Yes, I am “the” Matthew from the bible.
I had the most incredible privilege of walking with Jesus for those three years leading up to His crucifixion and resurrection. It was an exhilarating time. We never knew what adventure we were going to encounter next, or what life lesson we were going to learn with His next supernatural expression of love. Hang on a moment, I am getting ahead of myself here.
Firstly, my name wasn’t always Matthew, it was Levi. My father’s name was Alphaeus. I am often asked if James, who is also referred to in the ancient records, as the son of Alphaeus and one of Jesus disciples, is my brother… Let’s keep that a mystery.
Jesus changed my name at about the same time as He changed Simon’s to Peter. We were at a god-forsaken place in Caesarea, Philippi, which abounded in idol worship at the time. There Jesus asked us who we thought He was. We all answered by quoting what the common view of the day was regarding Him, but Peter answered through revelation from the Father that He was the Messiah. That confession of faith by Peter changed everything. We were now coming to a full understanding of who Jesus is and our future mission as evangelists and apostles. That confession led to Simon receiving His name Peter from Jesus. It was around that time that I too got my new name from Jesus. It was as special for me as it was for Peter. Peter’s name was changed from “reed” to “rock” changing his destiny. My name changed my destiny too. Matthew means “Gift of God”.
This was life changing for me. As you know, I was a publican by profession, better understood as a “tax collector”, but in reality, it was legalised extortion. I wasn’t a very well-liked person at all. Despised by my own people and for good reason too. I was working for the Romans, the occupying force of our day. Simply they saw me as a Jewish agent for the Romans and I was profiting corruptly by taking far more money from my people than they owed for personal gain.
I was rich, financially secure, very comfortable and driven by greed and a love for money but it came at a price. Being hated, despised and labelled traitorous is a very lonely existence to put it mildly. In fact, there are accounts of Hebrew publicans like myself who were prevented from marrying our own Jewish women and worshipping in the synagogue, the church of our day.
So, when Jesus called me, I didn’t hesitate. I knew how much it would cost me too. I would become unemployed, unable to return to my profession. For several of my fellow disciples there was always fishing that they could return to. I couldn’t, it was going to cost me everything. I was abandoning both wealth and security as both the world and I knew it for poverty and uncertainty, BUT I was receiving the promise of eternal life. I now belonged to a new “family”. A family held together by a bond so strong. That bond being LOVE and with that came grace, forgiveness and mercy.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing after that. I was continually reminded of my past by the religious rulers of my day saying that I wasn’t good enough, that my past life as a tax collector disqualified me from the call and mission that God had for me.
However, Jesus never ever brought it up. He had not only given me a new life but He also made me an accepted person. As I mentioned upfront this new life was filled with adventure, excitement and purpose. He always reminded me that my skills which I used successfully as a publican were going to be keenly used for my true mission. You see I have an eye for detail and am very good at keeping accurate records. Being a keen observer of people, I watched what was going on around me and recorded it. The real adventure of my life and deep satisfaction that I have since experienced started when I used the skills I was designed with for the work of my Saviour, Jesus.
Who would have known – I didn’t – that the skills I used as a publican and now as a disciple, evangelist, apostle and ambassador of Christ would lead me to becoming the writer of the gospel of Matthew?
With the abilities that our Father has given you, what mission does our Saviour have for you?