Summary: In the call of Levi we learn how Jesus saves sinners.
Luke wrote his Gospel so that we would know that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. In the early chapters of his Gospel, Luke showed Jesus seeking and saving those with physical ailments. In today’s narrative, however, Luke showed Jesus taking the initiative to reach a sinner who was a social outcast.
Let’s read about Jesus calling Levi in Luke 5:27-29:
27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. (Luke 5:27-29)
Do you remember when you got together with a whole bunch of friends to play a pick-up game of soccer or basketball or softball or whatever? First, two people stepped forward to be the leader of each team. Then, they would each take turns picking a player from the rest of the group. If you were not one of the leaders, you hoped that you would be one of the first ones picked. But, if you were not one of the first ones picked, you dreaded being one of the last ones chosen.
You remember how it went as most of the players were selected, and you and a handful were the only ones remaining. You knew that you were not very good and that you were not really wanted by either leader. You were probably viewed as a liability. In fact, sometimes the leaders would argue over the person they did not want on the team!
“If I take him, you have to take her,” one leader would say.
“No!” the other leader would say, “Two of them are not nearly as good as she is.”
And so on it would go until everyone was finally selected.
If you have ever been in that situation, you know how awful it felt not to be wanted.
When Jesus selected people to be on his team, as it were, he did not choose only the best people. In fact, the Gospel writers, and Luke especially, point out how often Jesus chose the ones that no one else wanted. Jesus often chose the outcast, the marginalized, the ostracized, the shunned, the disliked, and the spurned to be on his team.
The account of Jesus calling Levi is a wonderful example of what happens when Jesus chooses a sinner to follow him.
The analysis of the call of Levi as set forth in Luke 5:27-29 will teach us how Jesus saves sinners.
The call of Levi shows us the doctrine of:
1. Election (5:27a)
2. Effectual Calling (5:27b-28)
3. Repentance (5:28)
4. Faith (5:28)
5. Worship (5:29a)
6. Evangelism (5:29b)
I. The Call of Levi Shows Us the Doctrine of Election (5:27a)
First, the call of Levi shows us the doctrine of election.
Jesus was in the region of Galilee where he was preaching, performing miracles, and forgiving sins. After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth (5:27a).
Of all the people in Israel tax collectors were among the most hated. At that time the country of Israel was subject to the Romans. The Romans employed Jews to collect taxes for them, and so tax collectors were regarded as traitors.
The taxation system lent itself to abuse. The Roman custom had been to farm out the collection of taxes. They assessed a district at a certain figure and then sold the right to collect that figure to the highest bidder. As long as the buyer handed over the assessed figure at the end of the year he was entitled to retain whatever else he could extract from the people. And since there were no newspapers, radio or television, and no way of making public announcements that would reach everyone, the ordinary people had no real idea of what they had to pay.
There were two types of taxes. First, there were stated taxes. There was a poll tax, which all men between the age of fourteen and sixty-five, and all women between the age of twelve and sixty-five, had to pay simply for the privilege of existing. There was a ground tax, which consisted of one-tenth of all grain grown, and one-fifth of wine and oil. This could be paid in kind or commuted into money. There was income tax, which was one per cent of a person’s income. In these taxes there was not a great deal of room for extortion.
Second, there were all kinds of duties. A tax was payable for using the main roads, the harbors, and the markets. A tax was payable on a cart, on each wheel of it, and on the animal which pulled it. There was a purchase tax on certain articles, and there were import and export duties. A tax collector could order a man to stop on the road, unpack his bundles and charge him what he liked. If the man could not pay, sometimes the tax collector would offer to lend him money at an exorbitant rate of interest and so get him further into his clutches.