Local News: On Sunday, September 29, the congregation of First Presbyterian Church of Jackson will be hosting "Twin Lakes Dinner of the Grounds" beginning at 4:45 p.m at Twin Lakes Camp and Conference Center in Florence, MS. After a barbecue meal, evening worship will be held at the pavilion for evening worship. There will be no charge for the meal. For more information about this, visit www.fpcjackson.org/general/Bulletins.
"We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
--Book of Common Prayer (1979), p. 244
Saturday, September 21, is the day on the Church Calendar set aside to honor the apostle Matthew, one of Jesus' original 12 disciples. Besides the fact that he is the author of the Gospel of Matthew, what else can we know about this first century Christian?
Mark 2:14 tells us that Matthew was also know as Levi. During the time when the Roman Empire ruled over the Jews, Matthew worked as a tax collector for Rome, causing him to be a much hated figure by his fellow countrymen. Matthew 9:9 tells us that when Christ called to him, "Come, follow me", he left everything and began following Christ.
Scripture tells us that shortly after he became a disciple, Christ came and had a meal with Matthew and many of his fellow tax collectors, an action that the Pharisees considered scandalous. To put this in context, it's important to know that according to Jewish custom, it was considered sinful to even speak to a tax collector, much less share a meal. This was the context of Jesus' famous rebuke of the Pharisees, wherein he told them, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Matthew 9:13).
Tradition says that Matthew wrote his gospel in response to requests from Jewish converts to Christ in Jerusalem. Originally, the gospel was written in Aramaic and then translated into Greek. Tradition also tells us that Matthew preached the gospel in numerous cities--Syrian, Media, Persia, and Parthia. In the end, he became a martyr while preaching the gospel in Ethiopia.
According to the web site of the Orthodox Church in America, Matthew healed the wife and son of Fulvian, an Ethiopian ruler. When this miraculous work persuaded many idol worshippers to become Christians, Fulvian had Matthew arrested and ordered his execution.
The Orthodox Church web site describes Matthew's death as follows:
"They put St Matthew head downwards, piled up brushwood and ignited it. When the fire flared up, everyone then saw that the fire did not harm St Matthew. Then Fulvian gave orders to add more wood to the fire, and frenzied with boldness, he commanded to set up twelve idols around the fire. But the flames melted the idols and flared up toward Fulvian. The frightened Ethiopian turned to the saint with an entreaty for mercy, and by the prayer of the martyr the flame went out. The body of the holy apostle remained unharmed, and he departed to the Lord."
Tradition says that Fulvian later repented of killing Matthew, became a Christian, was baptized by Matthews associate, Bishop Platon. Eventually, Fulvian himself became a leader of the Ethiopian church. Let us be thankful to God for the legacy of his apostle, Matthew, who served God both in his life and in his death.