Summary: Jesus loves the nobodies of the world. And Levi was one of them. Detested, dishonest and despised Levi, Jesus loved him and welcomed him into the kingdom of God.
Then He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught (äéäÜóêù – to teach, impart instruction) them. As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office (tax station on trade route or place for port duties & fishing tolls). And He said to him, "Follow Me." (ἀêïëïõèÝù – to follow or become one of my disciples) So he arose and followed Him.
Now it happened, as He was dining (reclining @ festive meal w/ entertainment) in Levi's house, that many tax collectors (ôåëþíçò – tax collector) and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, "How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?"
When Jesus heard (Aorist Active Participle kept on hearing it) it, He said to them, "Those who are well (to be strong in body, to be robust, to be in sound health) have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance (to have a change of mind, heart & will)."
A Breathtaking Ministry
Introduction – The Call of an Outcast
Centuries ago a number of workmen were seen dragging a great marble block into the city of Florence, Italy. It had come from the famous marble quarries of Carrara, and was intended to be made into a statue of a great Old Testament prophet. But it contained imperfections, and when the great sculptor Donatello saw it, he refused it at once. So there it lay for years in the cathedral yard, a useless block. One day another sculptor caught sight of the flawed block. But as he examined it there rose on his mind something of immense beauty, and he resolved to sculpt it. For two years the artist worked feverishly on the work of art. Finally, on January 25, 1504, the greatest artists of the day assembled to see what he had made of the despised and rejected block. Among them were Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Pietro Perugino, the teacher of Raphael. As the veil dropped to the floor, the statue was met with a chorus of praise. It was a masterpiece! The succeeding centuries have confirmed that judgment. Michelangelo’s David is one of the greatest works of art the world has ever known. (Mark; R. Kent Hughes, p. 70)
I believe in Levi, Jesus saw more than a lowly, scum-sucking tax-collector! He saw beyond Levi’s flawed-life of cheating and manipulating others. He saw Matthew, a disciple who was a writer and evangelist! And Jesus still sees men, women, boys and girls with His consummate artist’s eye today!
Levi’s name means “Joined.” He did not keep the law but lived like a gentile. Later his name was changed to Matthew that meant “Gift of God.” Here was a man who went from a tax collector to a writer and evangelist of the gospel.
There are a couple of interesting things regarding Levi’s work. Levi was a ôåëþíçò ...one who collected taxes and tolls. There were two types of tax collectors-gabbai and mokhes. The gabbai collected general taxes, property, income and registration. There were two types of mokhes, great and small. The great mokhes hired others to collect for them and the small mokhes did it for themselves. Levi was a small mokhes. They were considered unclean and despised by all of the people.
A large crowd was following Jesus as He made His way to the Sea of Galilee. It was during this time that He called Levi to become a disciple.
THE CALL OF AN OUTCAST (13-14)
Levi was most definitely an outcast. No one, except the Roman government, liked tax assessors or collectors. There were four things notable about them.
First, Levi was considered Dishonest. Tax collectors were considered treacherous individuals. The job actually went to the highest bidder. They could then levy a tax to their liking. Much like our I.R.S., they were both feared and detested.
He was certainly Disliked. He could place a tax on a cart, the wheels on the cart and the ox pulling the cart. Fishermen had to pay a tax or toll on their catch for the day.
He was Disgraced. Because he derived his living off the backs of hard working people, he was considered a traitor. He could make loans to people with a high percentage rate. In a Baptist church, that would be like an active deacon having a son who owned a liquor store. The son would be looked down upon and the deacon himself would be suspect.