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Discipleship Part 1: Matthew The Tax Collector

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To look at the story of Matthew, a sinner who followed Jesus.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader, someone to play Matthew and a telephone, plus a reader.


Leader It's 6 o'clock in the evening. You're sitting with your family, having your evening meal. The phone rings. Should you answer it? Probably not, because you know that, more than likely, it's just someone trying to sell you double glazing. There's a slight chance, though, that it might be someone you want to hear from. So, in the end, you pick it up  . . .

Matthew Hello  . . .  Yes  . . .

Are you sure it will only take a couple of minutes? OK. Are you sure you're not trying to get me to buy anything? You want to give me something? A free gift? OK.

What's the first question? Who am I? Well, that's easy. Matthew – that's my name. I work for the Inland Revenue. You know, collect tax, fill in forms and add up columns of figures – not a bad job.

What do you mean, ‘There must be more than that’? Of course there is! I like playing snooker, I'm a United fan, I like a drink  . . .  swimming  . . .  um  . . .  decorating  . . .  a foreign holiday every so often  . . .  you know, all the usual things!

What's the next question?

Why aren't you asking me another question?

Pardon? What do you mean, ‘It's still not enough’? That's all there is to me. Sorry if it's not enough. That's me. Full stop. Anyway, I thought you were going to give me something – some sort of free gift? What is it – a mobile phone? A foreign holiday? Don't tell me, it's just a pen  . . .  or a £5 gift voucher!

What? You want me to give up my job?

My house, too?! You must be joking!  . . .  Oh, I see, you're going to give me another job! What is it – does it come with accommodation as part of the package?

Are you crazy? Why would anyone want to work as a door-to-door salesman and get no salary and no accommodation for the privilege? That's not a ‘free gift’, that's slavery! You want me to give up everything  . . .  and get nothing in return? You must be joking!

What do you mean, ‘I will get something’? You've just said there's no salary! What do you mean by ‘something’?

What? ‘I'll finally find out who I really am’? What kind of an offer is that?

The conversation ended there  . . .  or did it? Does anyone know what actually happened next?

Reader It says in the Bible in Matthew 9.9–13 (NIV):

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. ‘Follow me’, he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’

On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’

Probably everyone, at some point, has sat and written on the cover of an exercise book or some other place where you are asked for your name and address: Josie Smith, 12 Union Street, (town), (county), (postcode), (country), Europe, The World, The Solar System  . . . . Where does it end? What is the final category that pinpoints exactly who you are and your place in things?

For Matthew, the ultimate encircling term was ‘God’. It must have been a shock, then, to find that God was not way beyond the edge of the solar system, not even on the other end of the phone, but sitting face to face with him – in the form of Jesus.

What reward did Matthew receive for giving up everything to follow the wandering guru from Nazareth?

Not money, not status. It was – probably – quite exciting, but the main thing was that he finally found out who he was: a sinner.

That word isn't used much on TV and in the newspapers these days and it doesn't mean simply someone who is 'bad'. It means someone who is distant from God and at odds with his values.

At the same time, Matthew discovered that, in Jesus, God was incredibly close to him and loved him, despite the gulf that there seemed to be between each tiny individual and the Lord of all Creation.

Was it worth it? What do you think? 

Publication date: March 2015   (Vol.17 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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