Summary: No one is beyond redemption, all can be saved. To learn about the life of Matthew the tax collector and how you can live your life without the shame and guilt of sin please read this sermon.

Matthew the Tax Collector

Luke 5:27-32

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Today we are going to continue the sermon series on the Twelve Apostles by examining the life of Matthew “the tax collector.” Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that the book “Twelve Ordinary Men” by John MacArthur was used as the foundation for this sermon series. The choices we make in life often define our character far more than our circumstances. When we make choices in life that not even the “heathen” can live with, shame and guilt come rushing in and as the tides of unworthiness flow into our souls all hope for acceptance, love and validation are soon drowned in a pit of sorrow! We have all made mistakes that are so heinous that we are left wondering if we would ever be forgiven and allowed to serve in God’s kingdom! As a despicable, vile, unprincipled and shrewd tax collector Matthew felt he was beyond salvation and yet the Son of God Himself not only forgave but granted him a position as one of His twelve disciples! The following paragraphs are going to describe the life of Matthew and in doing so suggest that God’s grace has no boundaries and as such no one is beyond redemption!

Background on Matthew

What little that can be known about Matthew comes mostly from the biblical account of his calling (Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:14-17; Luke 5:27-32) and from the book that Gospel that bears his name. Matthew is a Greek name that means “gift of Yahweh” and his Hebrew name Levi means “disciple.” Since it was not unusual for first-century Jews to have both a Semitic and Greco-Roman name, it is likely this apostle’s full name was Levi Matthew. Since both Matthew (Mark 2:14) and James (Mark 3:18) are called “sons of Alphaeus” it is possible that they were brothers but since they are not identified as such in the listings of the twelve apostles in the Bible makes this unlikely. Matthew’s profession was a tax collector of Capernaum. Matthew’s name is listed in seventh (Mark 3:16-18; Luke 6:12-15) and eighth place (Matthew 10:2-4) in the lists of Apostles as his Greek name. While we know almost nothing of Matthew’s ministry role amongst the twelve disciples, the historian Eusebius mentions Matthew having gone beyond a Jewish audience and some have suggested he ministered as far as Ethiopia and Persia. The earliest traditions have Matthew martyred for his faith either by burning at the stake or executed by a spear or sword.

Gospel of Matthew

What can be known about Matthew mostly comes from the Gospel attributed to his name. For instance, Matthew knew the Old Testament very well. In his Gospel he quotes the OT ninety-nine times, more times than Mark, Luke and John combined! Since tax collectors were considered unclean and not allowed inside the synagogue, his extensive knowledge of Scripture must have been self-acquired. The style, focus, language, themes and his portrayal of Jesus as the promised prophet of Deuteronomy 18:18 in his Gospel clearly shows his desire to have the Jewish people become part of the kingdom of God. Also, from his Gospel we learn that while Matthew was a man of “quiet humility,” he strongly believed that superficial, academic knowledge of Scripture only led to the pride and hypocrisy of the Pharisees, of whom he spoke of with great hostility. Matthew believed it was not one’s religious stature but “faith and complete surrender to the lordship of Christ” that a “mere human being could experience the transforming reality of God’s presence in their lives.” And even though humanity is at best “fallible followers, filled with fear and doubt,” their little faith is all that is needed to join and serve God in His kingdom!

The Call of Matthew (Luke 5:27-32)

27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed Him.

After Jesus had healed the man with leprosy in 5:12-16, we find Him once again reaching out to the fringes of society with His calling of Levi (Matthew), the “tax collector.” To understand how profound this calling was one must first understand Rome and its taxation system. The expansion of the Roman empire led to a greater need to collect taxes. The main three types of taxes levied upon conquered lands were: 1/10th of the harvested grain, 1/5th of harvested fruit plus a poll tax of 1 percent of all business income. While the direct taxes on individuals and their land was handled directly by the local government on behalf of Rome, indirect taxes such as tolls relating to the transportation of goods were farmed out to the highest bidder whom guaranteed to pay Rome a certain amount prior to collection. The “publicans or tax farmers” where often chosen from the local populace due to their familiarity with the social, political and economics dynamics of their homeland. Since anything collected beyond Rome’s required amount could partially pocketed, those employed in this profession tended to rely on oppression and abuse to deceptively exhort as much tax possible from their fellow citizens.

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