Matthew was one of those ordinary men Jesus chose to be one of the 12 Disciples. A lot of people know he had another name, Levi. It is also fairly common knowledge that he was a tax collector. What may surprise you to find out is that tax collectors, particularly Jewish tax collectors like Matthew, were among the most despised individuals in Israel during the time of Jesus. They are listed right beside prostitutes in common conversation (Matthew 21:31). The temple, which had separate areas for priests, men, women and gentiles, made no provision for tax collectors to enter. Before Jesus, Matthew was isolated both socially and religiously from the rest of society. When Jesus called out to him (Luke 5:28), he followed immediately and hosted a banquet. The guest list? Other tax collectors and their “plus ones.” Probably the only people who would associate with him! Forbidden from entering the temple while he was collecting taxes for the Romans, his Gospel quotes the Old Testament more than Mark, Luke and John combined. He clearly loved his people–the Jews–and wanted them to share the good fortune he found in Jesus with them.
- If you were to have a “Look! Jesus!” party, who would you want to be there?
- Jews looked at tax collectors with utter disdain. Who are the people you tend to look at that way? Why them?
- Describe a time when you felt looked down on by others. How does following Jesus affect that?
- In what ways have you told others about your faith in Jesus?