Matthew, Apostle, Evangelist and Martyr


Matthew is an interesting person we don’t know all that much about.

He was a tax collector. Interestingly tax collectors where probably less popular in the year dot than they are today. For the inhabitants of Judea tax was collected by the foreign power, the mighty Roman Empire.

For Matthew he had a job, however he was taking money from his fellow countrymen for the invading force of Rome. Jobs like that can leave you a little short of friends.

The encounter with Jesus is described in exceptionally simple terms in the Gospel accounts. Jesus came and said to Matthew “Follow Me” and he got up and followed him.

The Gospels do not tell us why Jesus sought out Matthew, or what it was about Matthew that singled him out among tax collectors.

The Gospel accounts are also significantly deficient in providing any account as to why it was that Matthew responded to the call at all.

The gospel accounts, because they lack detail and background information, give the impression that the encounter with Jesus was for Matthew a ‘Black Swan’ event. Matthew trotted off the the office in the morning, and no doubt he expected to go home at the end of the day and repeat the process the next day. It is just the daily grind, the treadmill most of us feel we are on. Unexpectedly Jesus appears and calls Matthew, and he simply gets off the treadmill in an instant.

Matthew seems to have rethought his reality – and resolves to seek out and restore fourfold anyone he has defrauded fourfold. We are not given any indication of the extent of such activity, presumably if there had been a lot of it there would be too many to seek out, and too much to repay, so I would presume that there may not have been a lot of it.

A Black Swan is something we were not expecting that causes us to radically adjust our thinking. In a way how we deal with the Black Swan us the making of us, by their very nature we can not plan for them.

Now we know in the Gospels that the ministry of Jesus had already begun, and he was beginning to generate some interest. Had Matthew heard about him, or had he even listened to him, and why did Jesus seek him out, or was it just a chance encounter.

Those questions that we want to ask in a real way underline the next quality of the Black Swan, despite the surprise we try to analyse it and see that we should have seen it coming.

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