Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Matthew was probably descended from the priestly tribe of Levi ( Luke 5:27,28), but at first glance seems the least likely to be called or respond positively to Jesus’ invitation to follow him; yet his response was immediate. Notorious by virtue of his occupation – a publican or tax collector – he was considered a brazen sinner. ( Luke 5:30) He was in fact a collaborator with the enemy; tax collectors of his day often being unprincipled in their dealings with their own people as they represented the authority and interests of Rome. (See the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10)
However, his heart and instincts must have been good underneath it all; his knowledge of Jewish scripture proving to be excellent. His Gospel, obviously targeting his Jewish countrymen, attempting to authenticate Jesus’ messiahship by quoting Old Testament prophecy that refers to a coming Messiah – that Jesus fulfilled – ninety-nine times.
He probably had the furthest to go in attaining respectability among his peers and the population at large, with the possible exception of the Zealot. And though he was undoubtedly wealthy as a result of his employment by the government of Rome, he knew he was poor in spirit and was prepared to confess his sin; indicating a conflicted man whose conscience was possibly getting the best of him. Matthew’s enthusiasm for Christ and his new life in him was almost immediately translated into evangelistic action as he hosted a huge banquet for many others of “his kind”, introducing them to Jesus as well. ( Luke 5:29) He had learned the surpassing value of forgiveness, redemption and inclusion into the family of God. Consequently, the mere possession of worldly stature and wealth no longer meant what it once did. Paul’s declaration, “…whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,... I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him,…” Philippians 3:8; was rooted in the gospel-induced response of men such as Matthew.
Simon the (political) Zealot is one of Jesus’ lesser-known Apostles ( Luke 1:15), and in being pre-occupied with political activism was undoubtedly less prone to respond favorably to a call of ministry as well. For the Zealots were well-known and widely feared as outlawed political agitators. They hated the occupation of Israel by the Romans as well as anyone who cooperated with them; thus highlighting the range of Christ’s appeal in these two men of vastly different backgrounds and world-views. They constantly strove to incite rebellion, hoping a Messiah would appear to lead them in their revolt and restore kingdom rule to Israel. Being fanatical in their crusade to rid their land of outside influence, they employed terror tactics that included assassination in their arsenal of “political persuasion.” (Matthew at one time being a likely target for such as Simon.)
However, as a result of his acceptance of Christ as his personal Savior, he found a new vocation, becoming a different kind of patriot intent on spreading the Gospel concerning the true nature of the Messiah. With the same enthusiasm and energy he had possessed in his former “calling”, he is thought to have taken his new activism for Christ and the kingdom of God as far away as the British Isles. The man willing to kill or be killed for a political agenda had found a legitimate, lasting and satisfying cause in which to give his life; the proclamation of salvation from sin for all mankind – regardless of tribe, tongue or nation.
Primary resource material taken from John MacArthur’s, Twelve Ordinary Men – Subtitled: How the Master Shaped His Disciples For Greatness, and What He Wants To Do With You and Follow Me, Christ’s Call, Our Response
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Fred Price - married (50 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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