The turning point of Matthew’s autobiography


Matthew 9:9 “As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me and be my disciple,’ Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.”

I have always loved to read. From first grade, when I first learned to sound out the letters of the alphabet to form words, I have devoured most books I could get my hands on. One of my favorite genres is biography. True stories create a much higher thrill and impact than fiction because the plot and resolution are real. Matthew, in seeking to convince his readers that Jesus is the Messiah, inserts a little bit of his own story.

Matthew was not a well-liked man. His profession set him at arm’s distance from his Jewish family and friends because he was a tax-collector. Not only did the people dislike giving up their hard earned money to the Roman government, but many tax collectors were known to be thieves who imposed more tax burden than was required to line their own pockets..

According to the New International Dictionary of the Bible there were two classes of tax collectors; the “chief tax collector” and “the ordinary publican.” Both were hated, but the publicans, the class that Matthew belonged to, were especially seen as traitors and backsliders. They willingly represented the Romans in oppressing the people, plus they had frequent contact with undesirable sinners, pagans, and harlots.

Speaking in the third person, Matthew recalls his own introduction to Jesus. One day Jesus walked by Matthew’s tax collecting booth. Instead of ignoring him, or worse, spitting in his direction, Jesus stopped to talk. “Follow me and be my disciple,” He invited. Matthew didn’t have to be convinced. The autobiographical account simply states that he got up and followed.

Some time later, Matthew, overwhelmed and blessed by his new Master and avocation, decided to throw a dinner party to introduce Jesus to his previous cronies. He invited all the other tax collectors he knew along with many disreputable sinners to a special event.

Word of the affair got out, and the Pharisees interrogated Jesus’ disciples about their Leader’s associations. “Why does your teacher eat with these sinners and pagans?” they asked with disgust.

Jesus heard the interchange and stepped in to answer. “Healthy people don’t need a doctor,” he responded, “But sick people do!” Then pushing back even further Jesus reminded these hypocritical religious leaders of the Scriptural directive that mercy is better than sacrifice. His mission was not to call those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.

Matthew had felt the sting of rejection by the people and the religious leadership many times. But Jesus found him and called him. Understanding his personal need for cleansing from sin, Matthew left everything to follow Jesus. His life and his priorities were changed and he would never be the same again.

Jesus is still calling sinners today. There is no one too far gone who would be excluded because of his past choices or associations. Jesus did not come to condemn but to save, and whosoever will may get up and follow. This all-important decision will change the direction of your life, and like Matthew, it will become the turning point of your biography.



Sandra Sheridan is a midwest wife and mother of five. She shares her letters to her children with our readers. Visit her at

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