Posts Tagged ‘Matthew’

opposite partyLevi is a tax-collector in Capernaum. He is a second-generation collector. His father was awarded the Capernaum office after fighting in Syria for King Herod the Great and Rome. His job was easy and straight-forward–collect taxes for Rome, Judea and himself–leverage annihilation for wealth. Levi wasn’t too worried about the moral aspects of his work–after all, it was inherited and he was just doing what his father did.

If there were two types of people in Capernaum, he was the other type. The local religionists–local Hebrews, scribes and pharisees–were proudly and totally screwed up and didn’t know it. He detested their holier-than-thou attitudes. He was more than happy to add a “jerk tax” for those who thought they were better than everyone else.

At least he was honest about his situation–he was screwed up and knew it beyond a shadow of a doubt. He had a bunch of friends in similar straits–soldiers, government employees, money-lenders, prostitutes, pimps and gangsters. If there was a hell, he’d be going there with all his friends. Unless something changed.

Then something did.

Jesus (sticking out his hand; a crew of what appear to be frowning Hebrew fishermen and synagogue leaders are behind him): You are Matthew! Glad to meet you!

Levi (confused, taking the hand): No, I’m Levi.

Jesus: Not anymore, you are no longer “attached” to your tax business. I’m changing your name to Matthew, “Gift from God.”

Levi: Seriously? Do I know you? Who are you to change my name?

Jesus (dead serious): I’m God. You don’t know me, but I know you.

Levi (hesitantly studying him): …right…

Jesus: I’ve come for you, Matthew. Follow me.

Levi (coming from behind his counter): So, you are God and you want me to follow you?

Jesus: Correct.

Levi: Why would I do that?

Jesus: Come and see.

Levi (putting things away): I’ll lock the office, then I’ll come and see.

Jesus: Great. You can “come and see” at your house.

Matthew (looking up): My house?

Jesus: Correct, again. It’s “Thursday’s Happy Hour at Levi’s” so your friends are probably already arriving at your house.

Matthew (raised eyebrow): Then it’s on.

Jesus (throws his arm over Matthew’s shoulder; motions to those behind him): Follow us! So, Matthew, how’s your mother?

Matthew (warming up to the idea of Jesus): She’s well, how’s yours?

Jesus: She’s a saint. We’ll have to get them together. Mom leads a women’s group that meets at Peter’s mother-in-law’s house on Mondays. I’ve told Mom to expect your mom next week. They’ll hit it off in an instant.

Matthew (approaching the entrance to his residence): You know, your friends and my friends aren’t going to get along. They are pretty much opposites.

Jesus (smiling): Yeah, this is going to be fun.

Matthew (looking at Jesus and catching his mischievous attitude; smiling): So, we’re going to mix it up…this will be fun.

Matthew and Jesus enter. Jesus’ entourage follows and lines walls. Matthew’s “sinners” friends are sitting with their drinks and look up to see the crowd of “saints” enter.

You could hear a pin drop.

Matthew (to the “saints”): Welcome to my house. Choose your poison–Cokes, wine or liquor?

Saints:

Jesus: I’ll have a Psagot–it’s very good: dark-fruited and dense yet sleek in texture.

Matthew (surprised, with a new respect): Good choice. I’ll have the same (they sit at Matthew’s spot in the room).

Jesus: Thanks.

Matthew (to the assembled group): Welcome to my house. I’m glad to have the opportunity to introduce you to…

Jesus: Jesus.

Matthew: …Jesus. (Waving to the disciples and synagogue leaders.) Welcome, friends. Any friend of Jesus is a friend of mine.

The two groups, seated and standing, gaze at each other in mutual disdain. The town’s leading prostitute winks at the leader of the synagogue. All of Matthew’s friends (and Jesus) chuckle. Those along the walls turn up their noses, look offended and generally shake their heads in judgment.

Pharisee (to disciples): Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?

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

Pharisee: Are you telling us to leave?

Jesus: No, stick around–the “doctor” is in.

The disciples and and synagogue leaders reluctantly ease to the floor. Mary Magdalene (the prostitute) passes around clean towelettes, bowls of figs and a pitcher of wine.

Jesus: Ok, now that everyone is settled–I have a story (the room goes silent). There was a man who sent workers out to his vineyard…

Everyone entered the debate on the conduct and punishment for contemptuous servants. They were all united in their enmity toward ungrateful vineyard workers. As the two sides came together, Jesus smiled at Matthew. Matthew looked deeper into Jesus eyes…

Matthew: I see. I’ll follow.

Jesus: Yes, you do, Matthew. Welcome to my kingdom.

Tr8: No matter how screwed up you are–whether you realize it or not–Jesus is coming and he wants to rename you.

 

 

nothingLevi is snuffing out the candles and it’s about to be pitch black. The disciples and others are feeling a little weird because Jesus has asked them to spend the night IN THE HOUSE OF A TAX COLLECTOR! People of all sorts are scattered throughout Levi’s villa in Capernaum.

Today was his last day as a tax collector.

Levi: Anybody need a cover or something? Bathroom’s out back, to the left. There’s water in the icebox.

Peter: Jesus, you know we (motioning toward the other disciples) can stay at my house, nearer the water… (mumbles to himself) ‘Levi’s’ villa — ‘Taker’s’ villa — got that right.

Jesus: We’re fine Peter. Besides this place is bigger and cleaner than your place. Smell the lavender?

Nathaniel: Is it good for us to be in this place all night? What will the neighbors think? There are women here…and the Pharisees — they’ll talk about this forever.

Pharisee: I heard that! I’m taking names!

Jesus (with authority): Everybody! Listen up! This is a good place and a good time. Follow my instructions. Be absolutely quiet. (They hear the sound of nightingales, trickling water, a breeze through the hall and crickets.)

Now, here’s complete silence… (and the room goes completely silent — no sounds at all — eerily quiet).

Peter (uncomfortably): Master, please quote us some Isaiah…or, what’re tomorrow’s plans? Fishin’?

Jesus: Shhh. Turn off all the noise and listen. Open your eyes and see the nothing around you.

They all lie in absolute silence in the darkness. A deep, holy peace settles on the group.

Jesus (quietly): Before the universe was created, there was this. Nothing. And it was all God — the Father, Spirit and me. And it was all NOW. We made everything, placed it in time, and it still didn’t fill us up. There’s still more nothing than something out there — you cannot comprehend. Plus, all past, present and future are only perceived now. NOW. Everything is the lessor part of me!

Peter: I’m lost.

Jesus: Exactly. My gift to you is now. Enjoy it. When you cancel out all the noise, ideas, distractions — everything. What’s left is you and me. In my emptiness I bestow the deepest peace and love for which you might hope. When you are lost, I am found. When you are empty, I am there. When you are full, I am there. I am. My presence is a consuming fire! You lose and find yourself in me.

Levi (thoughtfully): So, no matter where we find ourselves and no matter the circumstances, we have the gift of ‘now’ from you if we shut out all the noise and pay attention? Hmm. I’ll ‘take’ that, or my name’s not Levi!

Jesus (quietly smiling): Beginning now, I shall call you, ‘Matthew’ — ‘gift of God’ — your story will be a gift to many. In life or death — something or nothing. I am. And I am with you. The past no longer exists and the future has yet to come. Right NOW, I am with you. Do not neglect the salvation to be found in this moment. Follow me, Matthew.

Matthew: I do.

Jesus: Seek nothing more.

Tr8: Right now, experience Christ. Live him in this moment.

Jesus and Matthew are sitting in the Laundromat in gym clothes waiting for their robes to finish the dry cycle.

Matthew (pointing at the TV): What do you think about the Olympics?

Jesus (looking up): They’re okay. I think some of the sports are silly. Did you know the first Olympians ran the marathon naked?

Matthew: Really? I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

Jesus: I know what you mean. We’re headed back that way with Speedos and beach volleyball and all.

Matthew (putting down his newspaper): I’m thinking that if you are a guy and you have to wear leotards or speedos, you should have to dress as a super hero — Superman, Green Lantern, Thor…sorry, he’s a myth, right?…uhh…something like that. I’d like to see Batman and Robin in synchronized diving.

Jesus: Yeah, that’d be cool.

Matthew (looking directly at Jesus): Changing the subject. Does it bother you that I used to be a tax collector?

Jesus (returning his gaze): Does it bother you?

Matthew (looking at the floor): Well, I know everyone looks down on me because I collected taxes for Rome.

Jesus: Were you honest when you collected taxes? Did you do your best?

Matthew (shrugs): Sure…well, no, not really. I skimmed, we all skimmed, otherwise there’d be no point. We sort of worked on commission.

Jesus (shakes his hand): Doesn’t matter. You are forgiven. Could you go back and do it again?

Matthew (looking at Jesus again): No. No way. You’ve shown me too much. I’m following you no matter where you go. I have a small group that meets on Tuesdays. A bunch of my old tax guys. I’m trying to mentor them like you mentor us.

Jesus (looking into Matthew’s eyes): I know about your group. That’s a good thing. As for the tax collecting business? I don’t give it a second thought. To me, Matthew, you’re a brother and disciple. I’ll also let you in on a little secret, you are one of my favorites (Jesus smiles).

Matthew (looking surprised): Favorite? Why?

Jesus (tapping Matthew’s chest): Matthew, you are the real deal. Some of the other guys think they were chosen for what they bring to the table. Judas thinks he’s Donald Trump. Not you. You came to me empty. And for that I love you. You are the Beatitudes. Forgiveness has turned to thankfulness and thankfulness to graciousness. You are the one who notices stuff and remembers things. I’m going to count on you to write it down for future generations.

Matthew: Write it down? Sure. You are my life (slowly standing). Can I get you a Coke?

Jesus: Yeah, a Coke.

Matthew: Do you think you could beat up Superman?

Jesus smiles.

Tr8: Forget the past. Jesus transforms us to serve others as he has served us. The greater the debt forgiven, the greater the gratitude. To whom much is given, much is required. (Also, quit asking for stuff, he likes it when you give him stuff, instead.)