The goal of this series is to study the group of 12 young men who spent approximately 3 years with Jesus, from the time of his baptism until his resurrection. We’ll look at their character, their transformation, and their relationship with Jesus and learn from their lives.
You can read the full preface to this series to see how I have defined discipleship and see a timeline of how the disciples met Jesus and followed him.
We are introduced to the future disciple after Jesus’ spectacular healing of a paralyzed man in Capernaum. We see him in Capernaum, in his tax booth on the main highway. He was collecting taxes on imported items. Under the system of the Roman Empire, Matthew would have paid for all of the taxes in advance, then reimbursed himself by collecting from the citizens and travelers. Because of his disliked job, Matthew would likely have been viewed by those in Israel as a thief, a traitor, and a transgressor of the Torah. Tax collectors were notoriously corrupt, collecting more than what was owed, to ensure their own profit. But, since their decisions were enforced by Roman soldiers, no one dared to object.
Despite his sinful past, Matthew was uniquely qualified to be a disciple as he was a good record keeper (what tax collector isn’t?!) and he was a keen observer of people. He would have noticed the smallest details. Those traits served him well when he decided to write his version of the Gospel.
Matthew was one of the most radically changed people in the Bible. And it was all in response to an invitation from Jesus! Just as the Peter and Andrew moved from catching fish to being fishers of men, so Matthew was converted from collecting taxes to “collecting” souls. He did not hesitate. He did not look back. He abandoned the pleasures of his old life for the kingdom of God.
The remainder of Matthew’s life, however, is uncertain. Tradition states that he preached for approximately 15 years in Jerusalem after the death and resurrection of Jesus before going on the mission field to other countries. Legend says that he died as a martyr in witnessing for Christ.
Matthew, Friend of Sinners
On the day Jesus invited Matthew to follow him and become a disciple, Matthew threw a great feast in his home in Capernaum. In his excitement, he invited his friends so that they could meet Jesus too. He is aware that his new identity carries with it the new mission to bring as many people to encounter Christ as possible. So he created an opportunity for people he knew to meet the Lord who had so radically changed his own life.It was at this point that the Pharisees questioned Jesus’ methods and mission to which he famously replied, “For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (Matthew 9:11-13). From that moment on, instead of collecting the money for tax, Matthew began inviting people to meet Jesus (a lot like Andrew!).
By all accounts, even modern, it would appear scandalous and offensive for Jesus to pick a tax collector as one of his disciples, since they were widely hated by the Jews. But we learn here, as well in many other places, that God can use anyone to help Him in his work. We should not feel unqualified because of our appearance or our past. God doesn’t look at the outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7). Instead, He looks for sincere commitment.
Don’t Keep it to Yourself
Matthew wrote because he could not keep the Good News to himself. He concludes his Gospel account with the famous call to go and share the good news, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Matthew knew that an authentic encounter with the one true and living God would always lead to the desire to bring that message to others.
He was empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to spread the gospel to the whole world. He happily received the gift of God (salvation) in his life and wholeheartedly witnessed to it with the remainder of his life.
Preview of the Next Disciple
I hope this has opened your eyes to the fact that Matthew was a real man. He wasn’t just a character on a few pages of the Bible. He was real and there’s so much we can learn from him.
Next, we will look at Jude. What do we know about Jude and what lessons can we learn from his life? You can find out this and much more in the next post.
Wait! Don’t Leave Without Saying Hi!
Thanks for taking the time to read. Below is a place for you to say hi, what you thought about the post, and ask any questions you may have. And yes, I’ll respond! In fact, I’m looking forward to interacting with you! So what are you waiting for? Leave a comment below!
*For related reading about the disciples/apostles of Jesus, please visit my friend’s page here.
Check Out the Rest of the Series
Also published on Medium.