It wasn't to long ago that we learned in the news of this lady who used to head up the IRS. It seems she was being investigated over some allegations and in the process of the investigation 32,000 emails disappear. How does that happen? How, in this day and age, could this even be a possibility? What kind of show is the IRS running over there and what kind of director was this lady? These and thousands of other questions come to mind. The IRS is easy to trash and smash. There are no heroes there. They are the tax man (or woman); those that have been despised for ages.
Imagine this lady from the IRS showing up at your church and proclaiming Jesus Christ to you and others. How would you receive her? How would you view her message? It would be difficult wouldn't it? This may give us a little insight into what Matthews life must have been like.
Matthew had been a tax collector. A tax collector had no friends; they were the most despised of men. In the eyes of his fellow countrymen, the tax man was in the same class as thieves, traitors and harlots; he was spiritually unclean because of his constant association with the gentiles. The commentator Barclay said:
"We know that he was a taxgatherer and that he must therefore have been a bitterly hated man, for the Jews hated the members of their own race who had entered the civil service of their conquerors."
Tax gatherer's were contracted by Rome to collect the tolls and taxes, the more they collected, the more they got to keep. They had the authority to collect taxes but no oversight to keep them in line. The job of tax collector went to the highest bidder, so the profession was rife with abuse. Why would someone want to become a tax collector? Maybe greed, pride, thirst for authority; we don't really know in Matthews case. Whatever the reason, he had to want it enough to overcome the reproach of his people. Matthew was a Jew, but probably not welcome in most places by other Jews.
It's not hard to imagine the loneliness of tax collector. He would definitely be one who could testify that there was more to life than money. We don't now how many years he had been a tax collector, but it had been enough. Matthew records the life change in simple fashion in Matthew 9:9:
9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me." So he arose and followed Him.
Matthew saw something in Jesus he needed, something he desired more than all the money in the world. When Matthew arose and followed Him, he walked away from the life as a tax collector. There was no turning back. In fact, abandoning the position could leave him in bad standing with Rome. That day, that time, was the perfect time; a God appointed time for Matthew. His life would never be the same.
Matthew was one of the 12 apostles that walked with Jesus in His ministry. As a tax collector, Matthew was one who had education, knew how to read and write and to keep meticulus records. The Lord puts these things to world when Matthew gives us a first hand account of the ministry of Jesus. It has been said of Matthew that at his calling he left it all behind except his pen and paper. It is believed that Matthew was the official recorder of the ministry and wrote this account about 50 A.D. It was about the time Paul was right in the middle of his second missionary journey, probably in Corinth; Claudius had expelled the Jews and Christians from Rome so Priscilla and Aquilla move to Corinth. Herod Agrippa II had begun his reign in Judea and Ananias was high priest of the temple in Jerusalem. It was in these days that Matthew wrote this gospel account.
As a Jew, Matthew writes his gospel account with a Jewish perspective. He was the most despised of Jews writing to the Jewish people. He writes of Jesus as the King of the Jews, the messiah of Israel. This is unique in that Mark writes of Jesus with respect of Him being the 'humble servant'; Luke as the 'Son of Man'; and John as the 'Son of God'.
There had been 400 silent years. These were the years since the close of Malichi's prophetic words and the events of a Nehemiah. These were years where God's voice was silent but He was still very much on the throne and active in the world. The prophecies of Daniel regarding the kingdoms of the world were coming about as the Medo Persion empire passed to the Greek empire and then to Roman rule. Matthews gospel leads us out of the Old Testament time, ends the silent years and brings us to the New Testament. The Old Testament was a book of promise and the New Testament a book of fulfillment of those promises. Matthew moves the relationship of God to His people into the church age. Matthew is the only gospel writer to speak of the church (eklesia); the called-out assembly.
Christ born of Mary
The flight to Egypt
The beginning of his ministry
Calling of disciples
Jesus fulfills the Law
Lay up treasures in heaven
The lamp of the body
Do not worry
Seek first the Kingdom of God
Healing the centurion's servant
Peter's mother in law healed
Cost of discipleship
demon possessed men healed
Asking, seeking and Knocking
The Narrow way
Recognition of men
Recognition by God
Matthew the tax collector
Jesus answers question on fasting
Girl restored to life; woman healed
Two blind men & mute healed
Persecution is coming
The fear of God over the fear of men
Christ brings a sword