St. Matthew – Apostle and Evangelist

Deacon's Corner | September 21, 2021

St. Matthew, EvangelistAbout St. Matthew himself, we know very little. We read of his call in Matthew 9:9 – “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him.”

We know that he was a tax gatherer and that he must, therefore, have been a bitterly hated man, for the Jews hated the members of their own race who entered the civil service of their conquerors. Matthew would be regarded as nothing better than a collaborator.

But there is one gift which Matthew would possess. Most of the disciples were fishermen. They would have little skill and little practice in putting words together on paper, but Matthew would be an expert in that. Scholars agree that the author of Matthew’s Gospel was a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian, determined to affirm, in the face of rejection by his fellow Jews, that Jesus was the Messiah, the fulfillment of the Scriptures and messenger of the new law. It is also likely that Matthew wrote for a community accustomed to affluence. His Gospel esteems an attitude of spiritual poverty and counsels his readers that their salvation depends on the quality of their mercy toward the poor. All this is certainly consistent with the attitude of a reformed tax collector. 

Matthew is the gospel which was written for the Jews. It was written by a Jew in order to convince Jews. One of the great objects of Matthew is to demonstrate that all the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Jesus, and that, therefore, he must be the Messiah. It has one phrase which runs through it like an ever-recurring theme: “This was to fulfill what the Lord has spoken by the prophet.” That phrase occurs in the Gospel as often as 16 times. 

The Jewishness of Matthew is also seen in his Gospel's attitude to the Law, saying that Jesus did not come to destroy, but to fulfill the Law. The least part of the Law will not pass away. Men must not be taught to break the Law. The righteousness of the Christian must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. The Gospel of Matthew was written by one who knew and loved the Law, and who saw that even the Law has its place in the Christian economy. 

There are certain other special interests in Matthew's Gospel. Matthew is especially interested in the Church. It is in fact the only one of the Synoptic Gospels which uses the word Church at all. Only Matthew introduces the passage about the Church after Peter’s confession at Ceasarea Philippi (Mt 16:13-23). Only Matthew says that disputes are to be settled by the Church (18:17). By the time Matthew came to be written the Church had become a great organization and institution; and indeed, the dominant factor in the life of the Christian. 

St. Matthew is the great patron of the church’s mission. He closes his Gospel with Jesus' Great Commission to his followers: “Go therefore and makes disciples of all nations.” 
– Deacon Phil, OFS

Tags: St. Matthew, Deacon's Corner

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