“Follow me.” These two simple words transformed the life of Levi, Son of Alphaeus, to Matthew, a beloved apostle of our Lord Jesus. Levi was a publican or Jewish agent of the despised Roman Empire. He was hated and mistrusted by his fellow Jews and thought of as a traitor. He often sat by the customs house in Capernaum, collecting taxes from the Jewish people for Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. Then Jesus ridiculed and criticized for associating with sinners, and the worst of Hebrew society called him as one of his own.
Matthew, the name given by Jesus, translates as Yahweh’s Gift. When invited to join the disciples, he renounced all worldly possessions and committed himself wholeheartedly to following the Lord. He even re-paid all those he had cheated. Matthew remained steadfast and faithful throughout his life. After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, he was among those chosen to teach and spread the gospel. Much of his teaching took place in Palestine. There it is said he wrote his account of the life of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.
He died near the present day country of Ethiopia and his remains entombed in the crypt of Salerno Cathedral in southern Italy. In Christian art, Matthew is sometimes depicted with a winged man, one of the four living creatures mentioned in Revelation 4:7 and further described as those who worship and praise God day and night. Matthew left behind all that defined him, made amends, and followed Jesus to the end.