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Matthew the Apostle

INTRODUCTION: Matthew was a tax collector for the Roman government, which made him detestable to the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus called him away from his post, and Matthew left immediately and held a dinner as his home. Matthew became a disciple, and later Jesus chose him as one of the apostles who would be part of the church foundation with Christ as the cornerstone. The name Matthew appears only five times in the Bible, but he is also called Levi. There is no specific mention of ministry by him after Acts chapter 1. His gospel account however, has some very significant detail about the Lord Jesus, fulfilled prophecy, miracles and signs, and validation of Christ's bodily resurrection. There are many other unique details in Matthew's gospel that can affirm faith in Christ Jesus, the Son of God.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the World English Bible.


Matthew 9 "9 As Jesus passed by from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax collection office. He said to him, "Follow me." He got up and followed him. 10 It happened as he sat in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw it, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 12 When Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick do. 13 But you go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.""

Mark 2 "14 As he passed by, he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he arose and followed him. 15 It happened, that he was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners sat down with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many, and they followed him."

Luke 5 "27 After these things he went out, and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax office, and said to him, "Follow me!" 28 He left everything, and rose up and followed him. 29 Levi made a great feast for him in his house. There was a great crowd of tax collectors and others who were reclining with them."

COMMENTS: When Jesus "passed by" the tax office, Matthew left everything as he responded to the call to follow, and then hosted a meal at his own house. Mark and Luke both use the name Levi in the record of the same event, and Mark adds the detail that Levi was the son of Alphaeus. I did not include the verses from mark and Luke about the dinner and the comments that followed by the Jewish leaders and Jesus. All three gospels state that the scribes and the Pharisees made condemning remarks to his disciples about the kind of company Jesus was keeping. Upon hearing these things, Jesus used a metaphoric mechanism to indicate that he came to call those who would come to him when they knew they could only be made righteous by God.

It is interesting that before he wrote in the text about his own call, Matthew recorded the way that the four fishermen Peter, Andrew, James, and John had all left their boats and followed Jesus: that reference is in Matthew 4:18-22. Over the three years the apostles were with Jesus, there would have been opportunity for them to talk with each other about the way Jesus had personally called them. Much of the record of events in the gospel of Matthew is written in chronological order. The description of the call of the four fishermen also appears in Mark 1:16-20, and Luke 5:1-11; and neither of those writers were apostles. As in many cases, we don't know how much of these details came to these three writers through normal means, but we know they were directed by the Holy Spirit as they wrote the accounts into scripture.

Jesus was well aware of the contempt many Jews had for tax collectors, and he used tax collectors in a strong contrast when he spoke to believers saying they should not love only those who love them. Matthew 5 "44 But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." This must have been an interesting passage for Matthew, the former tax collector, to record in his gospel account.


Matthew 10 "1 He called to himself his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every sickness. 2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these. The first, Simon, who is called Peter; Andrew, his brother; James the son of Zebedee; John, his brother; 3 Philip; Bartholomew; Thomas; Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus; Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Canaanite; and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. 5 Jesus sent these twelve out, and commanded them, saying, "Don't go among the Gentiles, and don't enter into any city of the Samaritans. 6 Rather, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, preach, saying, 'The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!'"

COMMENTS: Verse 2 above is the only place in the gospel of Matthew where the word apostle appears. The twelve disciples called by Jesus to be apostles were all given by him the power to cast out demonic spirits, and to heal all manner of sickness and disease. In Mark chapter 3 and in Luke chapter 6, the order of names lists Matthew seventh, whereas Matthew is 8th in his own gospel account and he adds "the tax collector." . There is no significance anywhere indicated about the order in the listing of the names. The names Matthew or Levi do not appear anywhere in the gospel of John, and only once in Acts. The name Matthew and the name Levi are not found anywhere else in the remainder of the New Testament. The name Matthew means "gift of Jehovah."


Matthew 11 "1 It happened that when Jesus had finished directing his twelve disciples, he departed from there to teach and preach in their cities. 2 Now when John heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples 3 and said to him, "Are you he who comes, or should we look for another?" 4 Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 Blessed is he who finds no occasion for stumbling in me.""

COMMENTS: John the Baptist was in prison and sent out his own disciples to question Jesus. The text does not provide an explanation of how Matthew was able to record this in his gospel since all the apostles were on their assignment separate from Jesus. This narrative is found only in Matthew, and it represents another case where it is quite possible that the information was passed along by those who were at the scene; but whatever the means, Matthew was guided by the Holy Spirit as he wrote this as part of his gospel account.

Another prominent characteristic of Matthew's writing, though not all of the cases are exclusive to him, is that he used many references of how certain events fulfilled prophecies recorded in the Old Testament. I have included two passages about fulfillment of prophecy which do have unique content found only in Matthew.

Matthew 1 "20 But when he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, don't be afraid to take to yourself Mary, your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She shall bring forth a son. You shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who shall save his people from their sins." 22 Now all this has happened, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, 23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son. They shall call his name Immanuel;" which is, being interpreted, "God with us." 24 Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took his wife to himself;"

Matthew 26 "24 The Son of Man goes, even as it is written of him, but woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for that man if he had not been born."


Matthew 26 "29 But I tell you that I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on, until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's Kingdom." 30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, "All of you will be made to stumble because of me tonight, for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee.""

Matthew 28 "1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 Behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from the sky, and came and rolled away the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him, the guards shook, and became like dead men. 5 The angel answered the women, "Don't be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus, who has been crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, just like he said. Come, see the place where the Lord was lying. 7 Go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has risen from the dead, and behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there you will see him.' Behold, I have told you." 8 They departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring his disciples word."

COMMENTS: Matthew chapter 27 records that after Judas Iscariot had departed for his betrayal, Jesus and the eleven went out to the Mount of Olives (Olivet) where they had been together many times before. but this time Jesus told them ahead that another prophecy would be fulfilled when he (the shepherd) would be taken prisoner and the flock (eleven apostles) would be scattered. But Jesus also told them he would go ahead of them to meet with them in Galilee after his resurrection. In the opening verses of Matthew chapter 28 an angel of the Lord told the women at the empty tomb to go to the apostles and remind them of the plan for Jesus to meet them in Galilee.


Matthew 28 "16 But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had sent them. 17 When they saw him, they bowed down to him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen."

COMMENTS: Matthew gave an abbreviated summary of two separate episodes when Jesus met with the eleven apostles after his resurrection. Verses 16 and 17 above relate to the post resurrection reunion in Galilee, and only in John 21 is there a more complete detail of that event. The things described in verses 18 through 20 are more completely detailed in the opening of the book of Acts.


Acts 1 "1 The first book I wrote, Theophilus, concerned all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, 2 until the day in which he was received up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 To these he also showed himself alive after he suffered, by many proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking about God's Kingdom. 4 Being assembled together with them, he commanded them, "Don't depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which you heard from me. 5 For John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now." 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, are you now restoring the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them, "It isn't for you to know times or seasons which the Father has set within his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth." 9 When he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 While they were looking steadfastly into the sky as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white clothing, 11 who also said, "You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who was received up from you into the sky will come back in the same way as you saw him going into the sky." 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mountain called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. 13 When they had come in, they went up into the upper room, where they were staying; that is Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer and supplication, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers."

COMMENTS: In Acts chapter 1 Jesus appeared to the eleven apostles for the last time, and this took place at the mountain called Olivet which was very familiar to them. He gave the eleven apostles specific instructions to wait in Jerusalem for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and then he ascended to heaven. Two angels appeared to them and plainly told them there was no need to remain there as Jesus would return in similar manner to the way they saw him leave. The apostles returned to the upper room in Jerusalem, and all eleven names are listed, and this is the last time there is any record by name of Matthew.


I thank you Lord, for the record of this man named Matthew who immediately responded to your call, and left his Roman government occupation to follow you. When he hosted a dinner at his home, Jewish religious leaders were then highly critical that you associated with tax collectors that they severely judged to be among all other sinners. What a blessing was provided with your answer, Lord, that those who realize their need to be healed can then turn to you as the only one who can make them whole. What a blessing it was for me to learn that the name Matthew means "gift of Jehovah," for the gift of God is well documented in many ways in his gospel account. Thank you, Lord, that you make the offer of salvation to eternal life available to all who receive your call by faith, knowing it cannot be earned by personal achievement. Help me Lord Jesus to count all that I possess as your provision for my service to you. May I anticipate with joy your return as promised when the apostles watched you leave them at Mount Olivet. Amen.

Published 11 April 2017