Who Was St Matthew?
Picture The Call of Matthew, Caravaggio
St Matthew is the patron saint of our church, but who was he and what did he do? Here, in a nutshell, is the story of his call:
“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.” (Matthew 9.9)
That was just the beginning for a man who was with Jesus for most of his ministry and is named among the twelve apostles. His job as a tax collector indicates he was an outcast in his own community: it was an occupation despised by fellow Jews because it meant collaboration with the occupying Roman authorities. Jesus did not care what other people thought of Matthew: he called him and was happy to visit his house and eat with his friends. At St Matthew’s we try to model the acceptance Jesus showed to Matthew but welcoming and accepting everyone who comes through our doors without judging them.
Matthew is sometimes confused with Levi (see the similar story of his call in Mark 2.13-17). Most scholars think that Matthew and Levi were the same person: it was not uncommon in the ancient world for individuals to have two names for a variety of reasons (so, Saul/Paul, Simon/Peter, Thomas/Didymus).
The Gospel According to Matthew
Picture The Gospel
Matthew is named “Apostle and Evangelist” because he has the first Gospel in the New Testament named after him. It was not the first gospel written, but was probably composed around 80-90AD. Matthew’s Gospel has many famous passages, among them:
- Stories about the birth of Jesus and visit of the magi (chapters 1-2)
- The Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7)
- The parable of the wise and foolish virgins (25.1-13)
- The parable of the sheep and the goats (25.31-46)
At the end of the Gospel, Jesus gives the Great Commission to his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (28.19-20). These words are also a commission to us at St Matthew’s. We are encouraged to respond by the final words of Jesus in the Gospel: “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (28.20)
Celebrating St Matthew
Picture icon of matthew with the gospel which bears his name
We celebrate our Patronal Festival, a day when we particularly thank God for St Matthew, on the Sunday nearest 21st September. We often invite someone to come and preach on that day. In 2012 we were delighted to welcome The Very Revd Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark. Here is a copy of his sermon.