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Summary: A study message on the calling of Matthew

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9 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. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and `sinners’?" 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 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

What were the occupations of the twelve apostles?

Andrew, Peter, James, John, Philip and most likely Thomas were all fishermen

Matthew was a tax collector

Judas, Nathaniel (Bartholomew), Thaddeaus (Judas son of James), James the lesser and Simon the Zealot have unknown occupations

What do you know about Matthew (Levi)?

The name Matthew means gift of God. He is also called Levi by Mark and Luke. This is likely because he went by two different names. Many times New Testament authors used both Hebrew or Aramaic names and also the Greek form of the same name for the same person. For example Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter which means rock. Peter was the Greek form of the name and in John’s gospel Jesus uses the name Cephas, which is the Hebrew form of the name.

Matthew was a tax collector for the Roman government (see notes following on tax collectors) and was given charge of either a village or a specific location for tolls on a road or city gate. This could explain the reason he is at a collection booth when Jesus calls him. Whatever the specific task that was given to Matthew, there is no doubt that he is a tax collector for the Romans. Matthew is also the writer of the first gospel which bears his name.

How did Matthew respond to the call of Jesus?

Matthew would have known Jesus or knew about Jesus before the day this day. This seems clear given the manner of his response when Jesus issues the call. Matthew is impacted in a tremendous way when Jesus calls him. He gets up and leaves his tax collection booth immediately. This response would have surely cost Matthew his position with the Romans and meant huge financial loss. Of all the apostles, Matthew would have lost the most financially.

What kind of person was Matthew?

There is not much stated specifically about Matthew’s character other than the fact that he was a tax collector. This would have spoke volumes in itself. Matthew would have been a highly gifted and talented individual. The Romans did not choose just anyone for this specific job. They looked for people who could were detail oriented and would finish their job. Matthew was most likely shrewd and intense. He would have been determined and highly competent. All of these talents would lend themselves to the writing of a gospel.

Tax collectors were hated by the Jews for two key reasons

1.) Tax collectors were viewed as traitors: Tax collectors were gathering money for the Roman government. The Romans were without a doubt the enemy. They had invaded Israel and were now an occupying force. Tax collectors would have been viewed like individuals in our own country sympathizing with terrorist groups.

2.) Tax collector often cheated the people: The Roman government would set the specific amount of tax that had to be sent to Rome. Tax collectors often collected much more than what was needed for Rome and kept the excess amount for themselves. For example, let’s say that I owed $500 in taxes to Rome. The tax collector could collect $600 from me and keep $100 as their excess. The tax collection system was corrupt and unjust.

Why do you think Jesus chose Matthew?

At the point we see Matthew here it does not seem clear. However, we see later that Matthew would be an incredible asset to the disciples. He was instrumental in the spread of the gospel and is so even today with his recording of the events of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus sees in us things that we ourselves may not be able to see.

Who were the ‘sinners’ in verses 10 & 11?

It is important to remember that Matthew would have been an outcast in Jewish society. These sinners are more than likely prostitutes, thieves and general thugs of the day. These would have been the people who Matthew would have been able to have relationship with.

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