Yes, he’s a real person. He was not the most popular guy and he surely must have felt like an outcast.
Matthew, the guy who has to collect taxes for the government.
I love my country. I appreciate our government, but I still choose to give them only as much as the law requires. And you can bet I am going to take every deduction that is legally allowed.
But not a penny more.
As a matter of fact, I have never heard of anyone willing to “pay a little extra” on their taxes. We are happy to donate to various organizations and charities, and we joyously (yes, joyously!) give to our local church–but we have never even considered giving more to the government when we aren’t required to.
But this guy, Matthew the tax-collector–HE had to collect taxes from the citizens of his own country–for another country.
Despised, ostracized, and even seen as a traitor for “collaborating with the Roman occupation force.”
Until he meets Jesus.
This Jesus of Nazareth has quite a reputation Himself. He has been teaching and preaching and healing people. Word has quickly spread about Him–dividing the country. Some are following Him, desperate for a glimpse of the Messiah. Others are begging Him to leave. (See Matthew chapter 8)
Jesus understands. He gets how Matthew feels–he has a job to do, bills to pay, mouths to feed. He’s not the one taking their money– he’s just working for a paycheck.
Until he meets Jesus.
Jesus calls Matthew to walk away from his past to follow Him.
It’s that simple.
Following Jesus is not about doing religious things to please God. It’s about choosing to give your life back to the One Who created you.
The One who redeemed you.
When Matthew meets Jesus, he invites all of his friends to come meet this Jesus–and they are both criticized. Now Jesus is put on the defense because He’s eating with “tax collectors and sinners”.
What did Jesus want for Matthew, and what is it that Jesus wants for us?
While “tax collector” might describe Matthew for what he was, REDEEMED is what tells the full story. Jesus showed mercy on Matthew and He shows mercy on us. His mercy is what spares us from what we deserve because of our sin. The world says, “give him what he deserves”. Jesus says, “follow Me and I will give you what you don’t deserve: love, joy, peace.
This gift of forgiveness means we don’t live in our past. We learn from it, but we don’t dwell on it–but we are no longer labeled by it.
Just like Matthew.
This begins my journey through the New Testament, and for my Scripture Memory Challenge I have chosen Matthew 16:24:
Won’t you join me? Hiding God’s Word in my heart has always proven to be an important part of my spiritual journey. When Jesus “took up the cross”, He sacrificed everything. We are to do the same. Sacrificing our time, our talents and our resources to Him is the least we can do. Committing Scripture to memory and retaining it is about far more than acquiring head knowledge–it means that these Words will take deep root in my heart and grow in my life in such a way that, when planted and nurtured, they bloom out at just the right moment. Is that a coincidence?
If that were true, I could write a book about those “coincidences”…