Matthew was a Jew who worked for the Roman government as a tax collector. He got this job when he made the highest bid to the Roman official posting it on Craigslist. His job was to collect 1% of annual incomes for Rome but it was expected that he would extort more monies for his own bank account.
These “publicans” were Jews, hated by the Jewish people because of their complicity with Rome and their unscrupulous reputations. A publican, or tax collector, had to be ready to accept awful rejection from his own people.
Which is why Matthew gasped when Jesus walked by his tax booth and said, “Follow me.” No one ever invited people like Matthew anywhere. The best he could hope for was that people would just ignore him and not hiss when they walked by his booth. Matthew immediately put out his “CLOSED” sign and left with Jesus.
Matthew’s own interpretation of Jesus’ actions distorted his expectations. Since he worked for the Romans, he tended to view things, even Jesus, politically. So he hoped that Jesus was going to be the one to end the domination of powerful religious and political people.
The next three years were spent following Jesus around and observing. But none of Matthew’s formulas worked to help him understand Jesus.
- Jesus didn’t care about wealth.
- Jesus talked about death and powerlessness a lot.
- Jesus favored people who were too weak to create a new political climate in Israel.
When the end came, Matthew wished he had never left his tax booth. He didn’t have words to describe his disappointment over Jesus’ death. Nor his disillusionment. It felt like Rome had won.
When Jesus showed up alive three days after his death, Matthew was stunned. It felt like a trick, and doubt grew within him. “This can’t be true.” Matthew wrote that there was more than one apostle doubting that day.
Matthew decided that he would have to live with the tug of war between doubt and faith. Maybe it’s what made him stronger. In spite of the doubt, he went on to speak on behalf of the Jesus that presented himself alive after the crucifixion.
Some think that Matthew was beheaded in Ethopia because of his faith. Whatever doubts he may have had took a backseat to his trust in Jesus. In fact, most of the apostles were horribly executed because of their persistent faith.
Matthew knew that faith cannot exist where there is no doubt.