MATHEW - FROM PUBLICAN TO EVANGELIST (Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ)

In the first Gospel, the writer Mathew narrates his call As he (Jesus) walked along (Capernaum), he saw a tax collector, named Mathew, sitting in his office. He said to him, Follow me (Mt.9, 9).

The other two Synoptic writers, Mark and Luke, identify the tax collector as Levi, Son of Alphaeus. Levi means joined. As tax collector he was joined, as Herbert Lockyer says in All the Men of the Bible, to the worlds crooked extortionate ways and mercenary aims

But the writer of the first Gospel uses his name as Mathew which means Gift of God. Very little is known about Mathew, the Apostle in the New Testament except that he was called by Jesus and that his name is included in all the lists of Apostles.

In Mathews Gospel Jesus calls him, Jesus saw a tax collector, named Mathew, sitting in his office. He said to him, Follow me (Mt.9, 9).

Mathews response was swift. He left his office of tax collector and followed Jesus immediately. Mathews call came after the call of other disciples. So, perhaps, he must have known Jesus. Luke says, After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting in his office. Jesus said to him, Follow me. Levi got up, left everything, and followed him (Lk. 5, 27-28).

That day Mathew gave a feast to all his friends in honour of Jesus his master. He meant to announce every one that he has decided to give up his job as tax collector and that he has decided to become a disciple of Jesus. It was a farewell meal with his friends of tax collectors. It was also a revelation for Mathew and his friends in their despised job of tax collector that Jesus did not despised them but he welcomed them into his company!

Specific information about Mathew is limited to his call by Jesus and his name being listed in all the lists of Jesus twelve disciples. But we know more about Mathew as the author of the first Gospel.

A person even when s/he does not write about himself/herself s/he reveals much about oneself in his/her writings. So the many characteristics of the first Gospel are also the characteristics of its author, Mathew.

The first Gospel is traditionally attributed to Mathew and it is also held as the first Gospel to be written. Hence its first place the New Testament. But some Bible scholars say that Mathews Gospel is complied works of three written sources including the Gospel of Mark. One source must have been written by Mathew himself. The second source is the Gospel account of Mark. As Ronald Brownring says in Whos Who the New Testament, Ninety-five percent of Marks Gospel is included in that of Mathew

Still Mathews Gospel is unique in more ways than one. Mathews Gospel is written by a Jew for the Jews. Mathew is clear in the objectives of his Gospel. He successfully goes to prove that Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. Hence his constant reference to the prophesies of the Old Testament.

Mathews Gospel is unique that he alone gives the Parables of the Kingdom. According to biblical scholars Mathew has used the word kingdom some 56 times in his Gospel.

Mathew is a humble and simple writer of his Gospel. He gives a clear picture of his Master Jesus but he says nothing about himself!

Mathew is also unique that he gives clear ethical teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Mathews careful selection of Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the Mount makes it invaluable for all people of every age.

Mathews Gospel is also unique that Mathew is the only one who gives the parable of the Last Judgment. Mathew has given also very systematically the Discourses on the End of the World in the chapters 24 and 25 in his Gospel.

Similarly Mathew is the only one who gives the story of the wise men from the East. Mathew ends his Gospel with a clear and unambiguous message for all the followers of Jesus Christ, Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age (Mt. 28, 19-20).

According to Ronald Brownrigg various traditions records that Mathew suffered martyrdom - in Ethiopia, in Persia or in Pontus on the Black Sea.

 

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ફાધર વર્ગીસ પોલ, એસ.જે.
(ડિરેક્ટર, સી.આઈ.એસ.એસ.)


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