Recently, I have been fascinated by Matthew the Tax Collector.
By the way, “Matthew the Tax Collector” is how he identified himself (Matthew 10:3). I assume that what the early believers said about the author of the First Gospel is correct. Second generation Christians gave us what they knew about the authors of the books of the New Testament. They gave testimony that Matthew is the author of the First Gospel.
This is an issue because none of the four gospels tells us the author. Each is anonymous. We assign them as we do because of the testimony of those who apparently knew the authors.
Matthew is fascinating to me for three reasons.
First, his status as a tax collector makes him a very unlikely disciple of Jesus. In today’s world he might be considered a liability to the fledgling group of believers. His outcast status cast a shadow on all of the followers of Jesus.
In the first century being a tax collector had little status but large amounts of money. To be a tax collector, a person generally had to make a trip to Rome and purchase the position.
Jews despised tax collectors because of their corruption and their coziness with Rome.
Second, Matthew is fascinating because he left a place that had cost him so much and that had given and would give him so much. He left all to follow Jesus.
Matthew seemed to understand that money and position could not cure the needs of the human heart.
Third, I love to read the account of Matthew because he called himself the tax collector. Other than in the gospel he wrote, he is not identified in this way.
Here’s what I think.
I don’t believe Matthew ever got over the fact that Jesus chose him to be His disciple and changed his life (Matthew 9:9). It’s almost as if as Matthew listed the disciples he said “and Matthew the tax collector!” (Matthew 10:3).
Matthew teaches how God changes lives. One of the purposes of his gospel is to show the amazing power of Christ to change us fundamentally at the very core of who we are.
When we read Scripture, we are not simply to note Matthew and his change, we are to seek it ourselves with all our heart.
When we do so, we will really begin to understand what happened to Matthew the tax collector.
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