St Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist – Sermon 166

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ


Today we – celebrate and give thanks to God – for the life and ministry of St Matthew the Apostle, a converted Tax-collector who exchanged his tax benefits for the benefits of heaven – who stopped writing about peoples debts – and started writing about the one who cancels them –

Most of us know him as the author of the first book of the New Testament but he was more than just a good writer, he was skillful teacher and evangelist

In his book he makes his intentions very clear – that Jesus is the ‘Messiah’ or deliverer promised back in the Old Testament – he quotes the OT more than any other NT author –
Aimed at convincing the Jews – his book was more quoted in the centuries that followed than any of the other Gospels – and so formed a a fitting bridge between the Old and the New –

through the evidence of our readings – we are going to look at what sort of man he was – his life – ministry – teachings – and his book – and what he has to say to us today – 

Point 1            The Call – The God who has time for us

There can be few events in recent history – that have resulted in such a massive display of grief as the death of Diana Princess of Wales-

There are many theories as to what it was about her that captured the public imagination – but one of the most often cited – was that she had time for people –

Whether it was the victim of a land mine – or an Aids sufferer – she showed that she cared – and she did it in a way that people believed that they really mattered to her

There is something very akin to that in the experience of Matthew –

As a tax collector and collaborator with the Romans – he was used to rejection and hatred –

Tax collectors were regarded as the lowest of the low – mentioned in the Bible alongside criminals and prostitutes-

despised because they worked for the hated oppressors – the Romans – and because many set their own exorbitant tax rates – far in excess of what Rome required – and then used the Roman Army to enforce them –

Matthew would be used to people passing him by – giving him a gesture of contempt or simply ignoring him altogether –

And then suddenly – there was Jesus – not just stopping to talk – not simply looking him in the eye – not even merely treating him as a person – but eating with him – and asking him to follow – and to become one of His disciples-

Jesus probably saw Matthew at his toll booth – at the entrance to Capernaum – where he would have received his levies or customs duties on the commerce arriving from outside Galilee – often by boat across the Sea of Galilee.

It must have been an amazing moment for him – and no doubt he had to pinch himself – to make sure he wasn’t dreaming –

Yet that same experience is true – not just for Matthew – but for us all – today

With all Jesus’ splendour and sovereignty – He still values each one of us – and wants us – to be part of His kingdom –

Its a truly astonishing invitation – one that must have been difficult for Matthew to gasp – but one he took

we can perhaps imagine how he felt – what me? –
He can’t possibly want me? –

We sometimes think that we have to prove ourselves first – that we have to be model citizens – our lives whiter than white – cleaner than clean – before we can be accepted – by Jesus

but the message of the gospel is that Jesus accepts us as we are – with all our faults and failings – guilty secrets – ugly habits- fragile faith and hesitant commitment –

God’s love is not dependent on anything we do – but is shown out of His grace – The astonishing truth is that we can come to Him now – just as we are and find Him waiting to welcome us –

If we wait until we are perfect – before we feel we can be accepted – then we will wait for ever – Matthew didn’t wait for ever – he followed immediately –

Mark and Luke describe the same call – and response – referring to Matthew as Levi (son of Alphaeus) – The name Matthew comes from the Aramaic word meaning ‘Gift of God’ and it was this name he was more consistently known by as during his own ministry after Jesus’ death and Resurrection


Point 2           The first book in the NT


There was one gift that Matthew had – that most of the other disciples – who were fishermen – didn’t – the skill of putting words together on paper – Matthew would have been an expert in this – he was used to using the pen – and he used his literary skills to compile an account of the teaching of Jesus

Anyone who knows about filling in tax forms or providing accounts for auditing or checking – knows what Tax collectors like:- neat orderly rows of figures- with all the expenses and income listed and classified by type and source – practical stuff so they can work out – how much you owe – and how to collect it –

Well – Matthew’s Gospel – reflects this systematic ledger sheet thinking – He doesn’t tell Jesus’ story – in chronological order – but groups the facts into topics-

Also – he doesn’t begin at Jesus’ birth – but reaches back further to establish His roots – as any historian will remind us – kings don’t declare themselves – they must belong to a Royal line –

Matthew portrays Jesus as a true son of David – and of Abraham and – qualified to be the Messiah – but He receives worship from the Gentiles – not the Jewish rulers – foreshadowing His great reception among the Gentiles after His death and resurrection – His genealogy includes five women who were all suspected of bearing illegitimate children hinting in advance at the Messiah’s ministry to the outcast in society –

But – Matthew’s Gospel was written by a Jew in order to convince Jews about Jesus – its a teaching Gospel –

He wanted to show them that – every detail in Jesus’ life was foreshadowed by the prophecies of the Old Testament – he uses one phrase 16 times- ‘All this happened in order to fulfill what the Lord declared through the prophet’ –

For Matthew – Jesus is – the Son of God – wisdom personified – ‘Immanuel’ – God with us – who will give His people an easy burden and rest their weary souls – Lord and Master and God – who is worthy of worship – of working miracles which only deity could effect –

Other religious leaders of the day saw their task as keeping themselves quarantined – away from sources of moral and spiritual infections – but Jesus saw himself as a doctor who has come to heal the sick – and a doctor needs to be with his patient if he is to do his job –

Within his book – Matthew the tax collector tells – of his own calling – and puts it alongside – a long list of healing miracles- perhaps to show that his conversion was a healing miracle too –

Matthew’s Gospel was written to teach us – how to be disciples of Jesus – and how to disciple others –

He was also uniquely concerned with the nature of the Christian church – his is the only Gospel to use the word Church – three times- and much of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew – gives His disciples instructions on how they should relate to the community – after He ascends –

Matthew collects Jesus’ sayings in five main places – the sermon on the mount – His instructions to His disciples about their mission – the parables on the kingdom – Jesus’ words on the Church as a community – and his thoughts on hypocrisy and predictions about the future –

God’s new world was being born – and from now on everything would be different – the question for his readers and for us today is whether we are living in that new world ourselves – or whether we keep on sneaking back to the old one where we feel more at home


Point 3          Matthew’s message today


Jesus ended thousands of years of waiting – He came to establish a whole new kind of kingdom – a kingdom different from what anyone expected.

There’s nothing easy about being a Christian – anyone can be a churchgoer – but not everyone wants to pay the price of discipleship –

Throughout Matthew’s life and teaching – it is his personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is most impressive – Whether it was during the life of Jesus – or soon after Pentecost – during the persecutions – or later when his book was written – His earnest desire was to see people come to faith in Christ – and to continue to follow Jesus – in that faith and life – He longed for people to know the Jesus – that He had – known – heard – and touched

Matthew believed Jesus Christ to be king – He walks through the pages of Matthews Gospel as if in purple and gold of royalty – He’s concerned to show the Lordship of Jesus – to show us that indeed – His is the Kingdom – the power and the Glory –




Just as Jesus – called the Matthew and His other disciples – and trained them up – to imitate His way of life – so He wants us His follows – to call people to follow Him – and do the same –

In his Gospel – Matthew ends with the great Commission – an appeal from Jesus – to go out into a world – that – He is Master of – and open peoples hearts to the love that He brings.

In truth its – nothing short of a great adventure – that we are all called to share in – and help to fulfill – and we are willing to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and Matthew and the rest of His disciples that would truly be something to celebrate – 

Prayer to finish


In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit