Today we remember a man whose presence with Jesus caused many of the first century Jewish leaders to despise Jesus and to judge him a sinner. The man’s name is recorded as being both Levi and Matthew, the Tax Collector.
Matthew was a Jew who had accepted employment as a tax collector for the Roman Empire. Taxes which paid for the hated Roman occupation and which also gave the Collector the opportunity to grow rich at their neighbour’s expense. Tax Collectors were not allowed to take part in religious ceremonies and were treated as traitors. To befriend such a person was shocking. Little wonder that the Pharisees’ animosity toward Jesus grew as time passed.
Jesus did not let their disapproval stop him from reaching out to tax collectors and sinners. When Matthew left his tax collecting booth and followed Jesus his life path changed direction. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, his Master and Lord, the Apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel which bears his name with the goal of showing how Jesus fulfilled the Hebrew Scriptures which spoke of the Promised Messiah. There are conflicting legends describing Matthew’s work in spreading the Good News and his eventual martyrdom.
Today we thank God for the faithful witness of Matthew.
Bible Reading: Matthew 9: 9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32.