Following Jesus 35
As we examine the Twelve Disciples of Jesus, we now begin to view the second group of four. Following Philip and Nathanael is Matthew. How are followers of Jesus today like Matthew? Let’s begin by looking at some facts regarding the disciple Matthew, who was also known as Levi.
Matthew was a tax collector for the Empire of Rome. Therefore, he was identified as a traitor to Israel and to his countrymen. As a tax collector, he most likely was a thief, involved in extortion and/or an outcast. He would be viewed as a first class traitor who worked for the oppressor.
He bought the right to collect taxes. Therefore, he bought into the political system of Roman domination. While the government would stipulate a certain amount for tax, the publican or tax collector was free to keep anything else he collected. This would result in potential bribes, extortion and abuse by the tax collector upon the tax payer.
There were two types of tax collectors. (1) The Gabbai were the general tax collectors. They collected income tax, property tax and the poll tax. (2) The Mokhes collected tax on everything else. Their tables were set up on the road. They collected tax on imports and exports. They set the tolls for the roads, bridges and harbors. They collected taxes on the number of axle’s wagons, donkeys, amount of packages, letters and so on. They taxed everything they could.
There were two kinds of Mokhes. (1) The Great Mokhes hired people to do the actual collecting. (2) The Little Mokhes collected the tax themselves. They were too greedy to hire someone to it for them. Zacchaeus may have been a Great Mokhes (Luke 19:1-10). Matthew was a Little Mokhes.
When Matthew became a follower of Jesus, what kind of disciple was he? Throughout the four gospels, Matthew never speaks, never makes a comment, and never specifically appears after his conversion experience. Perhaps this is because he was so overwhelmed by his sinful past that he felt unworthy to speak. Perhaps this reveals not only a sense of unworthiness on his part, but also an attitude of humility.
However, God used Matthew to write the first gospel, which bears his name. He writes 28 chapters on the King of kings. Matthew denounced his previous career. Matthew walked away from the tax table and the presumed unethical behavior that had characterized his life up to that point in time. He acquired a desire to lead others to Christ. He who had been brought to confess Christ, repent of sin and to seek and receive forgiveness would now attempt to leads others to the same decision. We’ll witness this when next we meet.
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