Bible Question:

Could you help me to identify Matthew?

Bible Answer:

The apostle Mathew is mentioned in all three of the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but he is never mentioned in the gospel of John. He appears eight times in the three gospels. He had two names: Matthew and Levi. Only in the gospel of Matthew is he called Matthew. The meaning of Matthew is the “gift of God.” So what do the gospels reveal about Matthew?

Jesus Calls Matthew to Be His Disciple

Jesus Calls Matthew To Be His Disciple

Calling of Matthew

The first time Matthew appears in the New Testament is in Matthew 9:9-13. It is about the calling of Matthew.  Jesus called Matthew to become His disciple.

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. ” Matthew 9:9 (NASB)

Here we are told that Jesus saw Matthew sitting in a tax collector’s booth. The booth was  like a tower that enabled the Roman tax collector to see who was coming toward him. The custom of the day was that Roman taxcollectors  employed by the Roman government sat in a booth and collected taxes.

So, Matthew was a tax collector. In the final months of Jesus’ ministry, He encountered another tax collector named Zaccheus. It is obvious from Luke 19:1-10 that Zaccheus taxed people excessively. As a result, he was a very wealthy man. The Romans hired their tax collectors. The tax collectors then had to pay a fee to Rome. In order to pay the fee, a tax collectors were allowed to charge any amount of tax from those who were walking by the tax booth. So, Matthew may  have been a very wealthy man also. In Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27  we discover that Matthew had the second name Levi. Mark 2:14 adds that his father’s name was Alphaeus.

Matthew 9:9 states that when Jesus saw Matthew, He called him to “Follow Me.” Amazingly, Matthew got up and followed him. Luke 5:28 states,

And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. Luke 5:28 (NASB)

The Greek word for “began to follow” is akoloutheo. It is the imperfect tense which means that he continued to follow Jesus. He did not just leave his tower. He left everything and from then on followed Jesus.

Luke 5:11 tells us that earlier Peter, Andrew, James, and John had finally left everything behind and followed Jesus. The gospels tell us that Jesus had called these four men three times before they finally decided to leave everything and follow Him. So, at this point Jesus had five men who were willing to devote themselves to Jesus Christ. Have you made that decision?

Later, Matthew is listed as one of the twelve disciples four different times (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13-14). So, Matthew followed Jesus for three to four years listening to Him teach, interact with the Pharisees and Sadducees, watched him heal many people, and saw Lazarus be raised from the dead.

Matthew’s Ministry

All three synoptic gospels tell us that sometime after Matthew began following  Jesus, he held a big party at his house and other tax collectors and many people came,

And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. Luke 5:29  (NASB)

This reveals that Matthew was wealthy. But he used his wealth so that people would learn about Jesus. Matthew had a concern for the spiritual destiny of other people. He was not controlled by building up his personal finances. The gospel of John reveals that it was Judas who was the treasurer (John 12:6; 13:29). We are also told Judas would steal from the money that belonged to the whole group of  the disciples.

Acts 1:13-14 tells us that when the disciples entered Jerusalem after Jesus ascended back to heaven, the disciples gathered together for prayer.

When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. Acts 1:13-14 (NASB)

Here we discover that Matthew was praying along with the eleven disciples, “women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” Matthew was part of the team.

Later, he was one of the few disciples who wrote a book of the New Testament when he wrote the book Matthew. The Holy Spirit moved him to reveal that Jesus was the promised Messiah in the first verse of the gospel of Matthew (Matthew 1:1), and then two more times (Matthew 1:16, 17). In Matthew 2:3-4 he recorded that the magi had explicitly asked where the king of the Jews would be born. The answer was given in verses 5-6 that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). The point is that Matthew wanted people to know that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah. Matthew had found Him and wanted others to know about Him too! His example should motivate every Christian to share the good news about Christ. The Messiah has arrived! He is our Savior and Lord!

That is all that the gospels and the New Testament reveal about Matthew, but it reveals that Matthew was a very faithful disciple of his Messiah.

Matthew’s Death

The New Testament does not tell us how the twelve apostles died. Tradition says that Matthew preached in Judea after Jesus returned to heaven for about fifteen years, and then preached in other nations.[1]

Some claim that Matthew died a martyr’s death in Ethiopia. But this does not agree with the opinion of many early church fathers. McClintock and Strong state this,

According to Heracleon (about A.D. 150) and Clemens Alexandrinus (Strom. iv, 9), Matthew was one of those apostles who did not suffer martyrdom, which Clement, Origen, and Tertullian seem to accept: the tradition that he died a martyr, be it true or false, came in afterwards (Niceph. H. E. ii, 41 ). Tischendorf has published the apocryphal “Acts and Martyrdom of Matthew” (Acta Apocrypha, Lips.1841).[2]

That is, “Acts and Martyrdom of Matthew” is not trustworthy. The Roman Catholic Church claims that Matthew died as a martyr and the Sanhedrin 43a of the Babylonian Talmud may refer to Matthew when it writes about Mattai.


Matthew was a Jewish tax collector who followed Jesus because He believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Matthew was a completed Jew. He was a Jew by race and then a spiritual Jew by faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior and Messiah. He enjoyed serving Jesus!



1. Merrill F. Unger. The New Dictionary. Moody Publishers. 2005. p. 827.
2. John McClintock and James Strong. Cyclopedia of Biblical Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Baker Book House. 1981, vol. V, p. 887.

Suggested Links:

Call of Matthew
Life of Christ – events, miracles, teachings and purpose
Was the gospel of Matthew originally written in Aramaic?
Jesus Came to Seek and Save the Lost — Zaccheus