What’s the Condition of Your Heart? – Matthew 13:1-23

An excited little boy was telling his daddy about something that had happened to him that day. His daddy said, “Slow up, son, you are talking too fast!” The boy replied, “Oh, no, Daddy, I’m not talking too fast. You’re listening too slow!”
Are you listening?

It’s one thing to hear the Word of God, but listeners must receive the Word of God and let it take root in their life. In this post, we’ll focus on one of the most well-known parables in all of Scripture titled “The Parable of the Sower”. In this parable, Jesus describes four different types of “soil” which represent our hearts.

See Matthew 13:1-9

This is actually the first parable of Jesus recorded in Scripture and it kicks off a whole series of parables throughout the rest of Matthew’s gospel. The word parable means “to lay beside” and so it carries this idea of laying two things beside each other in order to teach a spiritual truth. So then, parables are stories that reveal truth. These stories were designed to not only be unforgettable, but also bring meaning to those who were serious about listening to the Lord. But for those who refused to listen, they were sometimes difficult to understand.

Let’s put this passage in its cultural context. While Jesus is teaching, it’s quite possible that there were some farmers nearby out in their fields doing some planting.  Jesus lays the foundation of this parable with something that they all understand, but then He moves into something that they don’t in order to reveal truth. Everyone back then understood how seed sowing worked. A farmer would have a leather pouch over his shoulders filled with seed and would walk down paths in his field slinging the seed out, much like we do when planting grass seed. This seed would end up in all sorts of soil, some good, and some not-so-good.

Seeds look lifeless, but inside is great potential. When you buy a packet of seeds, you’re not buying the dark little specks inside, you’re buying potential. You are buying the picture of the beautiful flowers or fruit on the package. And with the right soil, those seeds will realize their potential. The same can be said about the seed of the Word of God. There is amazing potential in that seed, but we must provide the right kind of soil for it to grow.

Which Soil Represents Your Heart?

I’ve been giving biblical messages since 1992, first as a youth minister, then as a pastor since 1996; over 30 years.  That’s a lot of teaching, but that’s also a lot of watching people listen to me teach! As I have looked out across this room, I see some people have their Bibles open; their pens and paper ready to fill in the notes. They are almost literally sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for a word from God. However, there are many others who are only casual listeners—they’re paying attention, but don’t really see the need to open their Bible or take notes. And there are others who are bored; they are yawning already. Their biggest concern at this very moment is “When is this going to be over?” Two people can hear the same message and one says, “Wow! God really spoke to me today!” While someone sitting next to them can scratch their head and only wonder what they meant.

How can there be so many different attitudes about the same experience? That’s what Jesus addressed in this parable. He described four different ways people receive His Word. And I believe all four of these attitudes are present in people’s hearts.

  1. Do I have a Hard Heart?

Jesus said some seeds fell on the pathway and the birds swooped down and stole the seed. This represents a person who is “hearing” the Word of God but go in one ear and out the other. God’s Word rolls off like water off a duck’s back. Most wouldn’t consider themselves to be a hard-hearted person, but they really aren’t interested in the Word of God. Their heart is like a pathway trampled down until the dirt is hard- packed. What you are hearing today may be entering your ears, but it certainly won’t enter your heart.

Jesus said there is a something going on right now, invisible to the human eye, which makes it even harder to receive the Word of God. He warned that Satan tries to “steal” the Word from people. Just as the birds flew away with the seed as soon as it landed on the pathway, the devil stands ready to try to steal the Word away from people as soon as they hear it. Don’t be surprised if you have trouble concentrating when you are reading the Bible or when you are hearing the Bible being taught. One of the enemy’s most effective strategies is distraction

 2. Do I Have a Shallow Heart?

This seed fell on rocky ground and started growing, but because there was no root, the plant withered under the heat of the sun. This represents someone with a shallow heart who hears the Word, but then forget it when they face the heat of everyday living. Jesus said these people receive the word with joy. They react with an emotional acceptance of the Word. They listen and they are happy to hear the Word. They will smile, shout “amen” and may even shed a few tears of joy when they heard the Word. But by Tuesday morning, they are downcast and defeated. The emotional boost is gone, so the commitment is gone.

This is a real warning to us about the danger of basing your Christian faith on our emotions. Some people think the reason for church is to get happy and they hope they can get enough happiness to last them through the week so they can come back the next week and get a refill.

As a pastor, it’s not my desire to only touch our emotions; I’m trying to build healthy strong Christians, fully devoted followers of Christ. That’s why I constantly feed us a steady diet of the God’s Word week after week.  We all love ice cream but if we ate it every meal, it would soon get old! Make sure you aren’t just coming to church for a thrill, that’s what Six Flags is for.

You may be wondering, “What’s wrong with an emotional faith? I want to feel good about God!” In this parable, the plant had no root, so when the heat came, there was no depth so it withered and died. When the heat gets turned up in your life you need more than just an emotional faith. An emotionally based faith won’t stand up when the thrill is gone. You need a faith that is rooted and grounded in the full counsel of God’s Word.

Some seed sprung up, but the thorns choked it out. There is a limited amount of moisture and nutrients in soil, so weeds and thorns compete with the good plants. This represents the kind of attitude that hears the Word, receives it, and it is watered and nurtured and the person begins to really grow as a Christian. I believe this person has a genuine desire to be a deeply rooted, maturing Christian. But somewhere along the way their growth process is interrupted. They allow their lives to become so crowded with other interests that the Word of God gets choked out. This person hears the Word and says, “I’m going to really apply this truth to my life this week.” But they allow other things to make it to the top of their agenda.

  1. Do I have a Fertile Heart?

Jesus saves the best for last, this is the only soil that actually bears any fruit. This heart not only catches the Word of God, he holds on to it.

Jesus said this person really HEARS the Word and understands it, as a result they multiply their influence a hundred times, sixty times, or thirty times. In other words, they are fruitful.

According to Jesus, fruit-bearing is the mark of a disciple:

By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples John 15:8).

In Galatians 5:22-23, we see that believers are to be fruit-bearers:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

We sometimes make a mistake in thinking this parable is only about four different people. But the truth is most of us experienced times when we were more or less receptive to God’s Word. I agree with one of the pastors and commentators I enjoy, Ray Stedman who wrote: “I used to read this story as though these various soils were four different kinds of people, who remained the same all through their lifetimes. Some were permanently hard-hearted, like the first example given; some were impulsive, some were full of concerns. But I have come to see that what our Lord is describing here is not four types of persons, but conditions of our heart at any given moment. Whenever the Word is being taught, people are in one condition or another, just as they are described to us here. We have all been calloused at times. We have all been impulsive in our reaction—emotional and shallow. We have all been overly concerned about other matters. And we have all had times of being open and responsive to the Word.”

So, the question to you is not which of these four people are you, but which attitude best describes the attitude of your heart toward God’s Word right now?



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The Kingdom Announced – Matthew 3

The King is Coming!  When Jesus came, it began an unstoppable era of thirty-three years that shook the world. And the world continues to shake. Has there ever been anyone that has impacted the world more than Jesus? Has there ever been anyone that has caused more lives to be changed? Has there ever been anyone that has given more to save and redeem all the people who ever lived on the planet?

God went to great lengths to ensure that the coming of His Son would not be overlooked or missed. I love college football, especially the Aggies. One of the things that sports reporters and tv stations do well is to hype the coming football season.  They cover recruiting, scheduled games, Spring games, coaching changes, player transfers.  Fans know well the football season is coming because they have people thinking about it and waiting for it and expecting it and when it does come.   God began to advertise His plan for salvation through the Messiah not months or years ahead of time but centuries beforehand. Through the prophets he would give bits and pieces of information to His people of what was to come. When college football season does kick off.  I’m sure that they’ll kick it off with a bang. When God’s Messiah arrived, God trumpeted it from the heavens! The angels sang and rejoiced, the shepherds went and worshipped, the wise men traveled to see Him, what God had advertised throughout the ages was here. God took it one step further. He sent a man to prepare the way for the ministry of His Son. He sent a man to point people to Christ and to proclaim that God’s kingdom was at hand. In the days of kings, each king had Heralds, the Herald was the messenger. The herald would bring news from the king and would announce the arrival of the king. It’s fitting that as we look at the book of Matthew and the theme of “the Kingdom,” that this king too would have a herald, one to shout the news of his arrival and to deliver the news of His coming kingdom. The King had come and His Herald went out and shouted to all the world, the King is coming! Are you ready, the king is coming!

John the Baptist was born to introduce Jesus. One man, from his mother’s womb to his deathbed was here for one reason and one reason only; to announce the coming of the King. There was a King coming and there was an announcement of His arrival that must be made.

Matthew 3:1-4 “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying,’ Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!

The message was simple; his sermon consisted of 8 words. This may explain why he was a popular speaker. Eight words but they were words that carried a lot of weight and responsibility to the one who heard it. Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is near. He knew Christ was coming, as the Herald of the King he is announcing the coming kingdom, a time when God’s plan would reach fulfillment, the gates of heaven would be opened, and access to God would be available to all who believed. The kingdom was at hand, the time that every Jew had grown up listening to stories about and had waited for was here. And John wanted to make it clear that this kingdom would belong to those who turned from their sins and turned to God, to those who repented.

Repentance is a word that we don’t use as much as we should. We emphasize the love of God and the forgiveness of God those aren’t bad things to emphasize, they’re the heart of the Gospel. But often we leave out repentance. We talk about confession and then God’s promise to forgive but John’s message went beyond confession. Repentance is a heart condition that sees our condition of sinfulness before God. When we realize our condition and the depth of our sin, repentance is turning away from it and heading in a new direction. To repent literally means to turn around.

Repentance means doing an about-face—a 180-degree turn—from the kind of self-centeredness that leads to wrong actions such as lying, cheating, stealing, gossiping, taking revenge, abusing, and indulging in sexual immorality. A person who stops rebelling and begins following God’s way of living prescribed in his Word is a person who has repented. The first step in turning to God is to admit your sin, as John urged. Then God will receive you and help you live the way he wants.

John’s message was then, and is now, the only true gospel message: repent, for the kingdom is at hand. The repentance John preaches is the complete shedding of old ways. It was not just saying you’re sorry, it was saying that you wanted whatever this kingdom of heaven had to offer and you were willing to do whatever it took to gain it. When you move into a new kingdom, you certainly would not go there thinking that you were not going to live under the rule of the King of that kingdom. A king rules. He is Lord and Master of all He surveys. No one can overrule the king, nor can anyone ignore the kings wishes.

Matthew 3:2c -3…the kingdom of heaven is at hand! For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.

Matthew understood that John the Baptist was, in fact, the voice that came crying out to the people of Israel. The Greek word for “crying” is boao, meaning “to cry out with great feeling.” John the Baptist’s message was full of emotion and came directly from God. John was merely God’s mouthpiece for the important message that God was sending to his people: Prepare the way of the Lord. How were they to do this?

The word “prepare” refers to making something ready; the word “way” could also be translated “road.” The picture could come from the ancient Middle Eastern custom of sending servants ahead of a king to level and clear the roads to make them passable for his journey. The people in Israel needed to prepare their minds to eagerly anticipate their King and Messiah and we do too. The verbs are in the imperative, meaning that John spoke them as a military general would speak commands—to be obeyed immediately and without hesitation. Those who accepted John’s status as a true prophet from God understood these words as God’s words to them, humbled themselves, repented, received baptism, and opened the “way” for their Messiah to take hold of their lives.

Here’s my prayer and you can join me.  “I repent, Lord Jesus of my sinful ways, I need you.  The kingdoms of the world and the kingdom I try to build for myself all crumble and let me down. “Yours is the kingdom, the power and glory forever, Amen!



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Sources:  Life Application Bible Commentary – Matthew.
Behold He Comes, Contributed by Earl Graston



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The King is Alive! – Matthew 27-28

A Sure Foundation. Just like the Empire State Building that towers 1454 feet into the sky with 102 floors is built upon the sure and solid foundation 55 feet deep upon solid bedrock. The 2.2 Billion Christians in the world today, a towering number have their foundation upon the resurrection.

The foundation of the Christian faith is the resurrection. Everything in Christianity rests on the fact that Christ resurrected from the dead.  For Christians we don’t follow a loser.  No resurrection means no victory over death. No assurance of salvation.  Without the resurrection, Christ would be the same as any other man.  It is the resurrection that gives Christianity its distinctiveness.  No other group claims a resurrection from death of their leader.  Today we want to see that the resurrection is not just some belief or some idea or hope or wild dream.  The resurrection is a historical event with much, much evidence.  Few people will deny that Christ lived.  Even other religions that are opposed to him acknowledge his existence.  To deny his existence would be like trying to deny the existence of Abraham Lincoln.  You would be an idiot to try because there are overwhelming records of his existence.  Eyewitnesses, documents, statues.  Lincoln left an indelible imprint on history.  Same with Jesus Christ.  Just look at your calendar. It will remind you that Christ split history into two parts, before him and after him. The existence of Jesus is the best-established fact in history.  What people try to do is deny his resurrection.  Time magazine and others in Media question and deny the resurrection.  Once the Los Angeles Times, carried an article headed: “Did Jesus really rise from the dead” The next caption was surprisingly, “Most Bible scholars say no.”  What is sad is that some people probably believed that.  Modern man has lost his ability to identify truth or recognize a lie.  In the communist world, the truth is what the party says. We need to be cautious of what the comrades in the Media say.   The resurrection is a historical event with much, much evidence.  So hold your horses as we ride on.

Ralph Muncaster an intellect, an engineer with degrees in science mathematics and logic was a skeptic of the Bible, of Jesus, of the Resurrection.  He decided to investigate these so-called fables he became startled with his findings and now is a believer and advocator of the faith.  As He says, he “There is far more evidence of the resurrection than for any single event in the history of the world.” “History can never be proved” Muncaster says.  He means empirically like in science, you know, observable and testable therefore provable.  Evidence is the only basis for verifying historical fact.

The magnitude of the record of Jesus Christ stands far above any record of anyone who has ever lived upon this planet.  Existing early manuscripts exceed 24,000.  The earliest written records were within 25 years of Jesus death.  No other work of antiquity approaches Christ’s documentary vastness. This includes all works we accept as historical fact. Let’s take for instance the records, and writings of and during the Roman empire.  We regard these as historical fact about the Roman empire.  Of Julius Caesar and the Gaelic Wars we have 10 early records, the earliest is 900 years after Julius Caesar lived.  Of the 14 books of the history of Rome by Tacitus only 4 survive, Other records and documents from Roman era by Thucydides, there are 8, from Herodotus there are  8, from Pliny the Younger we have 7.  There are more but not close to the magnitude of the records of Christ.     Of portions of manuscript copies of the New Testament which testify of Christ there are in existence today over 24,000.  24,000 copies verses a handful during the same time period.  No other document of antiquity even begins to approach such numbers of attestation.  In comparison, the Illiad by Homer is second with only 643 manuscripts that still survive.  The first complete preserved text of Homer dates from the thirteenth century.  On the other hand the original books of the New Testament were written between 25-100 AD. The earliest manuscript in existence today dates 130 AD.

What motivated such extensive work?  Why the incredible quantity and survival of the records of Christ? Was this the senseless expansion of a MYTH?  Why haven’t other prominent leaders with lifelong work and less persecution produced similar evidence?  SOMETHING MAJOR HAPPENED.  What was recorded really happened and it changed lives!   The resurrection will change your life if you will let it.

Lets look at the actual resurrection event from the gospel of Matthew

  1. Jesus Died….

Matt 27:35-37  “When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there.

Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”(NIV)

A Roman centurion (which means he was in charge of 100 soldiers) was placed in charge of the crucifixion with some of his soldiers on the crucifixion shift.  Like border patrol & customs. The soldiers were on shift work too.  It was their duty on that shift to ensure that the execution is carried out completely.  Crucifixion was more routine than the electric chair or lethal injection.  Is it likely that such professional executioners would not know death?  Their job was to ensure death.  At times they would break the legs to make death occur quicker.  They didn’t break Jesus legs The final spear thrust into the heart area would ensure it.

 2. He was placed in a Secure Tomb.

The paranoia of the priests wanting the posting of a guard, and the stone sealed.

Matt 27:62-66     The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate.  “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how. “So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.(NIV)

A Roman guard consisted of between 10-30 men depending on the job and depending on how many appointed by the centurion in charge of them.  So some soldiers where called to the shift of guarding the tomb.  The stone used was a very large and heavy disk shaped  rock  made to roll in a carved out groove.  The stone required several men to move it.   Some estimate that since they were expecting some tampering that the stone was probably larger, perhaps one or two tons.  Needing at least twenty men to roll it away.  The seal was affixed with cords and a glob of clay or wax with the imperial imprint.  The seal was done in the presence of the Roman guard left to protect the stamp of Roman authority and power.  Anyone messing or tampering with the imperial seal would be executed.  It was the death sentence to touch or move the seal and the soldiers were there to enforce it.

  1. Jesus is Alive!

Matt 28:2-4 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.  The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. (NIV)    Notice that a stone weighing two tons, requiring 20 men to move was rolled effortlessly be this angel.  And notice to the soldiers response.  These guys were part of the most elite fighting force the world had known.  Roman legions had conquered the known world: Cartharge, Greece, Persia, the Germanic tribes, the Angles and Saxons in England, Egypt, but when they saw this angel they shook as dead men.  The angel opened the tomb not to let Christ out but for the world to see in.

Now lets look at the response of the those in disbelief.

Matt 28:12-15 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money,      telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep. ‘If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. (NIV)

The Responses Examined:

This official explanation that the disciples stole the body while the guards were asleep was necessary because:

  1. NO ONE COULD PRODUCE A DEAD BODY OF JESUS …Which would have stopped the resurrection story forever.
  2. Is it likely that the guards would fall asleep? The discipline of the Roman military was very strict.  There were 18 offenses punishable by death.  One was falling asleep on guard duty.  Would all ten to thirty soldiers risk the death penalty by falling asleep?  Surely one guard would be awake.  The truth is not one of them had the slightest interest in the task they were assigned, their sole purpose was to perform their duty as soldiers of the empire of Rome which they had dedicated their allegiance.  The Roman seal attached was far more important than some man’s tomb or someone’s crazy beliefs. Soldiers indifferent enough to gamble over a dying man’s clothes are not the type to be hoodwinked by some timid Galilean fishermen or jeopardize their lives by falling asleep on their post.                                                                                            3. With no flashlights or infrared sensors available then. Is it likely that a band of scared disciples mourning the loss of their friend scared enough to dessert their friend in his time of most intense need. Now muster up enough courage to carrying torches and sneak by a full Roman guard, move a 2 ton rock and not be noticed?       4. What would the disciples motive be? Even if they had the remotest chance of stealing the body from under the guard.  It would create a lie with no apparent benefit.  Jesus had healed the sick, made the blind to see and raised the dead but then he can’t even save himself? This scared them to death.  If he’s not who he claimed to be they had been duped and wasted their time. Why spread more lies? But something changed these scared men.  They later proclaimed him everywhere risking death, punishment and imprisonment.  All the disciples were martyred terrible deaths.  Martyrdom for a belief is not new but to die for a known lie?  Would all the disciples and hundreds of other eye witnesses die for a known lie?                                                    5. Then there’s some who would have the audacity to say Jesus never died in the first place he just was unconscious and revived. Well trained Roman executioners and soldiers not knowing  what death is?  The pericardial sac around heart pierced with a spear with blood and water coming out,  but he’s not dead?  A barely living man collects enough strength to move a two ton stone from inside the tomb with no grip on the edges of the stone, having nail pierced hands and feet. Move the stone and escape a full Roman guard unnoticed?

These are a few of the evidences to consider.  There are many more, perhaps next year we could look at them.  The issue is that abundant evidence for the exists for the resurrection.  People may reject Christ for many reasons.  Apathy, pride, love of their sin but there is no basis to reject Christ for lack of evidence.  If you would just take the time to seek it.  If this is true then what God says is true, you are in need of a savior, your sins need forgiving, there is heaven and there is hell, and Jesus is the only way to heaven.  This is the single most important thing to deal with in your life. What do you do with Jesus Christ?  He is Living Lord and you can deny or reject him or you can receive him as lord and savior as I did.



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Getting to Know Matthew the Tax Collector and Disciple

Matthew the tax collector looks like the last person we’d expect to follow Jesus. So how did he become a disciple?

Mathew the tax collector was first mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew (specifically, Matthew 9:9). One day, while Jesus was walking, he noticed a man sitting where the tax collector usually sits. That man’s name was Matthew. Jesus then told Matthew to follow Him.

Remember that tax collectors were among the most hated people in Jewish society. To begin with, they were traitors to their own nation because they “sold themselves” to the Romans to work for the government. Each tax collector purchased from Rome the right to gather taxes; and the more he gathered, the more he could keep. They were considered thieves as well as traitors; and their constant contacts with Gentiles made them religiously suspect, if not unclean. Jesus reflected the popular view of the tax collectors when He classified them with harlots and other sinners (Matt. 5:46-47; 18:17); but it was obvious that He was the “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19; 21:31-32).

Matthew opened his heart to Jesus Christ and became a new person. This was not an easy decision for him to make. He was a native of Capernaum, and Capernaum had rejected the Lord (Matt. 11:23). Matthew was a well-known businessman in the city, and his old friends probably persecuted him. Certainly Matthew lost a good deal of income when he left all to follow Christ.

Matthew not only opened his heart, but he also opened his home. He knew that most, if not all, of his old friends would drop him when he began to follow Jesus Christ; so Matthew took advantage of the situation and invited them to meet Jesus. He gave a great feast and invited all the other tax collectors (some of whom could have been Gentiles), and the Jewish people who were not keeping the Law (“sinners”).

Of course, the Pharisees criticized Jesus for daring to eat with such a defiled group of people. The Lord explained why He was fellowshipping with “tax collectors and sinners“: They were spiritually sick and needed a physician. He had not come to call the righteous because there were no righteous people. He came to call sinners, and that included the Pharisees. Of course, His critics did not consider themselves “spiritually sick,” but they were just the same.

Matthew not only opened his heart and home, but he also opened his hands and worked for Christ. Alexander Whyte of Edinburgh once said that, when Matthew left his job to follow Christ, he brought his pen with him! Little did this ex-tax collector realize that the Holy Spirit would one day use him to write the first of the four Gospels in the New Testament.

Matthew the Bridge-Builder: He Introduced a New Book

That book was the New Testament. If a Bible reader were to jump from Malachi into Mark, or Acts, or Romans, he would be bewildered. Matthew’s Gospel is the bridge that leads us out of the Old Testament and into the New Testament.

Each of the four Gospels has its own emphasis. Matthew’s book is called, “the Gospel of the King.” It was written primarily for Jewish readers. Mark’s book, the Gospel of the Servant, was written to instruct Roman readers. Luke wrote mainly to the Greeks and presented Christ as the perfect “Son of man.” John’s appeal is universal, and his message was, “This is the Son of God.” No one Gospel is able to tell the whole story as God wants us to see it. But when we put these four Gospel accounts together, we have a composite picture of the person and work of our Lord.

Being accustomed to keeping systematic records, Matthew gives us a beautifully organized account of our Lord’s life and ministry.

Matthew focuses on the kingdom. In the Old Testament, the Jewish nation was God’s kingdom on earth: “And you shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). Many people in Jesus’ day were looking for the God-sent Deliverer who would release them from Roman bondage and reestablish the glorious kingdom of Israel.

The message of the kingdom of heaven was first preached by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1-2). The Lord Jesus also preached this message from the very beginning of His ministry (Matt. 4:23). He sent out the 12 Apostles with the same proclamation (Matt. 10:1-7).

However, the Good News of the kingdom required a moral and spiritual response from the people, and not simply the acceptance of a ruler. John the Baptist called for repentance. Likewise, Jesus made it clear that He had not come to overcome Rome, but to transform the hearts and lives of those who trusted Him. Before He could enter into the glory of the kingdom, Jesus endured the suffering of the cross.

Matthew was not only a bridge-builder who introduced a new book, the New Testament; and a biographer who introduced a new King, Jesus Christ; but he also accomplished a third task when he wrote his book.

 Matthew Introduced a New People

This new people, of course, was the church. Matthew is the only Gospel writer to use the word church (Matt. 16:18; 18:17). The Greek word translated church means “a called-out assembly.” In the New Testament, for the most part, this word refers to a local assembly of believers. In the Old Testament, Israel was God’s called-out people, beginning with the call of Abraham (Gen. 12:1ff; Deut. 7:6-8). In fact, Stephen called the nation of Israel “the church [assembly] in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38), for they were God’s called-out people.

But the New Testament church is a different people, for it is composed of both Jews and Gentiles. In this church there were no racial distinctions (Gal. 3:28). Even though Matthew wrote primarily for the Jews, he has a “universal” element in his book that includes the Gentiles. For example, Gentile leaders came to worship the Infant Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). Jesus performed miracles for Gentiles and even commended them for their faith (Matt. 8:5-13; 15:21-28). The Gentile Queen of Sheba was praised for her willingness to make a long journey to hear God’s wisdom (Matt. 12:42). At a crisis hour in Jesus’ ministry He turned to a prophecy about the Gentiles (Matt. 12:14-21). Even in the parables, Jesus indicated that the blessings which Israel refused would be shared with the Gentiles (Matt. 22:8-10; 21:40-46). The Great Commission stated that the message would go “unto all nations” (Matt. 24:14); and the Lord’s commission involves all nations (Matt. 28:19-20).

When his book was read by members of the early church, both Jews and Gentiles, it helped to settle differences and create unity. Matthew made it clear that this new people, the church, must not maintain a racial or social exclusiveness. Faith in Jesus Christ makes believers “all one” in the body of Christ, the church.

What Can We Learn From Matthew the Tax Collector?

  1. God never gives up on us: During the Roman Empire, tax collectors were notorious for pursuing money and prosperity. They would collect more than the necessary amounts from people and thus increase their wealth. This might have been the case with Matthew. However, Jesus did not give up on him. Instead, the Lord took Matthew under His wing and disciple him so Matthew could become a channel of His blessing to others.

Jesus, in His love and tender mercies, will never give up on us. Even when we wear the filthiest clothes, the Lord will never forsake us. Like Matthew, the Lord simply wants us to come to him in repentance and humility. Another gospel records Jesus telling the story of a repentant tax collector asking for God’s mercy in the temple (Luke 18:9-14). Jesus used the tax gatherer’s humility to teach us He will forgive us regardless of how many bad things we might have done. As we come to Him, He will take us to Himself, dust us off, and clothe us with a new garment of righteousness.

  1. We must make the right choice: Matthew made the right choice when he chose to leave his job and follow Jesus. Like Matthew, we must make the right choice to follow Jesus. If anything hinders us from following the Lord, we must forsake those things and follow after Christ, where we can hope to find eternal life, joy, and peace.
  2. Don’t let hatred stop you from serving Christ: Matthew not only had to deal with the fact other Jews hated him. One of Jesus’ other disciples was Simon the Zealot (Matthew 10:4), who would likely have hated him. The Zealotsstaged mass riots and civil unrest to overthrow the Romans—if anyone hated tax collectors, they especially did.

As Christians seeking a greater intimate walk with the Lord, we must not let other people’s hatred or dislike of us stop us from pursuing Christ and eternal life. Instead, we should continue to seek after the Lord with all our hearts. As we continue to run the Christian race, we should be mindful of the many hindrances and setbacks we will encounter, especially at the hands of people.

  1. Matthew’s life is an example for all: We don’t know exactly why Matthew became a tax collector. Maybe he was greedy for money. Maybe he was an orphan who wanted to escape poverty. Maybe he wanted life among society’s elites. Regardless,  he chose a greedy profession filled with people who could never get enough. Yet, after Jesus called Matthew, he forsook his profession and became a disciple of the Lord.

It doesn’t matter the type of lifestyle we used to live before those around us. Christ did not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners who need His grace and mercy. Our lifestyle will not stop God in His track from extending His love to us. As we come to the Lord in our filthiness, He will take us to Himself and turn us around, thus, making us become a lighthouse of His glory so that all men who see us will note that His name calls us.

  1. Matthew’s life points us to Jesus Christ and not to himself: Throughout the Bible, Mathew was not mentioned much, yet he wrote the first book of the New Testament, the Gospel of St. Matthew. Although not much is known about him, he clearly did a good job pointing us to Christ through his written words. Not only did he write a bestselling book about the rise Savior, but he demonstrated his love for Christ by freely giving his own life for the sake of the Lord and the cause of the gospel. His contribution and sacrifice made it possible for not only those of his generation to find Christ but for many other generations to follow.
  2. Matthew is a trailblazer: IfChristcan turn a sinner such as Matthew’s life around, He can do the same for anyone. The life of Matthew—tax-gatherer, pursuer of greed, a sinner who once had no hope—shows us that God is no respecter of persons. If God can do it for Matthew, He can do the same for us today. Therefore, let us follow the example of Matthew, who left a legacy for us to follow. We can confidently turn to Christ, the One sent to redeem us back to the Father.
  3. We must come to Christ just as we are:When Jesus called Matthew, he dropped everything and followed Him. Jesus is a loving Savior to all and will not reject any of us, even the vilest of sinners He will accept. It doesn’t matter how deep we are in sin or how great our sins are. He is always there to put His loving arms around us and welcome us into His kingdom. Therefore, we must come to Him just as we are and not try to become good in our own strength and then run to Him, hoping He will accept us based on our merits or good, clean living. We must remember that the love of God is wide and far-reaching. The love of God will envelop even the greatest of sinners if such sinners allow Him to rule in their lives.

As we take time out to contemplate the life of Matthew the tax collector, we should heed the lessons we can learn through this devout follower of Jesus Christ. He was a sinner, one who loved money. Yet, his contribution to the church made him a great beneficiary of the grace of God, which is given to everyone who seeks after the Lord with their whole hearts.

What Happened to Matthew the Tax Collector?

According to tradition, Matthew ministered in Palestine for several years after the Lord’s return to heaven, and then made missionary journeys to the Jews who were dispersed among the Gentiles. His work is associated with Persia, Ethiopia, and Syria, and some traditions associate him with Greece.

Tradition states that all of Jesus’ disciples went on to spread the Gospel, but only one died of natural causes. John, the author of Revelation, died of old age in Malta. The rest died martyrs, executed in various ways. According to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Matthew was killed in Ethiopia while carrying out the Great Commission that Christ commanded him and His other disciples to do:

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)

The New Testament is silent on the end of his life, but this we do know: Wherever the Scriptures travel in this world, the Gospel written by Matthew continues to minister to hearts.


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Sources: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2001), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 12-13.
Life Application Bible Commentary
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