Matthew. Who was this fellow with two names, Levi and Matthew? The early scenes of the newly released movie Son of God set the historical context of Jesus’ life, which accentuates why Matthew’s inclusion to the twelve disciples was so scandalous. Quickly, we see the brutality of the Roman occupation against the Israelites including the slaughter of Jews after they rightfully protested Pontius Pilate’s use of Temple funds for building of aqueducts. I, personally, was taken aback and sobered.
Matthew, a tax collector, is branded a collaborator for aiding these Roman invaders. Collaborator, in fact, is one of the softer descriptions his fellow Jews use. At best they despise him as nothing more than scum. Immediately, I was reminded of a book about the Nazi occupation of Holland and the Holocaust which we read aloud last year as a family: Things We Couldn’t Say by Diet Eman. The author was an active member of the underground resistance, providing rescue for many Dutch Jews. Eventually, she was captured the Nazis and imprisoned for her efforts. After her release she goes back to her work to thwart the Nazi invaders.
While Diet and others are sacrificing everything, other Dutch citizens are siding with the Nazis. Collaborators. Scum to their counterparts. When the Allies finally release Holland from the grip of the Nazis, there is a dark cloud that covers what should be utter joy. The collaborators. Other citizens, gentile and Jewish Dutch, attack them with hate and venom. Revenge bleeds through the streets.
The same kind of hatred these Dutch exhibit is found in the hearts of Matthew’s fellow countrymen. And what does Jesus do? He picks Matthew.
Out of all the decent and solid people in Israel, he chooses Matthew to be one of the Twelve. It never occurred to me before what a supernatural band the Twelve really was. For among the Twelve was not only the collaborator and traitor, Matthew, but Simon the Zealot. Simon was the equivalent of a Dutch Resistance Worker, battling passionately against his invaders. For three years, these two “enemies,” Matthew and Simon, lived together, ate together, traveled together. Two men on completely opposite sides who were transformed by Jesus, completely leaving both of their pasts behind. Their beginnings were sorely different and their endings poignantly alike: both died as martyrs, not for their original causes, but for Jesus.
How does this happen? How can two enemies become so united? Nothing less than the Son of God.
See the movie.