The Twelve: Simon and Matthew

TITLE: The Twelve: Simon and Matthew
PREACHER: Mark Meeske
DATE: 23 FEBRUARY 2014 – Sunday AM at Bedfordview

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Bio: Matthew the tax collector

There is not much information we have on Matthew from reliable sources, outside of a few biblical references.

Name: Levi, then Matthew, after he was called to be a disciple
Marital Status: Unknown
Home town: Galilee
Profession: Tax collector (publican). The tax collectors were as a class, detested not only by the Jews, but by other nations also, both on account of their employment and of the harshness, greed, and deception, with which they did their job. They paid the taxes to the Roman authorities up front, and then extorted from the people way more than was due to them. Rightly so, they were especially despised by their own nation!

Age: 20-30 years old
Relatives: Son of Alpheus (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27)
Social status: A tax collector, despised by his own nation, the Jews, but had a standing amongst the Roman authorities because of his ill-gained wealth
Personality: Because of his profession as a tax collector, Matthew was probably an accurate record keeper and keen observer of people. In today’s terms he was a ‘bean counter’ with sly tendencies. But he became a Christ-follower!
General facts: Matthew left everything to follow Jesus, and threw a party to celebrate his new life. (Matthew 9:9-13)
Position amongst the 12: There are no mentions of Matthew in the Gospels outside of his call and on the list of Jesus’ disciples. But from Jesus choosing opposites on His team, a tax collector and zealot, we infer that there must have been a need to work out their relationships.

Ministry and death: Tradition has Matthew spreading the Gospel in Persia and Ethiopia. Unconfirmed historical sources disagree about Matthew’s martyrdom. One source has him stabbed to death somewhere in Ethiopia, while preaching the Gospel there.

Bio: Simon the zealot

There is even less information about Simon the zealot, except for his mention in the list of apostles.

Name: Simon the zealot
Marital Status: Unknown
Home town: he is referred to as Simon the zealot (Luke 6:15; Act1:13), or Simon the Canaanite (Matthew 10; Mark3:18). He probably stayed somewhere in Galilee, because the Zealot movement was based there.

Profession: Unknown, but he was a political activist, wanting to see Israel restored to its own rule. This obviously ceased after he was called by Jesus.
Age: Upper teens or lower twenties
Relatives: None mentioned.
Social status: According to traditional accounts and drawing inference from his name, we believe he was probably a member of the Zealot sect which was alive in Galilee and Judea around the time of Christ. The Zealots were a fanatical religious sect, very similar to the Pharisees (religiously conservative and literal) but absolutely radical in their opposition to Roman rule to the point of terrorism. Therefore, there was potential for conflict between him and Matthew! He probably initially had a fairly conservative and literal religious outlook, having been a member of the Zealots – Pharisaical in nature. He would have been a ‘Pharisee’ in his religious views before coming to follow Jesus.

Personality: Presumably radical and an extremist – zealous. His name, ‘Zealot’ possibly referred to both his personality and his membership in the Zealot sect.
General facts: We know nothing of Simon’s interaction with Jesus or the other disciples. We infer certain things, and rely heavily on inaccurate history!
Position amongst the 12: No significance. He is mentioned 11th in the Matthew and Mark lists of the apostles, and 10th in Luke and Acts. It’s not clear whether the order of these lists have any significance although they are very similar in all accounts.

Ministry and death: Initially in Jerusalem and then we have no sure Biblical account. Tradition puts him in various places, including having traveled north to reach the British Isles, in Egypt, in Asia Minor (Turkey), and in Persia. It is unlikely that any of these accounts are probable. There are no reliable accounts of his death. He possibly died in Pella, Armenia or Suanir, Persia or Edessa, Caistor or Babylon, Iraq. Probably martyred, possibly crucified.


We’ve put Simon and Matthew together because they couldn’t be more different. They were at opposite ends of the spectrum in their ideologies, value systems, and much more.

Matthew was a tax-collector and therefore worked for Rome, Simon was a zealot and therefore hated Rome. Matthew was hated by the Jews and Pharisees, Simon was loved by the Jews and Pharisees. Simon was a political freedom fighter (that’s what the zealots were) while Matthew was seen as a traitor – so much so that the words “tax-collector” and “sinner” were synonymous terms. Simon wouldn’t mind putting a dagger into someone’s back while Matthew was sneaky and underhanded.

So, knowing this, how could two men from such opposite dispositions and loyalties be found serving and working on the same team? In our modern day scenario, you could think of one being a hardcore socialist and the other a hardcore capitalist. How is it possible that they could work together? Read more