Saturday, June 19, 2021

The conversion of a Tax Inspector

All photos courtesy of Unsplash

About thirty years after the Lord Jesus had gone back to heaven, a Jewish disciple named Matthew was inspired by the Spirit of God to write a book. The finished product is what we know today as "The Gospel according to Matthew".  Nowhere in the four Gospels do we find a single word that Matthew spoke.  Yet in his Gospel, he gives us the words and works of Jesus Christ, "the son of David, the son of Abraham". Matthew, originally a tax collector, did not write to tell us about himself, but His own experience with the Lord Jesus is recorded for us in a few verses in chapter 9; and it is a beautiful example of the grace of God.

His old name was Levi, the son of Alphaeus and his new name "Matthew" means "the gift of God". The name was given to commemorate his conversion and his call to be a disciple from that of a tax collector.  In their day, tax collectors were among the most hated people in Jewish society.  To begin with, they were traitors to their own nation because they "sold themselves" to the Romans to work for their government.  Each tax collector purchased from Rome the right to gather taxes; and the more he gathered, the more he could keep.  They were considered thieves as well as traitors. Jesus reflected the popular view of them when He classified them with harlots and other sinners, but it was obvious that He was the "friend of tax collectors and sinners".

Matthew opened his heart to Jesus and became a new person. This was not an easy decision for him to make.  He was a native of Capernaum, and its people had rejected the Lord.  Matthew was a well-known businessman in the city, and his old friends probably persecuted him.  Certainly Matthew lost a good deal of income when he left all to follow Christ.

Matthew not only opened his heart, but he opened his home. He knew that most, if not all, of his old friends would drop him when he began to follow the Lord Jesus; so Matthew took advantage of the situation and invited them to meet Jesus.  He gave a great feast, and invited all the other tax collectors, and the Jewish people who were not keeping the Law.

Of course, the Pharisees criticised Jesus for daring to eat with such a defiled group of people. They even tried to get the disciples of John the Baptist to create a disagreement.  The Lord explained why He was having a meal with "tax collectors and sinners". They were spiritually sick and needed a physician. He had not come to call the righteous because there were no righteous people. He came to call sinners, and that included the Pharisees. Of course, His critics did not consider themselves "spiritually sick", but they were just the same.

Matthew not only opened his heart and home, but he also opened his hands and worked for Christ. When Matthew left his job to follow Jesus Christ, he brought his pen with him!  Little did this ex tax-collector realise that the Holy Spirit would one day use his pen to write the first of the four Gospels in the New Testament.  Wherever the Scriptures travel in this world, the Gospel written by Matthew continues to minister to our hearts today, and the conversion of Matthew is still a challenge to us all too. Have you opened your heart to the Saviour, who stretched out His arms to save you by dying on the Cross instead of you? Matthew left all and followed Him. Are you up for that challenge? If so, remember the last words of Jesus in Matthew's Gospel, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age."

Written by Peter Francis for Messages with Meaning (15/06/21) & Your542Day 


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