A Jew Writes for Jews
And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. (Matthew 9:9-12)
AS SHIPS PLIED BACK AND FORTH ACROSS THE SEA OF GALILEE, they carried freight from one town to another. They could not come ashore at just any place. There were ports where they tied up and took on freight or set off freight. At these ports, tax collectors collected taxes on the freight being loaded or unloaded. Matthew (Levi) was at the Capernaum port, collecting taxes.
MATTHEW'S OTHER NAME WAS LEVI. (Mark and Luke call him “Levi.”) He became a tax collector for the Romans. All Roman tax collectors were despised by the Jews, but the Jewish tax collectors were especially, bitterly despised by their fellow-Jews. They were traitors to their nation. They were in partnership with the Romans who crucified anyone who resisted them. Sometimes the Roman soldiers left the crucified bodies hanging in public to rot or to be picked by vultures, reminding everyone: “This could happen to you.” Tax collectors were very much a part of this picture in the minds of the people. Traitors! The lowest of the lowest!
A TAX COLLECTOR PAID THE ROMANS A FEE for the privilege of collecting taxes. Whatever they could squeeze out of the people above what the Romans appointed as the rate of tax was extra profit. Thieves! Robbers! Jewish tax collectors were called “publicans.” Matthew Levi was an ostracized, despised man, worthy to be spit upon, and worse.
JEWISH RABBIS HELD THAT THERE WAS NO HOPE FOR A TAX COLLECTOR. They were excluded from all religious fellowship including the Temple and Synagogue. Their money was considered tainted and it defiled anyone who accepted it. They could not serve as a witness in any court of law. The people classed them on the level of thieves and harlots.
BUT JESUS SWAM UPSTREAM AGAINST THIS MASSIVE, deep-seated hatred of tax robbers. Jesus made himself a friend of sinners, even of the tax collectors and the worst of sinners. He set a new precedent among the Jews by accepting and associating with the tax collectors. He ate with them (Mark 2:16), He offered salvation to one of them: Zacchaeus (Luke 19:9), and He even chose a tax collector (Matthew) as one of His twelve disciples (Matthew 9:9).
HOWEVER, AT THIS TIME IN MATTHEW'S LIFE, he may not have been a typical tax collector. Some writers believe he had been baptized by John. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. (Luke 3:12,13) (Soldiers also came to John and asked him what they should do.) Some suggest that as many as 11 of Jesus’ disciples had been baptized by John. None of them were baptized again under Jesus’ ministry, even though Jesus submitted Himself to the baptism of John.
WHEN JESUS COMMANDED MATTHEW TO FOLLOW HIM, Matthew immediately got up and began following Him. When Matthew writes about this encounter with Jesus, he lightly passes over it with one short reference. McGee comments: “Luke tells us that Matthew made a great dinner in honor of Jesus (see Luke 5:27-29). Matthew invited many of his publican friends to this dinner because he wanted them to know the Lord Jesus Christ also. (McGee) Would Jesus go eat with such a collection of low-life buzzards and thieves? He did. Does God love sinners? He does. Does God condone the sin of sinners? He does not.
WHY DID JESUS CHOOSE MATTHEW, THE TAX COLLECTOR, to be one of His disciples? I’ve wondered about this. I would not have chosen him. Surely, he would be a liability, a hole in the bottom of the gospel boat! No one could have felt that way anymore than Matthew himself. But Jesus could see potential in men that no one else could see. He was willing to work WITH men and work ON men to shape them into His choice tools.
AND JUDAS? JUDAS DEMONSTRATED that regardless of the love and grace offered to men, they must repent and turn to God as their Savior and Lord. Judas is a picture of the many church members today who have never repented of their sins and have never truly turned to the Lord.
WHEN JESUS SAID TO MATTHEW, “Follow me,” it was done! As the Gospel song: It’s Real says: “…then like sparks from smitten steel. Just so quick salvation reached me, O bless God, I know it’s real.” And surely, Matthew could never have imagined that he would be the one chosen by the Lord to write the bridge document between the Jewish nation of Israel and the dispensation of Grace and the new Church Age! Not just any document: THE BRIDGE DOCUMENT!
THERE HAD TO BE A JEWISH DOCUMENT WRITTEN TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE and Matthew was the one to do it! Who knew the Jewish people better than this low-down, Jewish tax collector? And oh, what God had done in his heart! He was the one to write it! No one can know what God is making until He is finished with it! Matthew would write a well-documented thesis of how Jesus Christ of Nazareth was the long-awaited, promised Jewish messiah who had been promised since the days of Moses and spoken of by numerous respected prophets. But, as a nation, Israel had rejected their “Sent One.”
A FEW IN ISRAEL REALIZED WHAT THE NATION HAD DONE and wondered what God would do to Israel. This was the nation that had so often rejected Jehovah God and centuries earlier, the northern ten tribes had been destroyed by the Assyrian army to the north. Then, 150 years after that, the Babylonians destroyed the Jewish Temple and the city of Jerusalem and the southern kingdom of Judah began her 70 years of captivity in Babylon. So, what might they expect from God if they had rejected their promised Messiah and crucified Him on a Roman cross?
THEY HAD DECIDED THEY WOULD NOT HAVE JESUS RULING OVER THEM. Much like Americans today who are killing a thousand babies a day in the womb and have legalized the primary sin that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain. America is saying: “Our lips are our own. This man, Jesus, shall not rule over us.” But God warns: The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us? (Psalm 12:3-4)
SO, IN ISRAEL A FEW WERE BOUND TO BE ASKING: “What will God do to us?” God was giving them 40 years to think about what they had done and if they did not repent, there would fall upon them the most severe penalty that had ever been sent upon them.
IN A SHORT TIME, IN FORTY YEARS, from the time of the crucifixion and resurrection of the CHRIST, the magnificent Jewish Temple would be gone! Destroyed! The city of David: Jerusalem would lie in ruins, leveled to the ground just like Jesus said would happen! And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Matthew 24:2)
A MILLION JEWS WOULD LIKE DEAD IN A RIVER OF BLOOD when the Army of Titus would come into the city during the Passover Feast. I have read some reports that the Holy Spirit warned the Christians to leave Jerusalem and they escaped the bloody purge. This link reports a modern-day re-examination of that report and concludes it is probably accurate. https://www.preteristarchive.com/Bibliography/1998_scott_flee-pella.html
IN 40 YEARS, THE TEMPLE SYSTEM OF WORSHIP, the entire priesthood, the farms that raised sacrificial lambs, the industry that undergirded the ancient Jewish system of worship would be gone. GONE!
BUT BEFORE THAT WAS TO HAPPEN, MATTHEW WOULD WRITE THE BOOK that would show how Jesus, whom they had crucified, fulfilled the writings of the prophets from Moses to Malachi. Not just any book. It would be the Gospel According to Matthew. Let’s look at some of the features of the short book Matthew would write.
THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK would be to show that the messianic promises made to David’s line are fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus was the legal heir to the throne of David as measured by the genealogy through His legal father: Joseph. (The genealogy in Luke 3:23-28 was traced through the bloodline of his mother, Mary to the throne of David.) Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy back further to Abraham: Genesis 12:3; 13:15; 22:18. Matthew quotes from the Old Testament more than 60 times, emphasizing that Christ was the fulfillment of all of those promises.
BY CONTRAST, LUKE GOES ALL THE WAY BACK TO ADAM to show that Christ was the Savior of all humanity, and not just of the Jews. Matthew’s purpose was somewhat narrower: to demonstrate that Christ is the King and Messiah of Israel.
MAC-ARTHUR POINTS OUT IN MORE DETAILl how Matthew was primarily Jewish in his viewpoint. “He usually cites Jewish custom without explaining it, in contrast to other gospels (cf. Mark 7:3; John 19:40). He constantly refers to Christ as “the Son of David” (1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9,15; 22:42,45).
“MATTHEW EVEN GUARDS JEWISH SENSIBILITIES REGARDING THE NAME OF GOD, referring to “the kingdom of heaven” where the other evangelists (Mark, Luke, John) speak of “the kingdom of God.” All of the books major themes are rooted in the Old Testament and set in light of Israel’s messianic expectations.
“MATTHEW'S SIGNATURE PHRASE: “’the kingdom of heaven’” occurs 32 times in his book and nowhere else in Scripture.
“THE REJECTION OF ISRAEL'S MESSIAH IS ANOTHER CONSTANT THEME in this gospel. In no other gospel are the attacks against Jesus portrayed as strongly here. From the flight into Egypt to the scene at the cross, Matthew paints a more vivid portrayal of Christ’s rejection than any of the other evangelists. In Matthew’s account of the crucifixion, for example, no thief repents, and no friends or loved one are seen at the foot of the cross. In his death, He is forsaken even by God (27:46). The shadow of rejection is never lifted from the story.
“YET MATTHEW PORTRAYS HIM AS A VICTORIOU KING who will one day return “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (24;30). (MacArthur Study Bible)
CHURCH: Matthew mentions “church” twice and but none of the other evangelists (writers of the gospels) mention “church.” “Church” occurs 80 times in the King James Bible. “Church” does not appear anywhere in the Old Testament. It occurs twice in Matthew. The other 78 times occurs in the Book of Acts and forward through Revelation.
BARBARA AND I HAVE BEEN READING and studying the book of Matthew in our morning devotions together. The book is so interesting that I thought you might like to share in it. Ω
Read Through the Bible in a Year
MARCH 18, 2019 – MONDAY
A.M. Deuteronomy 31-32 P.M. Luke 1:1-23
(Bible Gateway will read this to you if you like. Look for the speaker icon.)
Good Verses to Memorize:
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:20-21)
Song for Today:
Jesus, What a Friend of Sinners (4:05) (Samonte- A-Cappello Choir)
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Miller’s Bran and Applesauce. According to David Reuben, M.D., we need at least 24 grams of fiber a day to comply with the design of our body. (30 grams are better) Less than 24 grams of daily fiber endangers us to several diseases. On page 84 of his book: SAVE YOUR LIFE DIET, he lists nine ways to get your daily fiber down. #6: Mix it with applesauce. After trying it with water and juice, I tried it with applesauce. The winner!
TWICE A DAY: In a small glass bowl, put two heaping tablespoons of miller’s bran. (Dirt cheap, health food store) Add heaping four tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce. Stir well and let set 5-10 minutes. Eat as a snack or eat as a side dish. With applesauce you can also add two heaping tablespoons of chia seeds. Stir and let set 5-10 minutes. Try psyllium seeds instead of bran or chia seeds. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER! I bought a half-gallon of good unsweetened applesauce at Audie’s for $1.89. (You can also add the bran to soup or bread.) I think the bran does the best and Dr. Reuben was satisfied with it.
If you’re just beginning a fiber supplement, expect it to be “windy” for a few days until your body adjusts. You may want to begin with one heaping teaspoon of miller’s bran and two heaping teaspoons of apple sauce and gradually increase it. Find your own used copy of Dr. Reuben’s book, SAVE YOUR LIFE DIET, at Amazon Books, or Google the book title and find another source. Dr. Reuben watched his own father die of colon cancer and then began a search in medical literature. After reading over 600 medical papers and articles by 500 medical writers, he wrote his own book in 1975. Ω