Are you the type to file your tax return early, or do you wait until 11:58 p.m. on April 15th? I suppose it depends on if you are getting money back or if you have to pay up. Just be glad the IRS man doesn’t come knocking on your front door, accompanied by a bruiser with brass knuckles, demanding payment for a fraudulently inflated tax bill. Imagine having no H&R Block to find you deductions, no tax code to protect you from a corrupt collector, no recourse if you are wrongfully audited.
Matthew was that guy. He regularly soaked his fellow countrymen in order to line his own pockets. The Romans used him, the Jews despised him and his family probably disowned him. His only friends were other tax collectors and questionable low-life individuals of ill repute.
Then Jesus said, “Follow me.”
What made Matthew walk away from his booth that day? Did he know he was burning that bridge — that there would be no going back if this risky adventure with an itinerate preacher didn’t work out?
And what about all that money in Matthew’s bank account? The first thing he did was throw a big party, inviting all his sleazy tax collecting buddies to meet Jesus. A banquet for a crowd would have come with a hefty price tag. Were there sufficient funds left over to provide for the needs of a traveling band of men and their rabbi?
And why wasn’t Matthew chosen to keep the group’s money bag? He was good with numbers, but did the other eleven not trust him because of his past? Was Judas the unanimous choice for club treasurer?
Was Matthew’s old name, Levi, a hint that he was from a priestly family who expected him to carry on a priestly tradition? Was Levi a synagogue school drop out who disappointed his parents and couldn’t measure up?
Jesus’ invitation to Matthew may have been a call to the taxing business of discipleship and a return to the glorious privilege of sonship.