The Apostle Matthew: Discipleship that seeks God’s Kingdom and righteousness
This past Monday, September 21, was celebrated as the Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, by the Church. The Apostle Matthew is probably best known as the inspired writer of the first book in the New Testament, The Gospel According to Matthew. He is also known by the name Levi, and his previous occupation as a tax collector before his calling by the Lord. Matthew is not secretive about this part of his life and he even tells us about the circumstances of his conversion (read Matthew 9:9-13).
As today, nobody loved the tax man back then. As far as the religion of Israel at the time, there was little hope for a tax collector, who was lumped together with other “sinners”. The religious elite considered them unclean, and associating, and especially eating with such sinners, made a person unclean.
But Jesus knew otherwise. He came not to call the righteous, but sinners (9:13). He called Matthew from a life of covetous desires and love of riches. Like all disciples of Jesus, the call was simply "Follow me.” Matthew reflects on those words in his Gospel when he recalls that Jesus once said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 ESV). Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor and martyr (d. 1945), begins his Cost of Discipleship by saying, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Discipleship is a major theme of Matthew’s Gospel.
None of the other Gospel writers describe the Lord’s life to the extent as Matthew. His Gospel shows us that Christ is the new and greater Moses, who graciously fulfills the Law and the Prophets, and establishes the New Covenant of salvation in and with His own blood. He includes such events as the Visit of the Wise Men; the Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer; and the Lord’s institution of Holy Baptism at the end of the Gospel. Passages such as "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (11:28), and "Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (28:20), are well known and loved by Christians.
We are thankful to God that He called Matthew as His servant to record the Gospel and bear witnesses to all he had seen and heard. Perhaps you might consider picking up this Gospel again (or for the first time) and read the wonderful life of our Savior Jesus Christ, recorded for us by Matthew. May its message also lead us to leave behind all covetous desires and love of riches and seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.