Illustration of Matthew in the Bible

Getting to Know the Writer of Matthew

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. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Matthew 9:9–13

Matthew wrote to an audience of Greek-speaking Jewish Christians probably between AD 60 and 70. Here’s a thumbnail bio on Matthew –

PART OF THE TEAM. For his seventh or eighth pick (depending on the list you check), Jesus took on Matthew as a member of his original team of disciples. As was true of many of the other disciples, the choice was based on intangibles rather than any past records or achievements.

ON-THE-JOB RECRUITMENT. Jesus found Matthew at work, busy with his duties as a tax collector. Perhaps Jesus had already noted Matthew in action on a previous occasion in Capernaum, Jesus’ base of operations. Jesus walked by Matthew’s tables and invited him to join Jesus’ group. Surprisingly, the tax man jumped at the chance to follow Jesus. He left his table and invited Jesus to eat with him.

NOTING THE DETAILS. Matthew had a knack for numbers and details. Trained to pay attention to details, his record of Jesus’ life regularly appealed to the background of Jesus’ claims and repeatedly pointed out the many long- standing prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus’ life and ministry. When Jesus fed the multitudes, Matthew recorded the amount of people present, giving us a chance to feel the same awe he felt.

KEEPING ORGANIZED. Like any successful accountant, Matthew was organized. This shows up sometimes in the way he put things together. He grouped together Jesus’ seven parables about the kingdom of God (Matthew 13) that were probably not told at the same time. Jesus may have used these parables on numerous occasions, and Matthew organized them into a grouping to reflect his teaching style.

A QUESTIONABLE CHARACTER. When Matthew became a disciple of Jesus, he immediately organized a party and invited all his disreputable friends. The religious onlookers would not have been impressed because tax- collectors were working for Rome (and not the Jewish people), and many were financially corrupt. We don’t know anything about Matthew’s past, but we do know that Jesus was glad to spend the evening with the kind of people he had come to save.

THE NAME THING. Matthew also went by the name Levi, a Hebrew name going back to the father of one of the original tribes of Israel. Matthew is an Aramaic name meaning “gift of God.” We know him best as Matthew, the Gospel writer.

Reflection for Your Own Life

How is God using your personal skills and contacts to advance the cause of his kingdom?

Drawn from Rooted: The NIV Bible for Men.

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