I WAS THE MOST UNWORTHY (Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32)
I had not fallen while I was a disciple of Jesus. I had fallen before I became one of his. My real name is Matthew Levi, son of Alphaeus. And my occupation was tax collector. Even without attempting an explanation, my name and occupation give you some idea how I had fallen. But, allow me to indulge a little for the sole purpose of showing that if Jesus was interested in me, He will be so much more interested in you. The religious people in my day would not touch me with a ten-foot pole; yet, Jesus defied public opinion and invited me personally to follow Him. Was I really that bad or did the people make me out to be that bad? What do you think?
When I was born my parents regarded me as a gift of Yahweh, for that is what the name Matthew means. They were religious and God-fearing people of the tribe of Levi. Levi was the third son of Jacob and Leah. In the conquest of Canaan, the tribe received no portion of any land. Instead, the tribe was to receive a tenth of all the income from the other tribes. The members of this tribe, beginning with Moses and Aaron, were to be the priests, scribes, lawyers, teachers and Temple servants. That is, I was destined to be one about God’s business; instead, I was collecting taxes for Herod Antipas and Rome. My office was located at Capernaum and I had the backing of Herod’s soldiers. Many of the taxes were collected by force. Then I collected a little extra for myself. As a result, I was hated and cursed by my own people and was regarded as a publican and sinner. There was no one worse than a tax collector. I was serving mammon rather than God. No one could fall any lower. And that was the time when Jesus passed my tax booth and told me to follow Him. I dropped everything and obeyed His call.
My first order of business was to invite Jesus to my home for a huge dinner and introduce Him to my friends of tax collectors and sinners. He was delighted to come. We enjoyed a cordial atmosphere over a hardy meal. Jesus treated us as if we were all one happy family. There was no rejection on His part. No prophet had ever brought us so much joy that even came to the attention of the good religious people. They were the Pharisees and they were a class all by themselves. They could not understand why this godly man Jesus would sit down with us publicans and sinner and eat and drink with us. They did not have the nerve to ask Jesus, so they bugged His disciples. When Jesus heard about it, He answered them in words that were plain and heavenly music to our ears. Actually, he said three things: One, He had come to be a physician to the sick and not the healthy. Two, He had come to help sinners repent and not the righteous. And three, he preferred mercy to sacrifices. That day, many of us repented and believed in Jesus as the Messiah. I of course, joined His group of twelve and decided to follow Him for the rest of my life.
I, too, became a witness to His Life, His Ministry, His Death and His Resurrection. I, too, became obedient to the “Great Commission” to go into the world and make disciples of Jesus. I, too, was filled on Pentecost with His Spirit and witnessed to many people. But my primary reason for having been called by Jesus emerged after He had left us and departed for heaven. At first, only those of us who knew Him personally spread His Words and His Work. As time went on and His return was delayed, stories about our Lord surfaced which did not happen. This brought about the need for some written documents. Not many of us were literally inclined. One of the leaders was John Mark. He wrote a short but precise account of our Lord and His Ministry. He recorded only those events and teachings that he personally had been a witness to as a very young man. I, too, had literary skills and wrote in Aramaic for our Jewish prospects. I concentrated on things Jesus had said and done which Mark had no knowledge of. I also followed the style of our Hebrew tradition. Our tendency was to arrange things into fives, like the five Books of Moses or the five Books of Psalms. Above all things, I wrote my account of Jesus as proof that the Law and the prophets had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. To my delight, my account became a source for other writers who tried to recapture the actual events, which surrounded the Life and Ministry of our Lord.
I was even more delighted that my work was being translated into other languages, primarily into Greek. One able writer took all of Mark’s work that was written in Greek, combined it with my source and added a third more smaller account and produced the larger Gospel in Greek under my name. He felt that I had deserved that honor because I was one of Jesus’ disciples and I had laid the blueprint for a complete work on the life and teaching of Jesus the Messiah. He contended that all he had done was fill in the spaces and he desired to be anonymous. Hence, the work became identified as the Gospel according to Matthew. And that what the work was. It was according to the way I understood and designed it. What pleased me beyond all expectations is that the Gospel according to my name became number one everywhere where the followers of Jesus gathered to learn more about their Lord. Especially my people, the Jews, became fond of having a Jewish work take priority over all the other Gospels that would follow. Posterity alone will determine whose work will survive their censorship. It was my hope and prayer that what I had started would continue unadulterated until the Lord returns. To posterity, I am an example of what can become of a fallen and unworthy person that responds to Jesus’ invitation to become a disciple and embark on being an Apostle of Christ Jesus.