Matthew, Apostle of Jesus.
November 22nd, 2001
Received by H.
I am glad that you have recognized me immediately. Yes, it is true, I am Matthew, Jesus’ apostle. Last night I was also with you, but you were already very sleepy, and I didn’t try to deliver a message. But now your condition really is favorable.
I want to introduce myself, so that you may know a little bit of my story. My family belonged to the tribe of Levi, that is why people usually called me Levi, but my real name was Matti bar Khalpay, or Matthew, son of Alphaeus.
But I am not here to tell you my biography, but because I have observed with great interest the books you are reading. All them focus on the same central topic: The meaning that life may give to each man, or, because men frequently are unable to find their true destination, they resign themselves to a reality, which society has created for them. And my life is a good example for illustrating this point.
You know that I was one of those scorned publicans or tax collectors. I say scorned, because nobody, of course, likes to pay taxes. But the true reason is that we worked for the “enemy.” Undoubtedly the taxes we collected would go to the Antipas’ treasury, but everybody also knew that part of them was intended for the Roman emperor.
Very well, my brother, let’s begin with my story. I was about the same age as Jesus - well, I was somewhat younger, but not much. Judas has already described to you roughly the situation in Palestine, when we grew up and lived there. But he has not told you all. This is why I want to add my point of view.
I was born in the town of Capernaum, or Kpar Nakhum, as we called it, the “village of Nahum”, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Did I say town? Well, it was not a town, but a very important village. And the Sea of Galilee was not a sea, but a large fresh water lake, and a very deep one.
Following the shoreline to the northwest, one arrived at the river Jordan that constituted the border between the domains of Antipas and Philip. We may say that Kpar Nakhum was a border village, and therefore important, because there the customs taxes were collected. It was also a port for fishery — and for smuggling, by the way — and in consequence a very lucrative place for people who knew how to take advantage of opportunities.
My childhood and youth had been very different from Jesus’. He lived in some comfort, but I grew up in terrible poverty. Very soon I realized that great tensions existed amongst the people. You already know that Galilee was a “den of robbers”, as the Romans used to say, or a stronghold of nationalists, as the Jews stated. The Zealots had great influence and numerous followers. Eventually, some of them grew tired of so much violence, and separated from the movement. But they were few. And of them, a tiny number joined Jesus. Judas will tell you. I will just tell you that among them were Simon the Zealot and the Zebedee brothers. Yes, the loving John had not always been so loving.
Personally all the politics did not interest me. I was not a nationalist, and I didn’t care who governed the country. What I wanted was happiness, and for happiness I needed money, a lot of money. This I had learned in my hard childhood. And when I was offered the opportunity of getting employment as a tax collector, I did not hesitate and grasped the occasion.
There was a chief tax collector of Kpar Nakhum, and I started to work as one of his assistants. And I was very ambitious. When the collector finally retired, with his pockets full of coins, I was chosen as his successor. I had to employ my own assistants and to pay them from my pocket, but that was easy. Oh, times have not changed much. When the police colonel in your city organizes a party at his home, he needs five bottles of whiskey. And in order to get them, he says to his lieutenants that he needs them by five o’clock in the afternoon. Then the lieutenants send out the sergeants and common policemen to the streets to fine people, to gather enough money to buy eight bottles, because the lieutenants don't earn much money, and they also want their part. And the policemen review cars and issue tickets (to now buy ten bottles, of course, they also like to throw a party). Of course, when checking a car, one may always find one or another deficiency. Then they say that the car no longer fulfills the technical requirements and may not be driven anymore on the streets. They have to confiscate the car. But the drivers don’t get scared. They say: “Don’t be that strict, officer. I promise that I will fix everything immediately. But now I have to go urgently somewhere. Just let me pass, I will be very grateful.” And he shows him the driver’s license with a bill underneath. The policeman reviews the license (the second time), and if the bill bears the correct number, the technical deficiencies are no longer so serious, and everybody is happy. Well, not very happy, but they know how to handle things, and everybody is accustomed to that. And two thousand years ago, we handled things in a very similar way.
We frequently caught smugglers, but why deliver them to the soldiers? So that they would rot in the tetrarch’s dungeons? No. We handled everything our way, with the fairly good hope of catching them again some day and repeating the transaction.
But the price we had to pay was high. People hated us. They considered us traitors, collaborating with the hateful regent, Rome’s puppet on a string. People feared us, and we feared them. The word peace, so beautiful a word, did not exist for us.
I had sought happiness. I had found money, women, amusements, all kind of luxury and lust, but happiness? It was not there. They say that rich people invented the statement that “money doesn’t make one happy,” so that the poor would not want it. This is a very funny and a very incorrect explanation.
I amassed wealth, and I lost my peace. Finally, one day, Jesus passed by in front of the hut, where I charged the taxes, he looked at me, he smiled and said to me: “Follow me!” That simple, follow me! Imagine this! And I followed him! It seems incredible.
Of course, I invited him together with his friends to my home and he accepted. I was bewildered. He accepted the invitation of a publican, imagine this. A holy man in the house of a perverse thief.
We celebrated a joyous feast. My friends were there, too, or rather, my assistants, because I didn’t have friends. Well, in that moment I realized that, as a matter of fact, I had one. And people criticized him for that reason. But he didn’t care. Do you realize? He did what he thought was the correct thing, without paying attention to what people would say. Yes, Jesus was really a fascinating character. He was and he is.
It was my farewell party. I resigned. I left everything behind and I went with the Master.
Actually this is a very common story. It happens over and over again. People get lost in their desires, or rather, in what they think are their desires. And they don’t find happiness. They live sadly, full of fear and of aggressions. And one day somebody tells them, “follow me!” Sadly, in very few cases is this invitation for change successful. People are scared of their own courage. And they don’t change. They continue in their chores, with their aggressions and fears, lying to themselves that they are happy.
I admit that I have been lucky. Not everybody has the good luck to meet Jesus face to face, with his tremendous charisma. No, few had that opportunity. And even less took advantage of it. It is true, not all can meet face to face with Jesus. But all can meet him. In fact, they do, but they don’t change.
You know, sometimes this wake up call for change is somewhat ruder, it is no longer a simple “follow me”, but a hard push. People consider this a catastrophe, they are not able to look a little further. What a pity!
I know it is not easy to change. It is not easy to leave a wrong life behind and to start over again, in the correct way. It is not easy. You can be sure that there are prizes waiting for you and a fulfillment that is beyond your imagination. But it takes some courage. However, it is worthwhile.
Well, this is all I wanted to say. To polish the picture I have just drawn, I tell you that, after Jesus’ death, I stayed with the apostles and disciples in Jerusalem. I experienced Pentecost. I took note of what I deemed important, and together with my notes, I headed for Syria, where I stayed several months, writing what was the proto-gospel according to Matthew. What today appears in the Bible is not exactly what I left. But this, Judas will explain to you in the future more thoroughly.
From Syria I left for Persia, heading to the area south of the Caspian Sea. And there I stayed, preaching and living in peace. I was a martyr in the very sense of the word, a witness to the Glad Tidings of Divine Love. But I was not killed. I did not live to a very old age, but I died a natural death. The many caravans between Persia and Palestine brought me the sad news of Steven’s death, of James’s, Jesus’ brother, of John and his brother James’, of Matthias’ and of many more people’s death. I heard of the Jewish persecutions against certain groups of Christians, but the place I had chosen was full of peace.
It is time to stop now. It has been a pleasure to deliver a message. This time you didn't get scared when seeing another face, because you had already seen me before. But even when you see an unknown face, you need not worry. Judas is an excellent guard. Nobody will harm you.
May God bless you,
Your friend and brother,
© Copyright is asserted in this message by Geoff Cutler 2013