The Life Project: Matthew
About a hundred years ago, a man looked at the morning newspaper and to his surprise
and horror, read his name in the obituary column. His older brother had just passed
away from a horrible disease and the newspapers had mistakingly reported the death of
the wrong person. His first response was shock (as I am sure we could imagine). When
he regained his composure, his second thought was to find out what people had said
about him; how the legacy of his life up to this point would read. What an awesome
opportunity for anyone!
The obituary read, “Father of Mass Destruction Dies Today.” It also read that “he was
the merchant of death.” This man was the inventor of dynamite and when he read the
words “merchant of death,” he asked himself a question, “Is this how I am going to be
remembered?” He made a resolute decision that day and decided that this was not the
way he wanted to be remembered. From that day on, he dedicated his life toward the
establishment of worldwide peace. His name was Alfred Nobel and he is remembered
today by the great Nobel Peace Prize that bears his name.
We find a similar story being told “between the lines” of the Gospel of Matthew. We are
introduced to the author as a tax collector. This profession hasn’t been a popular one in
any century but especially in the days of Jesus. Tax collectors were the bottom feeders
of Israel. They took from the poor and the oppressed to give back to the mighty Roman
Empire and padded their own pockets heavily in the process. They were traitors, liars
and thieves who had abandoned all common decency for their own personal gain.
When someone like Matthew showed up in your town you would run and hide hoping
not to be found.
It is interesting to me to read the story of Matthew’s collision with Jesus in Matthew
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax
collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners
came and ate with him and his disciples.
11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked
his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. For I have not come
to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Don’t you get the sense that while everyone else was doing their best to avoid this
scourge that Jesus sought him out. This wasn’t a chance meeting but one that was
divinely orchestrated in heaven. Jesus was putting together his team of 12 and Matthew
was offered the “golden ticket” that read “come follow me”!
Matthew and Jesus must have made quite a pair. A tax collector who preyed upon his
own people to live a life of excess and a powerfully simple carpenter who came to
comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I cannot help but wonder what these two
saw in one another. Whatever it was, it lead to one of the most powerful pictures of
relationship we find in scripture. A spoiled rotten thief leaving behind everything once
and for all to follow Jesus down a path of persecution, passion and purpose.
What an honor it was to be in the inner circle of God in flesh; to learn the ways he
spoke, the ways he felt and the ways he responded to the world around him. What an
honor to be able to record those times for countless generations to read and find an
introduction to the greatest life ever lived. Matthew found the chance to change his
legacy with three words “come follow me” and today instead of being a forgotten ancient
thief he is known as a revolutionary follower of Jesus!
It could be easy for us to feel a twinge of jealousy as we read Matthews account; to
wonder where our second chance at life is. Well, I have good news for you today! That
same Jesus that called Matthew out to a new life, is calling you! In John chapter 10,
Jesus says that “i came that they may have life and that they may have it abundantly”.
Abundant life. That’s the call. The call to live life with our Savior. Will you answer the
call fully? Will you follow him fully; casting everything aside the way that Matthew did?If you will, you will never regret it!!