Summary: Meet Matthew who gives an in-person account of his life-transforming meeting with Jesus, aiming at a young adult audience in contemporary London.
An upside-down life
Transforming friendships: Matthew
Luke 5 vv 27-32
Good morning, Twickenham. Thank you for inviting me. My name is Matthew, though some call me Levi as I am from that tribe. I am here to tell you my story.
One morning my life changed. It started like any other day. I woke up that morning and looked out of my bedroom window. I have to say, the view was lovely that morning: the beautiful garden, lit by the early morning sun which was reflecting off the windows in Reuben’s house. Reuben has a vineyard. What a vineyard! He has some great wines there and I was one of his best customers.
I love my wine and the previous night’s amphora was as good as I could remember. My rather extensive wine cellar did not need restocking but I wanted another jar or two of that wine. I promised myself a quick visit to the vineyard on the way home from work.
Stepping out to my open-top chariot that morning, I reflected that life really could not get better. My training as an accountant had helped me get a plum job. Well, not a popular job as everybody hated me taking their money. But a plum job alright if money was the measure. Those Roman bosses of mine that everybody else hated even more than they hated me, well, they were quite friendly with me as long as I met their tax targets.
By my calculation, in four years, I would have been able to retire to a new life in a small town by the sea where nobody would have to know what I’d done to earn my wealth. Not bad for a guy who still did not know what it meant to be forty.
That day was a difficult one. Sure, a lot of people walked by my tax booth, but they were not on the road for reasons of commerce – which meant that I could not tax them. Instead, the town was buzzing with the news that Jesus had arrived.
You have to know this about Jesus – he was not an easy man to pin down. Quite a few claimed that he was the answer to the age old Jewish problem of foreign tyranny. I rather hoped that this were not true as my retirement plans would pretty much be up the swanee if some unruly Jewish rebel could beat the Romans into departing from Palestine.
Some called him Rabbi, a teacher. Well, if he was anything like those Pharisees who filled the town’s synagogues, then I wanted nothing to do with this Jesus and his particular brand of teaching. Those Pharisees know everything that could possibly be wrong about a person – except themselves. If Jesus was like them, then I was already taking an instant dislike to this new teaching sensation.
Some claimed he could do miracles. The town was thrumming with news of a lame man whose friends took him to see the teacher. It was crowded when they got there and so they took their lame friend up to the roof of the house that Jesus was in. There they took some tiles off the roof and let the lame man down through the open roof. Jesus, it seems, healed the man and now he can be seen walking around town.
Want to know what I think? Well, I am just pleased that it wasn’t my house where this happened, otherwise they would have made a mess of the new roof tiles I had had installed just the month before.
I really did not mind what stories people came up with. If it kept them happy and doing commerce, then I could charge them tax. And that made me, Levi, happy. Money made me happy and my lifestyle made me happy: nice clothes, great fitness club, sex and open-top chariots. Happy, happy, happy.
I once went to hear this man Jesus give a talk. Some said he was the Messiah, the one that God had promised us through his prophets ages ago. Well, if this was the Messiah then I wanted to make sure I knew what he was about. I have to confess that his message confused me.
Jesus said that the Kingdom of God was near. Now the idea that God, Yahweh, was our King was not a new one to us Jews. What was new from Jesus was the freshness and urgency of it all. Of course, I believed in God. What I struggled with was that my life as a tax collector, as a human, really had any connection with God at all. I found myself torn between wanting to be part of God’s kingdom, and wondering if any of this was real, in the way that my open-top chariot is real, or that girl in the gym is real.