Look at the painting closely. Click on the painting to enlarge it and better understand my take on this stirring piece of magnificent art.
To the far right is Peter (I’m told by those who really know this piece) who is pointing directly at Matthew. Notice Peter’s hand and the red long-sleeved garment. Immediately to the right of Peter — moving from right to left — is the back of Jesus’ head. You can’t see Jesus’ face directly, but he’s looking right at Matthew.
Peter, always the impetuous one, is showing Jesus exactly who Matthew is, as if Jesus needed any help. 🙂
Matthew, with the bushy beard, is right in the middle of the group of five people (four men and a boy) sitting around the table counting the money. Notice how Caravaggio has fashioned the light in the painting so that it beams directly on Matthew’s face.
Matthew’s left hand is directly over his chest. Look at Matthew’s index finger pointing to the two men directly to his right. Is Matthew assuming that Jesus must mean someone else? Surely it is not he who is being called by Jesus. Look again at Matthew’s face. He knows he is the very one Jesus is calling. Though pointing to someone else, Matthew is in fact looking right at Jesus. Matthew knows Jesus wants him and no one else.
The two men immediately on Matthew’s right (click on the painting again and you’ll see them better) are seemly unaware of Matthew’s divine appointment with Jesus, as they don’t even look up and continue greedily counting their proceeds from the day.
In the midst of selfishly taking advantage of people and hoarding money for himself, Jesus calls Matthew, and in effect says, "Stop. Leave the money and your profession and follow me." And, praise God, Matthew does.
Now friends, do you think Jesus wouldn’t call us, filthy sinners all? Well, we’d be wrong. Jesus calls those he loves — and that would be us. Indeed, he specializes in knowing and working with people who are selfish, sinful old dogs.
So take heart, tax collectors and other assorted sinners. Look up today and see if Jesus is calling.
Are you pointing to the next guy, or will you leave it all if Jesus calls?