Tax collector who became an evangelist: Matthew c. 60
The calling of Matthew is a wonderful example of Jesus’ love and grace towards those deemed beyond the pale by society. Matthew was a tax collector – a greatly despised profession in New Testament times – who was chosen by Jesus to be one of his apostles, much to the consternation of the Pharisees who considered Jesus’ association with “sinners” to be scan-dalous:
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. 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.” (Matthew 9:9-13)
After Jesus’ ascension Matthew, who is referred to by the name Levi in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, preached in Judea for nine years, taking the Gospel to fellow Jews. The Gospel of Matthew, which is traditionally ascribed to him, is considered to have been written with a predominantly Jewish audience in mind.
Matthew is also reported to have preached in Persia, Parthia and Ethiopia; his wide-reaching evangelism led to him becoming known as “the Evangelist”. Matthew is believed to have been martyred in Ethiopia, where he was killed with a halberd in the city of Nadabah around 60.
O Lord, grant all who contend for the faith, never to injure it by clamour and impatience; but, speaking thy precious truth in love, so to present it that it may be loved, and that men may see in it thy goodness and beauty.
William Bright (1824-1901)
Originally published in Heroes of Our Faith by Patrick Sookhdeo, Isaac Publishing