Do we know well the life of the apostle Matthew?
Of course, every Orthodox read the Gospel, written by this apostle from twelve. The most advanced will remember that this is the only of the four Gospels, written not in Greek but in Hebrew; True, the Hebrew original did not reach us.
From the very book, we learn that before calling for the apostolic ministry, Matthew was a tax collector, a tax collector, that is, a man highly despised in Israel’s profession. Tax inspectors at all times disliked, and even more so in Palestine.
What kind of a Jew would like to part with blood money with joy? But tax collectors did not pay much in the time of the Saviour. Because they voluntarily went to work for the Roman occupation power. And they did not take a tribute, respectively, for the prosperity of their native country, but for the benefit of all the same Roman conquerors. Therefore, they despised them as, for example, the traitor-policemen who served the Germans in the occupied territories.
Rebirth of the wicked
But there are facts in the biography of the apostle Matthew the publican that are truly amazing. Let us recall the episode as Christ, passing the dusty Palestinian road past the duty gathering place, looked at Matthew and told him only one short phrase: “Follow Me.”
And the despicable tax collector gave up everything and went after the Saviour. Apparently, in the gaze of this Man, he felt a force that he could not resist. A glance of this bright light illuminated all the dark and secret places of the publican’s soul. Matthew realized that everything that he lived, everything that he did and that he loved, no longer matters after the Galilean Teacher called him for Himself.
He not only distributed his property to the poor, but also compensated four times the damage to all those whom he had once offended by collecting taxes. It is known that tax collectors did not even offend themselves when collecting tribute. So did the other Evangelical tax collector, Zacchaeus, mercifully.
That is, we see that the future evangelist was a very prosperous person, he had something to lose. But something else is surprising. The zeal with which Matthew creates the fruits of repentance. He wants every one of his sins to be smoothed four times. You can imagine how a corrupt official from the Ministry of Taxes and Duties, or an unclean inspector of the traffic police, after a confession from a priest finds all those who have ever taken bribes from him, and returns money to them, and in fourfold – so say, for moral damage? The situation for our time is simply fantastic.
The flame flared so violently that the twelve idols placed around the place of execution of the apostle melted from the heat
Metamorphosis of Fulvian
Much more interesting can be found in the life of the apostle Matthew, including concerning his miraculous rebirth, but I would like to talk about the spiritual metamorphosis of another person. His name is inextricably linked with the holy evangelist. In one day, with the memory of the apostle Matthew, we honor another saint – Fulvian, the prince of Ethiopia, in the holy baptism of Matthew. Who was this Fulvian? It is known that, having bypassed the preaching of the Gospel to Judah, Syria, Media, Persia and Parthia, the apostle Matthew came to Ethiopia. This country was, naturally, pagan. The people were wild, the cannibalism flourished, that is, eating their own kind. And the evangelist of the word of God began preaching to these fanatics. The sermon was successful. The apostle built a temple and even placed his satellite of Plato in the bishops of this country. He healed the demon-possessed wife and son of the ruler of Ethiopia. But even this miracle did not save him from the wrath of the ruler of the country – that same Fulvian. This African prince did not want his subjects to accept another’s faith and ceased to bow to their own deities.
By attributing the miracles of Matthew to the effect of black magic, he ordered the execution of the preacher. The apostle was put face down, covered with brushwood, and a huge fire was built. Seeing that the flame, however, does not harm the saint, Fulvian ordered still to throw wood and pour resin on the fire. The flame flared so violently that twelve idols, which, apparently for ritual purposes, were placed around the place of execution, melted from the heat, and the ruler himself was scorched. The Ethiopian despot was frightened and begged the saint to stop the raging fire element. The flame began to fade, but Matthew himself went to the Lord. The prince seriously pondered and felt remorse for what he had done. He did not execute an ordinary man today. Fulvian realized that the higher powers favor this unusual prisoner. But his doubts were still troubling his soul. He ordered to enclose the body of the preacher in a heavy iron coffin and throw it into the abyss of the sea. If God, whom Matthew confessed, will keep his body in the water, how He saved him from the fire, Fulvian will believe in this One God. The same night the apostle Matthew appeared in a dream to his companion, Bishop Platon, and indicated the exact place where the sea would be thrown out by his coffin.
He was persecutor of the faith and murderer of the apostle – he became the continuer of his work and the preacher of Christ.
Plato with the clergy hurried there. Fulvian and his retinue fled ashore. The tormentor with tears asked forgiveness from St. Matthew. Bishop Platon baptized the ruler into the Christian faith. The Lord Himself put in his heart the idea of baptizing an Ethiopian named Matthew. So recently executed prisoner prince became his heavenly patron. Soon the newly baptized Matthew abdicated and was ordained a priest. When the first Ethiopian bishop, Plato died, Fulvian-Matthew was approached by his heavenly patron and ordered the head of the widowed pulpit. The former ruler of the country took over the management of the Ethiopian Church and worked hard to preach and affirm the faith of Christ.
This is how it happened: he was Saul – he became Paul. He was the leader of the bloodthirsty savages, persecutor of faith and the murderer of the apostle – became the continuer of his work and almost an apostolic preacher.
So, who to say people cannot change? One day you can only care to win real money online to spend them for drugs and easy women. Next day you can find God and donate all your earnings to the poor. No matter how big of a sin it is (and nothing bigger than murder), you can turn your life around. Just let the God show you the light.