Ready to follow
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth.”Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
Sitting on the floor of my bedroom in the silence of the early morning reading my bible during quiet time, this particular verse in scripture struck me. Only the Lord knows what Matthew had been going through at that particular time when he was called to follow Jesus .His personal struggles, failing faith in life and humanity. Questions about his future, where he was headed, Gods purpose for his life… who he was created to be and what for? would he keep living the life of a tax collector in the temple? Deep inside himself he knew he had been made for more. A tugging in his heart, a longing for a better way of life and living. A new purpose, something tangible… Something more…
Let us meet Matthew.
Matthew was a dishonest tax collector driven by greed, until Jesus Christ chose him as a disciple.
Matthew the Tax Collector
We first meet Matthew in Capernaum, in his tax booth on the main highway. He was collecting duties on imported goods brought by farmers, merchants, and caravans. Under the Roman Empire’s system, Matthew would have paid all the taxes in advance, then collected from the citizens and travelers to reimburse himself
Tax collectors were notoriously corrupt because they extorted far and above what was owed, to ensure their personal profit. Because their decisions were enforced by Roman soldiers, no one dared object.
Matthew the Apostle
Matthew was named Levi before his call by Jesus. We don’t know whether Jesus gave him the name Matthew or whether he changed it himself, but it is a shortening of the name Mattathias, which means “gift of Yahweh,” or simply “the gift of God.”
On the same day Jesus invited Matthew to follow him; Matthew threw a great farewell feast in his home in Capernaum, inviting his friends so they could meet Jesus too. From that time on, instead of collecting tax money, Matthew collected souls for Christ.
Despite his sinful past, Matthew was uniquely qualified to be a disciple. He was an accurate record keeper and keen observer of people. He captured the smallest details. Those traits served him well when he wrote the Gospel of Matthew some 20 years later.
By surface appearances, it was scandalous and offensive for Jesus to pick a tax collector as one of his closest followers, since they were widely hated by the Jews. Yet of the four Gospel writers, Matthew presented Jesus to the Jews as their hoped-for Messiah, tailoring his account to answer their questions.
Matthew displayed one of the most radically changed lives in the Bible in response to an invitation from Jesus. He did not hesitate; he did not look back. He left behind a life of wealth and security for poverty and uncertainty. He abandoned the pleasures of this world for the promise of eternal life.
The remainder of Matthew’s life is uncertain. Tradition says he preached for 15 years in Jerusalem following the death and resurrection of Jesus, then went out on the mission field to other countries.Disputed legend has it that Matthew died as a martyr for the cause of Christ. The official Roman Martyrology of the Catholic Church suggests that Matthew was martyred in Ethiopia. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs also supports the martyrdom tradition of Matthew, reporting that he was slain with a halberd in the city of Nabadar.
He served as one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ. As an eyewitness to the Savior, Matthew recorded a detailed account of Jesus’ life, the story of his birth, his message and his many deeds in the Gospel of Matthew. He also served as a missionary, spreading the good news to other countries.
God can use anyone to help him in his work. We should not feel unqualified because of our appearance, lack of education, or our past. Jesus looks for sincere commitment. We should also remember that the highest calling in life is serving God, no matter what the world says. Money, fame, and power cannot compare with being a follower of Jesus Christ.
References to Matthew in the Bible
Matthew 9:9, 10:3; Mark 2:14, 3:18; Luke 5:27-29; 6:15; Acts 1:13.
This is what I learn from this verse and from Matthew. Our Lord God knows us well. Intimately. The number of hairs on our head numbered. That’s how well he knows us. The day will come when we are called to leave everything behind to follow him. And like Matthew, I pray that when the Savoir calls as he passes by, you will heed his call and follow.