Matthew the Publican – Apostle

His Call

The call of Matthew is one of the strange things that happened when our Lord walked through this world. Luke 5. 27 says ‘he went forth, and saw a publican, called Levi, (Matthew) sitting at the receipt of custom: and said unto him, ‘Follow me’. And he left all, rose up, and followed him’. This looked like a sudden conversion, for we do not read of any previous introduction or contact. Perhaps, as a publican, he felt shunned by his fellows. Conscious of a divine attraction he immediately followed, but his prompt action also suggests that he was a definite, ‘two feet on the ground’ type of man. There was no hesitation or fuss, he just acted. Such strange things happened on many occasions. The woman at the well in John 4 left her waterpot by the well to tell the Samaritans about the Lord, and in Mark 10. 50 Bartimaeus cast away his garment to gain His attention.

At Home

The next thing we are told about Matthew is that he made a feast for our Lord in his own house. Luke says he made a great feast, Luke 5. 29. Matthew himself says simply, ‘And it came to pass, as Jesus sat ‘at meat’. He was very humble about what he did, and in the list of the apostles he speaks of himself as ‘Matthew the publican’, Matt. 10. 3. Matthew introduced our Lord into his own house. He was no doubt anxious that his own people should meet the Lord, but he had something more in mind he wanted his fellow-publicans to meet Him, so his invitation was very broad and successful, for we read in Matthew 9. 10 that ‘many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples’. This caused the Pharisees to ask, ‘Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners’. The Lord, with studied irony, replied that it was the sick that needed a physician.

One wonders if Zacchaeus was one of those that sat at meat that day in Matthew’s house and became interested to such an extent that he wanted to know more. If so the Lord knew of his interest and soon gave him time and opportunity for a talk. It is possible, too, that the man in the parable of Luke 18. 9 was actually a man that met the Lord in Matthew’s house.

Sent Forth

In Matthew 10. 3 when our Lord sent forth his disciples two by two to preach the gospel, we notice that he sent Matthew with Thomas. Now Thomas was hesitant, doubtful and somewhat gloomy in nature, but Matthew was very forthright and definite, and being sent together Matthew would be a big help to Thomas. They were sent forth with nothing for the journey except a staff, not even purse bread or money. To Thomas this would be very trying, but with Matthew’s positive nature and trust in the Lord this would be adequately compensated. It is interesting to see how our Lord carried out this wise pairing with the other disciples. Perhaps it was for this reason that Iscariot was sent with Simon called Zelotes in Luke 6. 15, the traitor with a Zealot.


After Acts 1 we have no further mention of Matthew in the New Testament. He was probably one of the quiet disciples, but he must have been very much alive to all our Lord said and did. He was a publican and used to keeping records and noting names of people and places, so in all likelihood he continued this practice. In this way he would gather material for his Gospel. His ability was used to spread the good news having been called and sanctified for this God-ordained purpose. We wonder if he had a definite method of collecting and presenting information! The five-fold repetition of a certain phrase would suggest he had. It looks as if he wrote down all he could remember of any subject, then indicated that was the end of the matter by saying. ‘When Jesus had finished these sayings’ or words to that effect. So it would appear that after he had written down all he could remember of ‘the sermon on the mount’, he wrote, ‘When Jesus had finished these sayings’. In Matthew 11. 1, when he had recorded all he had to say about our Lord’s instructions, he wrote down ‘When Jesus had made an end of commanding his disciples’. In Matthew 13. 53, when he had written down the Lord’s parables, he wrote the words, ‘When Jesus had finished these parables’. In Matthew 19. 1 he followed the same procedure and wrote down, ‘When Jesus had finished these sayings’. Then again, in Matt. 26. 1, after our Lord’s words on prophecy, he wrote, ‘When Jesus had finished all these sayings’. So five times over he followed the same pattern. He did not explain anything our Lord said, such as the difference between the dispersion of the Jews and the Lord’s second coming, He simply grouped various subjects together.

God’s Minister

No doubt Matthew had a very retentive memory, and perhaps a photographic mind, but far more important than his natural ability was the work of the Holy Spirit in him, for in John 14. 26 we read, ‘he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you’. That Matthew’s Gospel was divinely inspired we fully believe, but we also appreciate his humble and willing co-operation with the Holy Spirit. Matthew leaves us a shining example by using the gifts God had given him in the best possible way. We each have a gift we may use to further the work of God, and do well to discover it and exercise it to His glory.


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