he preached so that he would not forget his words (Matthew is the only gospel writer to include the full sermon on the mount.) Of the 1,068 verses in Matthew’s gospel, 644 contain actual words of Christ. Three-fifths of the words in Matthew’s gospel are actually Jesus’s. Matthew watched the way Jesus loved people and loved his Father. He saw him calm the storm, cast out demons, heal the sick and raise the dead. He saw Jesus die and He saw him alive after the resurrection. Matthew was a first-hand witness to all that Jesus said and did.
I believe Matthew’s motivation in writing his gospel was the same reason he invited all his friends to have dinner with Jesus. He wanted the world to recognize Jesus and follow him. Over the next month, I pray that Matthew’s eyewitness testimony will deepen our faith in Jesus as the Holy Spirit reveals Him to use through Matthew’s inspired words.