Do you want to learn the important lessons from the life of the Apostle Matthew? If yes, then you came to the right place. Read on to learn more.
The name Matthew means gift of Yahweh. It is the contracted name of Mattathias. Matthew, the Apostle of Yahshua (Popularly known as Jesus Christ) is best known as the publican or tax collector. The story of Matthew’s calling shows us the amazing power of God’s grace and how it transforms people and become extraordinary servants of our Creator.
In this post, let us take a deeper look at the life of Matthew and learn the vital lessons from his life. Read on to learn more!
Who is Matthew?
Before Matthew is also known as Levi (Luke 5:27). He was better known as Matthew. The Bible doesn’t clearly tell us if he already has two names before his calling or was it given to him by Jesus Himself.
He is the son of Alpheus, but it is unlikely that he is a brother of James since this was not explicitly mentioned in the Gospels.
Matthew is a customs officer in Capernaum, a territory ruled by Herod Antipas. Because of his occupation, it could be insinuated that he received some education and wealth.
While being a publican is financially rewarding, the majority of Jews consider them as enemies and traitors. Matthew, as a publican, could be someone who farmed the taxes among his own people. Publicans and the tax collectors under them were often seen to be guilty of peculation and extortion. They have a bad reputation for charging more taxes than what is lawful.
For this reason, Jews see these men to be a source of heavy burden in their lives and a benefactor of the Roman government. It is not difficult to see then why so many Jews hated tax collectors. The Romans didn’t even respect publicans. For the Jews, it is disgraceful to be taxed by the Romans and it has become even more despicable when they are taxed by their fellow countrymen.
This is the type of background where Matthew is coming from. No wonder that the Jews intensely hate Matthew and the people within his profession.
The calling of Matthew
The story of Matthew’s calling has been recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Each Gospel writer gives us a different perspective on how Yahshua called Matthew.
Matthew 9:9 tells us:
As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.
It is a great marvel for Yahshua to call fishermen, people of the lowest rank, of no reputation. However, for me, it is a greater marvel that our Savior has also called a publican, straight from the receipt of custom. He called Matthew, a tax collector, a person who belongs to a profession with the worst reputation. Tax collectors or publicans are considered by the Jews to be among the worst of sinners and people who have ill fame.
I believe this is where the grace of God is greatly magnified. The grace and mercy of our Heavenly Father aren’t simply reserved for people who are righteous or those who live a good life. His grace is extended to the worst of us – to those whom the society has already condemned.
When everybody else has given up on you, our Heavenly Father hasn’t.
Imagine, Matthew, a person of ill-reputation, has been given a chance by God to change his ways and become a follower of Christ. The same grace and mercy are being extended to us now.
No matter what sins you have committed in the past, you are not beyond repair. You can always go to God and ask for forgiveness. After repenting and changing your ways, you can become a new man in Christ!
Forsaking all for God’s calling
After hearing the invitation of Yahshua, Matthew’s response was astonishing. Luke 5:28 tells us:
“And he left all, rose up, and followed him.”
While some people might quickly follow Christ, they would not easily shake themselves off from the worries of this world. Matthew, who probably had a stable job and a comfortable life, was ready to forsake everything to answer the call of God. He is now ready to leave the life he probably has known all his life and become God’s instrument in doing His work.
Now, notice, how effective the calling of Christ is. The invitation of Christ was immediately answered by Matthew. This shows you that Matthew could have already been setting his heart to knowing more about the Great Teacher everyone was talking about. He probably has been one of those publicans who has been secretly listening to Yahshua and praying to God to direct His ways.
As a result, Matthew didn’t simply forsake everything for God and followed Christ, but rather, he also threw not just any ordinary feast, but a GREAT feast!
Matthew recognized the importance of Christ’s invitation and now, he is using the great feast to attract more people to Christ.
“Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.”
Calling the sinners to repentance
The great feast of Matthew attracted a lot of people, including the tax collectors and sinners. We read in Matthew 9:10:
“Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.”
When the Pharisees and scribes saw this, they thought that this was a golden opportunity to throw dirt to Christ’s character. They hypocritically said:
“Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Instead of putting Yahshua to shame, their dirty tactic backfired. Yahshua had the best response as we read in Matthew 9:12-13:
Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
You can just imagine how the Pharisees felt when they were corrected by Christ. However, instead of changing their attitude, they continued to seek other means to destroy Yahshua.
The problem with the Pharisees is that they are self-righteous. Instead of being glad that a sinner like Matthew repented of his sins and become a converted follower of God, they reviled him. Instead of thanking God, their hearts were hardened.
- Be sure to read “10 DEADLIEST Signs of Self-Righteousness You Probably Don’t Know.”
The point of Yahshua is clear in his response. He came to the world to call sinners to repentance. The righteous are already part of the 99 sheep who were safely guarded and fenced. Christ is after the lost sheep. He came to the world to save sinners and help them change their way of life.
Yahshua further pointed out that the Pharisees, of all the people, should have already known that God is more pleased with people who are merciful rather than those people who offer sacrifices and yet their hearts are not right with God.
Learning the lessons from the life of Matthew
Matthew started on the wrong foot in his life. However, at some point, he recognized how wretched he was. Though he has a comfortable life working as a publican, he knew that there is more to life than earning a living.
When Yahshua called Matthew, he knew that it was the time he was waiting and praying for. He wasted no time to answer Christ’s call. He immediately left everything to follow Yahshua.
Matthew threw a great feast as a sign of his joy for Christ’s calling. He was not ashamed of being a follower of Christ. He wanted all the world to know that he has made a decision to change his life.
Not only that, but he shared this joyful occasion with fellow tax collectors, publicans, and sinners. He also wanted other people to see the great joy of finding his true purpose and in the process, also introduce them to the Light of the world.
Matthew’s life shows us how gracious and merciful God is. Your past sins can be forgiven the moment you genuinely ask for God’s forgiveness and start living a life pleasing to Him.
The Jews, Romans, and people around Matthew saw him as an immoral and despised person. However, when Christ saw Matthew, He saw someone who can be used by God to write one of the most widely read books in the Bible.
As Christians today, when we see people change their ways, may we rejoice with them rather than reviling them for their past sins. We must not like the Pharisees who are more concerned with preserving their fame and position rather than seeing the sinners turn from their wicked ways.
These are the lessons we need to learn from the life of Matthew. May we all have the courage not just to inculcate them in our minds, but also apply them in our daily life.