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Lessons from the Life of Matthew

Apart from finding his name in the lists of disciples, the only stories that focus on Matthew (Levi) are of his call to be a disciple and a feast that he gave in honor of Jesus (Mark 2:13–17, Matthew 9:9–13, and Luke 5:27–32). By way of illustration, Matthew teaches us two simple lessons.

First, leave everything behind.

After receiving the command “Follow me,” Matthew responded immediately: “And leaving everything, he rose and followed Him” (Luke 5:28).

What is remarkable about this departure is what Matthew left behind. He left “the tax booth” while taxing citizens (Luke 5:27). If Matthew was like other tax collectors, he would have been known for exacting more money than necessary and being as sinful as a prostitute (cf. Matthew 21:31–32). However, like Zaccheus, the repentant tax collector, or other tax collectors who would follow Jesus (Luke 7:29; 18:10–14; 19:2–10), Matthew forsook his previous life and followed Jesus, leaving it all behind.

And what a new life he had. He became one of the Twelve and left us his Gospel, the longest of the four, complete with over sixty quotations from the Old Testament. Though once stationed in life with the prospect of accruing riches as a tax collector, he immediately followed Jesus and left it all behind. Perhaps Matthew felt it personally when he recorded how it is that anyone like him could be saved: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Like Matthew, let us make sure that whatever might keep us from following Jesus, we leave it all behind.

Second, tell your friends about Jesus.

Just after his conversion, Matthew “made Him a great feast in his house” (Luke 5:29). Matthew invited “a large company of tax collectors and others” to meet and eat with Jesus (Luke 5:29). In rebuking the Pharisees and scribes for grumbling at his disciples, Jesus spoke to the purpose of His meal: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Among the guests were “many who followed Him” (Mark 2:15), but there were apparently more who needed to follow Jesus as well. Matthew provided the perfect opportunity for his friends to hear about repentance and salvation from Jesus Himself.

Like Matthew, we should look for opportunities to tell our friends about Jesus. Whether we invite them over for a meal or take them out to eat, look for an extended setting in which you can take your time to give the gospel. This method means personally knowing the individual first, which in turn means we need to work hard to create relationships in order to give the gospel. However it is done, tell your friends about Jesus.


All quotes ESV

About David Huffstutler

David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, serves as a chaplain for his local police department, and teaches as adjunct faculty at Bob Jones University. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.