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The Gospels

The Gospels outline the public life of Jesus Christ on earth. During the month of September we will focus on the Gosel according to Matthew. First let's get to know Matthew, the tax collector. Who is he?

Who Is Matthew?

Matthew, originally known as Levi, was a tax collector for the ancient Roman Empire. Rome had occupied Israel and as such began a taxation of their less than loyal subjects. Rome was harsh in the way it dealt with its conquered subjects. Taxation was handled by "appointing" a local person to collect taxes for Rome. However, this appointment was really a position that went to the highest bidder. So, not only is this person collecting taxes from his own people for the Roman army, but he paid Rome for the privilege.

Along with taxes for Rome, the tax collector would also collect additional taxes to cover his bid price as well as turn a handsome profit. That being said, we now appreciate why tax collectors are frequently mentioned in the Bible in the same breath as the worst sinners. While this career choice made them very wealthy, it also made them outcasts from their own people. The Jews viewed them as traitors and as the worst kind of sinners.

However, while Matthew was indeed a tax collector, he was also a Jew. This means that, as all Jews of that time, he was raised knowing his genealogy (family-tree) and to know the precepts of the Law, as well as being exposed to the writings of the prophets.

When Jesus called Matthew to follow Him, Matthew did so without hesitation (Matthew 9:9). This exemplifies the power of the saving grace of Christ in that even this man who was seemingly lost, turned his life around the instant that Christ entered it. That example in and of itself provides hope for all of us who fall short of the life we are called to lead. However, Matthew not only left his previous life, he fully embraced the call of Jesus to preach the gospel to all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), including his own.

Matthew's gospel was written many years after the events that it depicts. However, as with each of the gospel writers, Matthew had a goal in mind when he wrote his account. Matthew hoped to prove to his own people, the Jews, that Jesus was indeed the Messiah referred to in the Old Testament. As a result, Matthew begins by recounting the genealogy of our Lord, thus proving that Jesus was a descendent of David, and therefore an heir of the Davidic throne.

Also, in as many as 65 different places, Matthew refers to specific Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfils. Since the Jewish people hold genealogy and the sacred texts in such high regard, Matthew hoped this would convince them that their Redeemer had indeed come.

It is interesting to note that Matthew basically lived his adult life as an outcast. First he was hated because of his profession, then later because of his beliefs. However, Matthew still chose to try to save his people by providing them with an account of Jesus Christ that they, the Jews, might understand and believe.

credit - Alfredo Nevarez.San Jose Bible Study

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