Summary: Jesus called an unlikely disciple named Levi, aka Matthew who would later pen the gospel that bears his name. He was a hated tax collector who ran with the riff-raff of society. But Jesus loved him too and had a place of service for someone such as him
#11 Who, Me? — Jesus Loves Tax Collectors and Sinners Too
Series: Gospel of Mark
March 1, 2020
NOTE: PowerPoint or ProPresenter presentations are available for this sermon by request at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please mention the title of the sermon and the Bible text to help me find the sermon in my archives.
A few illustrations and ideas adapted from David Dykes’ sermon on the same text.
TEXT: Turn in your Bibles to Mark 2:13-17 – “And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. 15 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? 17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Illus. – How would you feel if we put a sign outside our church that said, “Hookers Welcome?” What if Brother Terry went out early next Sunday morning here on Alte Amberger Str. and found 5 drunks and brought them to church? What would your response be if a gay couple came to church one Sunday morning?
In some congregations, the majority of members would stop going. Some feel that church is only for “good” people, and everyone else should stay away. In today’s text of the calling of Levi, we find a group of people who felt that way about a Levi and his friends. But Jesus didn’t feel that way.
Notice three things Jesus did in our text as we look at what happened…
I. NOTE FIRST OF ALL, THAT JESUS CALLS THE UNQUALIFIED – Verses 13-14 – “And he went out again by the sea, and all the multitude came to him, and he taught them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax-collector’s booth, and said unto him, ‘Follow me.’ And he arose and followed him.”
This passage begins with a common theme in Mark. He went out again by the sea, that is, to a deserted place outside the city. One reason we know He did this was to have solitary, quiet time with the Father.
But I suspect there was another reason that seems to be intimated in the text.
Because the paralyzed man failed to obey and not spread abroad his healing by Jesus, Jesus could no longer go into the cities for long because crowds of people came to Jesus only interested in a magic show. The Bible doesn’t say it specifically, but it seems to me that Jesus went outside of town to test the devotion of those who followed. Verse 13 says they went out by the sea and the multitudes came to him, and HE TAUGHT THEM. No miracles are mentioned. As we’ve seen, miracles had an important validation role of Jesus’ deity, but to Him, the message was always more important than the miracles.
Verse 14 introduces us to this man named Levi. Levi was a tax-collector. He was what we would call today an IRS agent.
If my neighbor were a tax-collector, I wouldn’t necessarily dislike him because of his profession; that was definitely NOT the case with tax-collectors in Jesus’ days. Tax-collectors were regarded as outcasts and traitors. People never knew just how much they had to pay in taxes, so tax-collectors extracted from their poor victims as much as they possibly could and anything above the actual tax that they received was used to line their pockets.
Worse yet, they were aligned with a despised regime. Levi may have been a Roman tax-collector and being aligned directly with the Roman government stigmatized him even more. Because Capernaum was on the frontier of the area controlled by Herold Antipas, more probably Levi collected taxes for Herod instead of directly for the Romans. But Herod was just a Roman puppet, and was almost as rapacious as the Romans, so the stigma as a tax-collector was just as bad.
On his way back to Capernaum, Jesus approached the tax booth where Levi was working. I can just imagine the people thinking, “Good for Him. He’s going to give that tax-collector a piece of His mind. He’s going to let him have it with both barrels.” But to everyone’s surprise, Jesus walked up and said two words, “Follow me.”