Summary: Sermon on the call of Matthew Levi with emphasis on the characteristics of a soul winner as seen in both Jesus and Matthew.
An Effective Soul Winner Mark 2:13-20
INTRO.: These events occurred during the first year of the public ministry of Jesus. He is involved in a preaching tour of Galilee and has called His first four disciples, fishermen who make their living on the Sea of Galilee. He is near the port of Capernaum when He calls Matthew Levi, a publican charged with the responsibility of collecting taxes on imports and exports.
I doubt He and Levi were strangers. After all, Jesus was preaching and teaching in the area and Levi was in a place of public commerce where the gathering of a crowd might be natural. How could he help knowing about and hearing the Master?
It isn’t as surprising to see Levi, put his books and his lucrative position aside and follow Jesus as it might be if he were a complete stranger. The four fishermen did the same, but, again, they were already acquainted with Jesus.
Here is a great lesson on evangelism. We see two evangelists at work as a team. Jesus, the Master Evangelist, calls and uses Matthew Levi, a man anxious that his friends should know the Lord he now served. I want to suggest some principles essential to winning the lost:
I. First, let’s notice the kind of individual Jesus called into His service:
A. Matthew Levi was tax collector. An employee on commission of the hated Roman occupation government.
1. He was called a “publican” because, supposedly, he worked for the people, but most of the people hated him and his kind. They were classed with prostitutes, thieves, and other undesirables. No more popular, I guess than the leper Jesus cured in the previous chapter.
2. Many publican were crooks. Luke 3:12, 13 tells us some tax collectors were guilty of collecting more taxes than were due. Presumably, they kept the excess for their own use. Roman authorities protected them in this as long as they paid the Romans what was due.
3. The Rabbis held out no hope whatever for the publicans. They were excluded from all religious services. They were not accepted in proper society. They were not even considered truthful enough to appear as witnesses in court.
B. In order to be effective soul winners, we must see potential in every individual. Jesus knew Levi’s heart and was able to see potential in him.
1. There were probably a few honest Publicans and my guess would be Matthew was one of them. In none of the Gospels is there any record of any reparations being made or even offered as in the case of Zaccheus.
2. Whatever he may have been before, Matthew Levi became a leader among Jesus’ followers, a powerful influence in spreading the Gospel throughout the world, and an inspired biographer of Jesus. Only Jesus would have thought it.
3. Others would automatically see Matthew as worthless. Jesus knew the man’s heart, as He did all men. If God gives us an opportunity to speak a word for Him, we must assume it is worth doing. God knows the hearts of men.
4. ILLUS.: A preacher friend of mine was propositioned by a prostitute while making a visit on the wrong side of the tracks.” He talked to her about Jesus until she walked away. He came back a few days later and did the same. She seemed receptive and he kept coming back until one day she didn’t appear. We don’t know what difference he might have made in her life, but God knows.
5. Levi caught the same spirit from Jesus and immediately opened his home to a bunch of “unlikely prospects.”
II. Matthew gathered a group of his friends and co workers for a feast to honor Jesus. In this he fulfilled Jesus’ expectations in calling him.
A. The guest list was about what we would expect from a man like Matthew. After all, he would have trouble getting taxpayers to attend.
1. There were other tax collectors. Many of them were thieves and Matthew knew it. Jesus had not written him off because of his occupation. He wouldn’t write off his co workers.
2. There were other “sinners.” No doubt there were robbers, prostitutes, drunkards, etc. No doubt, he opened his door to all the street people. A large crowd gathered. Luke calls it a “great banquet.” 5:29
3. I guess the banquet was held in the open air, perhaps because Levi’s house was too small to accommodate it. A great crowd of noisy riffraff gathered around Jesus.
B. I say it was outside because the Pharisees “saw Him” eating with sinners and publicans:
1. The righteous men would never go into a tax collector’s house or associate with sinners. Pharisees were separatists of the worst kind.
2. But Jesus was not a separatist. It was no problem for Him to eat with them and not participate in their sins or share their philosophies. Nor did He fear the venom of His critics.