Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mathew, An Eyewitness Account

By Colleen Podmore

Matthew. Who was he? Where did he come from? Why did he write the gospel of Matthew? What was his purpose?

The 4 Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Matthew, Mark and Luke are called Synoptic gospels which means the same, or they have similar content. They are all very similar in content but at the same time quite different. Of the three synoptic gospels it is thought that Mark was written first and Matthew and Luke used Mark’s account of events, but changed the order. They agreed with Mark’s accounts but added their own perspectives. Mark is written in the order that events occurred but Matthew and Luke are not written in the order that they occurred.

For example all three gospels give an account of who Matthew was and how he came to be a follower of Jesus.

Matt 10:2-4, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-15.

From these passages we see that Matthew was also known as Levi, that he was a tax collector and that he could have been wealthy as he put on a feast for Jesus and his disciples with many invited guests.

Levi and Matthew – Jewish and Greek names. Matthew means ‘gift of the Lord’. Mark and Luke call him Levi but Matthew uses his Greek name, Matthew. I find this really interesting and I’m wondering why that is? Jesus also gave Simon the name ‘Peter’ or Cephas, which means rock – did Jesus give Levi the name Matthew, which means ‘gift of the Lord?’

Matthew the tax collector

Matthew was a tax collector. Tax collectors were employed by the Romans to collect taxes for them. Tax collectors were often greedy and took more from the people than they were supposed to. They were considered traitors and despised (Perhaps a modern day equivalent might be a drug dealer or worse a pedophile).

So, we can perhaps assume that Matthew loved money, perhaps he was greedy and swindled people. It’s interesting that Luke provides an account of tax collectors who came to John in repentance and they asked him what they should do? John said, ‘Don’t collect anymore than you are required to.’ (Luke 3:12) Perhaps Levi was one of these tax collectors?

Jesus was ministering in Capernaum where Matthew collected taxes (Matt 4:13). Jesus started his ministry in Nazareth about AD27. He then moved into Peter’s house in Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee and called Matthew/Levi, 12 months later (AD28) to follow him and the following year after that, appointed him an Apostle… So when Jesus said ‘follow me’ Matthew was ready – he had seen the evidence that Jesus was the Messiah, the prophesised king of Israel –and he was ready to leave everything behind to follow Jesus. He wasn’t like the rich young ruler who had so much wealth that he turned back from following Jesus. Indeed Jesus said how difficult (but not impossible), it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God (Matt 19:23).

Jesus told Matthew to follow him and that’s exactly what Levi did.

So in summary, here was a man who was despised and rejected but he met Jesus and he was never the same again. In fact, because of his job he was probably the most educated disciple. He would have known Greek and Aramaic and been able to write and count. He was Levi and he became Matthew, the ‘gift of the Lord’ perhaps because he wrote the gospel, the account of who Jesus was and what happpened during those few short years when God became flesh and dwelt among us!

Matthew the Apostle

Matthew was an educated man, he was intelligent and he was also humble. When Jesus selected his Apostles, I find it really interesting to read the accounts.

Levi the tax collector, becomes Matthew the tax collector, who becomes Matthew the Apostle. He never forgot who he had been before he met Jesus and discovered the grace of God and forgiveness which saved him. Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16, Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13

Consider Matthew’s background – in spite of who he was he was

Totally accepted by God

Totally accepted by the other disciples

In humility calls himself Matthew the tax collector (Matt 10:24)– perhaps remembering who he was but more than that, who God is!

What name do you call yourself? Would you describe yourself as you are now or as you were before God called you, when Jesus looked at you and said ‘Follow me’? Is this a name from God or a name that is holding you back?

For example, I used to believe in the theory of evolution as an explanation of how life began. I neither knew God or acknowledged His creative power, but Jesus said, ‘Follow Me’ Now if I call myself ‘Colleen the evolutionist’, I’m reminded of the profound and saving grace of God who opened my eyes and set me free from bondage and slavery to lies! The miracle of new birth and new beginnings. Hallelujah!

The Gospel of Matthew

Matthew walked with Jesus for 3 short, action packed years and witnessed His words and works, His death and resurrection and Matthew wanted to capture the events and meaning of those years. He was inspired by the Spirit of God to use his gifts and talents in this way.

Jesus, the King of Israel came to His own, yet His own did not recognise Him. Matthew recognised Him and wrote about Jesus credentials as King of Israel starting with His genealogy, His miraculous prophesised birth, going on to record His words, which ‘amazed the crowds (Matt 7:28), His baptism, the healing miracles, the parables of the kingdom, discourses on the end times and finally Jesus betrayal, death and resurrection. In light of all this, Matthew exhorts those who follow to go and tell the whole world the good news about Jesus the Messiah!

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