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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : XXXVI. The Call of Matthew.

The Four-fold Gospel by J. W. McGarvey

XXXVI. The Call of Matthew.

(at or Near Capernaum.)

^A Matt. IX.9; ^B Mark II.13, 14; ^C Luke V.27, 28.

^c 27 And after these thingsa [after the healing of the paralytic] he went forth, ^a again by the seaside [i. e., he left Capernaum, and sought the shore of the sea, which formed a convenient auditorium for him, and which was hence a favorite scene for his teaching]; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them.14 And as he ^a Jesus passed by from thence, he saw ^c and beheld ^a a man, ^c a publican, named { ^c called} Matthew, ^c Levi, ^b the son of Alphaeus [It will be observed that Matthew, in his account of his call, does not make himself prominent. All the evangelists keep themselves in the background. Because Mark and Luke give us the name Levi, it has been thought by some that they describe the call of a different person from the one mentioned by Matthew -- an opinion which seems to have started with Origen. But the difference in name is not an important divergence, for many in that day had two names; as, for example, Lebbæus, who was called Thaddæus; Silas, who was called Sylvanus; John, who was called Mark; etc. Moreover, it was then common to change the name; as is shown by the cases of Simon, who became Peter; Joseph, who became Barnabas; Saul, who became Paul, etc. Therefore, as we have previously suggested (p.111), that Nathanael was also known as Bartholomew, so here we are satisfied that Levi is called Matthew; for the narratives which describe the calls are almost verbatim, and they agree chronologically, being placed by all three Evangelists between the healing of the paralytic and the feast where Jesus ate with publicans. Mark involves us in another difficulty by calling Levi the son of Alphæus; for a man named Alphæus was the father of James the younger (Matt. x.3 ). It is not likely, however, that Matthew and James were brothers, for Alphæus was a very common Jewish name, and brothers are usually mentioned in pairs in the apostolic lists, and these two are not so mentioned. Pool takes the extreme view here, contending that James, Matthew, Thaddæus, and Simon Zelotes were four brethren], sitting at the place of toll [Wherever it is at all practicable, Orientals sit at their work. The place of toil was usually a booth or a small hut. Whether Matthew's booth was by the lake, to collect duties on goods and people ferried across; or whether it was by the roadside on the great highway leading from Damascus to Acco, to collect taxes on all produce brought into Capernaum, is not material. The revenues which Rome derived from conquered nations consisted of tolls, tithes, harbor duties, taxes for use of public pasture lands, and duties for the use of mines and salt works], and he saith { ^c said} unto him, Follow me.28 And he forsook all, And he arose { ^c rose up} and followed him. [Such obedience was not, of course, performed in ignorance; it indicates that Matthew was already a disciple, as were the four fisherman when they also received a like call. Matthew was now called to become a personal attendant of Jesus, preparatory to being chosen an apostle. Nor are we to conclude from the abruptness of his movements that he went off without settling accounts with the head of his office. Though it may be more dramatic to thus picture him as departing at once, yet the settlement of accounts was indispensable to his good name in the future, and in no way diminishes the reality and beauty of his sacrifice -- a beauty which Matthew himself forbears to mention, as became him (Prov. xxvii.2). But Matthew certainly neither delayed nor sought counsel (Gal. i.15, 16). By thus calling a publican, Jesus reproved the religious narrowness of his times.]

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