Humble Hero


Matthew: From Tax Collector to Apostle

This chapter is based on Matthew 9:9-17; Mark 2:14-22; Luke 5:27-39.

Roman officials in Palestine were hated. The fact that a foreign power had imposed taxes was a continual irritation, a reminder to the Jews that they had lost their independence. And the tax collectors, the publicans, were not just instruments of Roman oppression, they were extortioners on their own account, enriching themselves at the expense of the people. A Jew who accepted this office was despised and classed with the worst of society. HH 120.1

Levi-Matthew, whom Jesus would call to His service, was just such a person—a tax collector. Matthew had listened to the Savior’s teaching, and as the Spirit of God revealed his sinfulness, he longed to seek help from Christ; but knowing how the rabbis kept most other people away, he had no thought that this Great Teacher would notice him. HH 120.2

Sitting at his toll booth one day, Matthew saw Jesus approaching. He was astonished to hear Jesus say to him, “Follow Me.” HH 120.3

Matthew “left all, rose up, and followed Him.” There was no hesitation, no questioning, no thought of the profitable business he would be exchanging for poverty and hardship. It was enough for him to be with Jesus, to listen to His words, and unite with Him in His work. HH 120.4

It was the same way when Jesus called Peter and his companions to follow Him. Immediately they left their boats and nets. Some had friends who depended on them for support, but when they received the Savior’s invitation, they did not ask, “How will I live and provide for my family?” When Jesus later asked them, “When I sent you without money bag, sack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” they could answer, “Nothing.” Luke 22:35. HH 120.5

Matthew in his wealth and Andrew and Peter in their poverty faced the same test. At the moment of success, when the nets were filled with fish and the impulses of the old life were strongest, Jesus asked the disciples at the sea to leave everything for the gospel. Everyone is tested this way, to see which is stronger—the desire for temporary prosperity or for fellowship with Christ. HH 120.6

No one can succeed in the service of God unless his whole heart is in the work. No one who holds anything back can be the disciple of Christ, much less His colaborer. When men and women appreciate the great salvation Jesus has provided, their lives will reflect the self-sacrifice of His life. Wherever He leads the way, they will follow. HH 120.7

The call of Matthew made many people angry. For Christ to choose a tax collector as one of His closest companions was an offense against religious, social, and national customs. By appealing to prejudice, the Pharisees hoped to turn popular feeling against Jesus. But Jesus’ choice created widespread interest among the publicans. In the joy of his new discipleship, Matthew made a feast at his house and called together his relatives, friends, and former associates. Not only were tax collectors included, but many others who were shunned by their more scrupulous neighbors. HH 121.1