Matthew is the next New Testament figure we are studying. He is most famously known as one of Jesus’ disciples and the author of the Gospel of Matthew.
According to Matthew 9:9; 10:3, before Matthew became a disciple of Jesus Christ, he was a tax collector in the town of Capernaum. Matthew was also called Levi, the son of Alphaeus, by Luke and Mark (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). Although Luke and Mark do not come out and say “Levi and Matthew are the same person”, we can see the names refer to the same individual. Also, Matthew’s account of his call matches exactly the accounts of Levi’s call in Luke and Mark. It was not uncommon for a person to be given a new name after an encounter with God. Abram became Abraham, Jacob became Israel, Simon became Peter, and Saul became Paul. It is likely that Matthew which means “gift of God” was the new name Jesus gave to Levi after his conversion.
Interestingly, the only gospel that mentions Matthew’s former occupation as a tax collector is Matthew’s own. This is a mature thing to be willing to share because as tax collectors, they were absolutely despised. They worked for the Roman government and enriched themselves by collecting taxes from their own people. They all too often dishonestly collected excessive amounts and took advantage of the lowly. (Luke 19:8).
Additionally, tax collectors like Matthew were seen by the religious elite as very sinful people. They were seen as so sinful that even spending time with them could destroy a good person’s reputation (Matthew 9:10–11). One of the accounts we read was when Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house. There were many other tax collectors and sinners present and the Pharisees questioned the disciples about Jesus’ choice to hang out with them. Jesus’ response is one of the clearest explanations of God’s heart and His gospel to man: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners…” (Matthew 9:12–13).
Matthew was one of the tax collectors whom Jesus saved. When called by Jesus, Matthew immediately left his tax collection booth and followed the Lord (Matthew 9:9). In this he left behind his source of riches and his position of security and comfort. He did this to enter into a life changing relationship with Jesus that would mean lowly accommodations, lots of travel and even persecution that would lead to martyrdom.
What an example of the crucified life disciples like Matthew give us.
Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
What have you given up to serve and follow Jesus?
What do you still need to give up? What idol or fleshly pursuit is holding you back from living the crucified life for Jesus?
Let us not forget the amazing transformation God is able to do in his people. Matthew not only received a new name, but lived a completely different life the remainder of his days.
When we give our lives to the Lord we truly die to ourselves and now love him.
May we be ready to sacrifice it all to take up our cross and follow Jesus to whatever he has for us for His glory and others’ good!
I remind you of the passage we read on Tuesday. May we see it and receive it in a new light today and for the rest of our lives.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”