Jesus chose twelve men to be His companions during his public ministry on earth. These were the apostles, one of whom was called Matthew, also known as Levi, son of Alpheus. He was an accountant! How did Matthew, a Jew, end up dealing with money?
At the time, Palestine was ruled by the Romans who demanded the payment of taxes from all Jews. These taxes were sums of money demanded from all money earned, supposedly for the benefit and upkeep of the province. The men employed by the Romans to collect these taxes were called tax-collectors or publicans. These men were considered as traitors and sinners because besides being considered as collaborators with the Romans, many of them charged their fellowmen more money in taxes that were due. Then, they would keep the extra money for themselves!
Matthew was one of these men. Life changed for Matthew when Jesus passed the booth where he was collecting taxes. (Matt.9, 9-13) Matthew’s eyes met the eyes of Jesus, followed by the dramatic call, “Follow Me.” There and then, Matthew left everything and followed Jesus. By the evening, Jesus was dining at ‘a party’ with Matthew, the other apostles and other publicans, under the gaze of the frowning Pharisees.
Matthew remained a close follower of Jesus as one of His apostles, witnessing the Lord’s miracles and teaching. He witnessed the Risen Christ, received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, saw Jesus ascending into heaven and together with the other apostles was sent to preach the Good News. It is believed that Matthew left Palestine probably for Ethiopia where he continued to preach and convert people to the belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the Saviour of the World.
There are various accounts about Matthew’s death, about whether he was martyred or whether he died a natural death. But Matthew lives on, as he continues to be a witness to Jesus Christ to this day through the Gospel attributed to him: the Gospel of Matthew. This Gospel was written in Aramaic/Hebrew for the Jewish Christians to convince them that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the One sent by God to save all men. At that time, the Jews were expecting a Messiah that would free them from Roman rule but Matthew wanted to present Jesus as a Messiah who would establish a Spiritual Kingdom.