Summary: A study of the Gospel of Mark chapter 2 verses 13 through 17
Mark 2: 13 – 17
Job Opportunity -Only Sinners, Need Apply
13 Then He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. 14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. 15 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. 16 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?” 17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Do you know people who at one time was a zealot in their life for Jesus Christ and then something happened? Something serious enough occurred in their life that broke their spirit and they to a large degree stopped following our Lord Jesus. In fact some of the people that I know not only stopped following our Lord but they became ardent in their beliefs and their actions to do everything possible to fight Christianity. Does any of these words hit home?
Levi, called Matthew, was a disciple of Jesus and the writer of the first gospel. He was the son of Alpheus. Matthew was originally named Levi, Jesus changed his name to Matthew, which means in Hebrew 'the gift of Yahweh.' He was a native of Galilee and engaged in the town of Capernaum as a publican or tax-gatherer for Herod Antipas.
The name Levi gives the clue that he was a priest or Levite. If you remember back in the book of Numbers we read that this tribe was selected by our Adoni Yahweh to be His servants on behalf of all the Israelites. They were to work in the Temple. Chapter 1 tells us this, “47 But the Levites were not numbered among them by their fathers’ tribe; 48 for the LORD had spoken to Moses, saying: 49 “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, nor take a census of them among the children of Israel; 50 but you shall appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the Testimony, over all its furnishings, and over all things that belong to it; they shall carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they shall attend to it and camp around the tabernacle. 51 And when the tabernacle is to go forward, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall set it up. The outsider who comes near shall be put to death. 52 The children of Israel shall pitch their tents, everyone by his own camp, everyone by his own standard, according to their armies; 53 but the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the Testimony, that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the children of Israel; and the Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony.” 54 Thus the children of Israel did; according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so they did.”
So, we can deduce that something happened that caused Levi to walk away from his ordained position of serving the every living God. And you talk about the full extreme of walking away. He took on one of the most hated positions of the Jewish people – a tax gatherer.
As long as the taxes came in, the Roman government didn't ask questions as how the taxes were raised. As a collector, any rate could be charged so overcharging was the general rule, pay the government and pocket the profit. The tax-collector was the most hated man in the land. Matthew was the only disciple called publican. He collected the money for Herod at Capernaum. It was his job to tax the people and goods crossing the Sea of Galilee or passing along the great Damascus Road which ran by the shore. If a Jew could scarcely persuade himself that it was right to pay taxes, how much more heinous a crime must it have been in his eyes to collect them. If a publican was hated, how still more intense must have been the disgust entertained against a publican who was also Jewish?
Matthew would not have been able to serve as a judge or witness in court. His whole family would have been viewed as outcast and disgraced. The Jews had a proverb "Take not a wife out of the family where there is a publican, for they are all publicans."