One day Jesus was walking and saw a tax collector named Matthew sitting at a tax collection post, and said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew stood up and followed Him, and became one of His twelve apostles. Tax collectors in those days were social outcasts. Devout Jews avoided them because they were usually dishonest (the job carried no salary, and they were expected to make their profits by cheating the people from whom they collected taxes). Patriotic and nationalistic Jews hated them because they were agents of the Roman government, the conquerors, and hated them with a double hatred if (like Matthew) they were Jews, because they had gone over to the enemy, had betrayed their own people for money.
The name “Matthew” means “gift of the LORD.” Mark and Luke, in the story of his calling, name him “Levi.” Perhaps this was his original name, and he received a new name from Jesus when he became a disciple. (It has also been suggested that he was simply a member of the tribe of Levi.) The same day on which Jesus called him he made a “great feast” (Luke 5:29), a farewell feast, to which he invited Jesus and his disciples, and probably also many of his old associates.
Whether the Apostle Matthew is also the Evangelist Matthew — that is, whether the Apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel that bears his name — is disputed. The Gospel itself does not say who wrote it, but the designation “according to Matthew” is very old.
Of Matthew’s life after Pentecost the Scriptures tell us nothing. Later accounts of his life vary, some reporting that he was martyred, others that he died a natural death. The Christian community since early times has commemorated him as a martyr.
Text adapted from James Kiefer’s Christian Biographies
Image from The Christian Place for Kids