Life of Saint Matthew the Apostle

Jesus calling Saint Matthew
Saint Matthew the Evangelist icon

St Matthew the Apostle also known as St Matthew the Evangelist who had originally been a tax collector.

"Jesus saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him: "Follow me." And he got up ant followed him." (Matthew 9:9).

Saint Matthew was a young man when Jesus spoke to him. Before this time e was known as "Levi". One man having two names was not unusual among the Jews. He was the son of Alpheus (Mark 2:14) and was Galilean. St. Matthew was a tax-gatherer for Herod Antipas and therefore despised by the Pharisees (an ancient Jewish sect that emphasized strict interpretation and observance to the Mosaic Law) who hated all 'publicans' (those who collected taxes and tolls in the ancient Roman Empire).

The Bible goes on to say that St. Matthew rose and not only followed Jesus but provided supper for him at his home along with other tax-gatherers. When the Pharisees saw they asked in protest, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" (Matthew 9:9-11). Jesus replied, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy and sacrifice.' I did to come to call the righteous but sinners." (Matthew 9: 12-13).

Little more is said of St. Matthew's life in the Gospels. The Apostle Matthew is listed as a disciple and an Apostle who followed Christ in Galilee and was present at the time of his Passion and witness to his Resurrection. He was also present at Christ's Ascension and again on Pentecost. He is spoken of ten times in the New Testament. One, in Matthew 9:9 when called to follow Jesus and four more times on the list of the Apostles. The seventh time is his spoken of in Luke 6:15 and Mark 3:18. And finally his name is included in Matthew 10:3 and Acts 1:13

There are some disagreements and disputes as to St. Matthew the Apostle's career after the Ascension. It is believed he preached the Gospel to the Hebrews of Alexandria and in Ethiopia and in Persia.

While there are arguments as to where and when Matthew died, or even whether or not he was a martyr, the general consensus is that he preached the Good News for many years after Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. The most accepted legend is tat while in Ethiopia St. Matthew was killed before the altar by a soldier of the king he had rebuked. The least accepted argument is that St. Matthew the Apostle and St. Matthew the Evangelist were not the same person.

Spreading the word of the 'good news' was a daunting task. There was no form of mass media. The only way of travel was on foot from village to village preaching to a people who were often merely tolerant at best. Yet, St. Matthew was one of the twelve who successfully spread the good word until it has become the single greatest achievement in the history of mankind. Saint Matthew's place near divinity is amplified by the fact that his written account of Jesus life and ministry is placed first among the known works of the Apostles.

In his final description of Jesus 'Commissioning of the Disciples, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the ends of the age," (Matthew 25: 19-20) Saint Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist wrote his epitaph.

The Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of St. Matthew on September 21. The Greek Church celebrates on November 16. One symbol of St. Matthew is that of a winged man carrying a lance.


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