Matthew, also called Levi, was the son of Alphaeus and brother of James The Less (or Younger) another of the 12 Disciples. It’s unknown if he or Jesus changed his name from Levi to Matthew but his new name was a shortening of the name Mattathias, which means “gift of Yahweh,” or simply “the gift of God. Presumably born in Galilee, Matthew was working in Capernaum on behalf of the Roman Empire before the call to follow Jesus came.
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. Matthew 9:9
Matthew was a Tax Collector…more specifically a Customs Official. He sat in a booth collecting duties on imported goods being brought to Capernaum by farmers, merchants and caravans.
“Capernaum was one of those cities where they had established a customs for those coming from the area of the north down through the valley and in the Golan and around the Sea of Galilee, catching them there as they were bringing their goods and charging custom.” Pastor and Author Chuck Smith.
With the backing of the Roman empire it was relatively easy to collect (extort) more than the fair duties from travelers as no one wanted to run afoul of the Romans. Because of this “free reign” Matthew was likely extremely wealthy. This becomes evident when after being called to follow Jesus, Matthew holds a feast to celebrate. Some speculate that he was having a going away party and wanted to bring all of his friends to meet Jesus before they left. Possibly to show how much his life had already changed in just mere hours with Jesus.
Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. Luke 5:29
Matthew’s conversion demonstrates one of the most radical of those in the bible. He gave up a life of wealth and security for poverty and uncertainty. He gave up the power and pleasures his position afforded him for a new eternal life offered by Jesus and he did this without hesitation. Matthew followed Jesus until His death and resurrection then tradition suggests he began to preach the Gospel for 15 years in Jerusalem before going on mission to other countries as Jesus had instructed.
As a follower of Jesus I have read the Gospel told by 4 men in the 1st century. I’ve study the gospel accounts, written about them and quoted them to friends. I’ve used them in teachings with men young and old and even as recently as yesterday found passages I had completely missed or glossed over. This is not unique to me though. Few Christians can honestly say they have never been presented with a scripture they couldn’t remember reading. So that is not why I am writing on this topic. Actually I wanted to write about something that, for several years in my early walk, had confused me. I had read the Gospel According to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, however the confusion would come when I read about the 12 Disciples. Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot. Where were Mark and Luke? My problem was that I had mistakenly assumed that Mark and Luke were a part of the 12. As I began to understand that the Gospel was recorded by only 2 of Jesus’ original 12 and by 2 other figures in the 1st century, I began to wonder who these guys were. It’s my hope that through this blog I will be able to not only fully understand who the Gospel Writers were but also pass this discovery onto others who may find they too have been a little confused. So with that there are a few things I want to look at in this study.
Who were the Gospel Writers?
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John…we know their names, we have read their telling of the Gospel, but who were they?
We’ll start, naturally, with Matthew.
I want to take a look at what it means when the bible says that all things were made In (or Through) Christ, made By Him or made For Him. The two passages in the bible I want to focus on are:
Colossians 1:15-17 NIV84
“15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
John 1:1-5 NIV84
“1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
Now I am using the NIV84 translation as I feel the new NIV2011 has watered down the importance of these versus in understanding the power, person and deity of Jesus and His role in not only our relationship with God (salvation) but His role in creation and His authority over everything in creation. This study and subsequent posting of my opinions was sparked by a weekly verse and this watering down.
Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
What does it mean to be “Pure in Heart”?
Dictionary.com defines pure as: free from anything of a different, inferior, or contaminating kind; free from extraneous matter: such as pure gold or pure water. I rather like their alternative definition: free from foreign or inappropriate elements. Continue reading
So the 2011 NFL season is almost over and we have seen some amazing play by some great players this season. Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to 13 straight wins before losing 1 to Kansas City, then won the next 2 to end the season in first place at 15-1. My favorite team the Steelers finished the season 12-4 with the leagues #1 ranked defense as has become common place these days. Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints are still rolling in the playoffs after a 13-3 regular season in which they topped the league in offense. Topping the rankings in offense were also the Patriots, Eagles and Lions. The Ravens and Jets made their usual showing in the top of the Defense rankings along with the Texans and 49ers. All these great teams and great stats yet the big news this season has been about a player who didn’t even have a starting job. Indeed he was the 3rd string quarterback. He was a backup to the backup.
Free will… It’s what allows a follower of Christ to proclaim his love of the Savior and an atheist to deny He exists. It’s what allows one man to live a wonderful life of innocent bliss while another lives in poverty praying for his next meal. Free will… God’s greatest gift to His creation and also His greatest enemy. It’s also the answer to many of life’s most puzzling questions:
Lately there has been a lot going on in my life. Some things have been really awesome, some things have been really stressful, and some things have been downright painful. I have experienced times like this in the past but this season of my life is different and I think it comes down to focus. Not just any focus however, focus on our Lord and Savior.
Have you ever wanted something so bad that you asked God that if He would just make it happen you would be the best Christian you could ever be? How many of those things worked out for ya? There’s even a country song called ‘Unanswered Prayers’ about it. We’ve all had those times where we look back on life and realize that God had a bigger and better plan, but that didn’t stop us from asking or praying for Him to make things happen.
So the summer is coming to an end and the kids are heading back to school. Parents are running around frantically trying to get everything they think their kids will need to start school. Things like paper, pencils, prayers, proverbs…wait, did I just say prayers and proverbs? Yep! You see, while public schools may not have organized times of prayer (for those of us who are still in a position of sending our kids to public school) there is nothing that prohibits us from preparing them to live for Jesus throughout their school day. When we are buying our daughter’s school clothes we try to buy some of her shirts from stores like C28 in the mall or online so they have bible verses that represent her faith on them. We also let her pick out folders and composition books with similar messages on them. Last year we found them at a local WalMart surprisingly. This year she found some folders at C28 that she really liked so we bought those because when your child is showing a desire to express their faith among their friends who are not necessarily regular church attendees it should be encouraged.