“ONE TAX COLLECTOR” Luke 5:27-32
CWBC – 1/20/19
INTRO – God can save anybody. Do you believe that? If we were honest, we would have to say that sometimes we have a hard time believing certain people can be saved. Heard a story just this past week of a guy who had been arrested for domestic violence when he got drunk & pistol-whipped his wife. Talked to a pastor about it. Pastor asked him if he realized that every time he got in trouble w/ the law, it was when he was drunk. Pastor counseled him some more & led him to give his life to Jesus. God has worked out some amazing things in his life, even to the point of a judge expunging his record. Just last week, the pistol-whipping drunk wife beater has asked another Christian man to begin discipling him.
EXPLANATION – Open your Bibles or your Bible app to Luke 5:27-32 (page 861 in pew Bible).
We are continuing w/ our “Who’s Your 1?” series, & in this passage, we find Jesus again interacting w/ an individual.
- 2 weeks ago – 1 leper
- Last week – 1 paralyzed friend
- Today – 1 tax collector
Luke’s account of the calling of Levi is the same as Matthew’s account of the calling of Matthew (Matt. 9:9), the tax collector. Mark also wrote about this event in Mark & used the name Levi. All of the lists of disciples in the Gospels & in the book of Acts have Matthew listed. So, it may be that Matthew had 2 names as was common w/ first-century Jews. Or Jesus may have changed his name from Levi to Matthew once he called him to be His disciple, like He changed Peter’s name. Either way, Levi & Matthew are the same person – a Jewish tax collector. And this 1 tax collector had a life-changing encounter w/ Jesus.
Tax collectors were not liked at all in NT times (not that they are today either!). These were Jewish men would collect tax money for the Roman government. There’s another well-known tax collector who had an encounter w/ Jesus – a vertically challenged man named Zacchaeus (Luke 19).
Since the tax rates were not always clear, a dishonest tax collector could & would collect more money than necessary & pocket the extra income. The Roman gov’t didn’t care just as long as they got their tax money. There’s no direct indication that Matthew was dishonest or crooked, but he would still be viewed in a very negative light b/c he associated with & worked for the Romans. Considered a collaborator w/ the enemy – a traitor to his own people. This is the 1 tax collector who met Jesus this day. It’s a beautiful story of life change!
APPLICATION – You know when someone tells you something that is just hard to believe, you ask questions to get clarification. That’s what I want us to do as we look at this passage today, b/c from the perspective of those who were eyewitnesses to what transpired here, it was pretty hard to believe.
“HE SAVED WHO?” – I’m sure there were some people there that day who asked this question. “He saved who?” “Does He know who Levi is? Does He know what Levi does?” It’s true. Jesus saved Levi/Matthew – the disliked, traitor tax collector, who may have been a horrible man, dishonest, a cheating crook, a thief, an extortionist, a jerk & a punk! When Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow me,” it was a call to salvation, not a call to some deeper level of commitment or a rededication decision. It was the call to turn away from his life of sin & turn his life over the Jesus Christ as his Savior & Lord.
Truth of the matter is that EVERY person who gets saved is a traitor, a thief, & a jerk who is worthy of nothing else except hell. Even the cutest little kid who gets saved at Bible School & does a cannonball into the baptistery is still an evil, sinful enemy of God who deserves to go to hell. We tend to rank the badness of people before they get saved. Those who were, in OUR opinion, “really bad sinners” have a better testimony than those who, in OUR opinion, weren’t all that bad, but were nice folks who grew up in the church & their salvation is just the natural next step in their lives.
- The clean-cut straight-A student who will get saved next month at our DNow is just as lost as the murderer who guns someone down in cold blood in inner city Jackson.
- The wonderful wife who loves her husband & kids & accepts Christ here on a Sunday morning is just as lost as the lesbian who is married to another woman & they’ve adopted a child.
- The hard-working business owner who will be led to Christ by a compassionate coworker is just as lost as the sex trafficker who is selling children to the highest bidder.
If we are going to win anyone to Jesus this year as we focus on “Who’s Your 1?”, we’ve got to stop focusing on their outward behavior, appearance, skin color, or lifestyle, & start seeing them as Jesus sees them – a lost sinner who needs the gift of eternal life that ONLY He can give them – the gift of eternal life that you & I are called to tell them about.
- The people in Levi’s world may have seen him as a turncoat snake in the grass. But Jesus saw him as a needy, broken person who needed His salvation.
- The people saw Levi & hated him. Jesus saw him & loved him.
“HE DID WHAT?” – First question: “He saved WHO?” Levi, the crooked rat tax collector.
Then, when the people saw what Jesus did next, they surely asked incredulously, “He did WHAT?” You see, not only did Jesus save Levi, but Jesus wanted to hang out w/ Levi & his friends. How do you spell “love”? T.I.M.E. When you love someone, you want to spend time w/ them. And Jesus wanted to spend time w/ his new disciple. And Levi wanted to spend time w/ Jesus. So he threw a party & invited over some of his rowdy friends. His life had been changed & he rightfully wanted to celebrate. And just like Jesus loved Levi, He loved Levi’s friends. And that love is what compels us to keep going to lead our “1” person to Christ this year as Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 5:14-15 - 14 For the love of Christ compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If one died for all, then all died. 15 And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised.
Charles Roesel – former pastor, FBC, Leesburg, FL – wrote book It’s a God Thing. “We cannot reach a world until our love includes the people loved by God” (p. 40). Here are the people we must love:
- Dirty people – “From the mire to the choir”
- Different people – Down Syndrome little girl
- Diseased people – AIDS, STDs, the “lepers”
- Deprived people – not just deprived of food & clothing & shelter, but emotionally deprived – no one cares about them
- Disappointing people – make wrong choices
- Difficult people – “To dwell there above w/ those that we love, oh, that will be glory. To live here below w/ those that we know, now that’s another story.”
“HE SAID THAT?” – First question: “He saved WHO?” Levi, the sinful traitor. Second question: “He did WHAT” He went to Levi’s house & partied w/ a bunch of Levi’s sinful friends. Last question: “He said THAT?” – Yep! He said it! “It’s not the healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick. I haven’t come to invite the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Warren Wiersbe: “The scribes and Pharisees saw Matthew and his friends as condemned sinners, but Jesus saw them as spiritually sick “patients” who needed the help of a physician. In fact, He had illustrated this when He cleansed the leper and healed the paralytic. Sin is like a disease: it starts in a small and hidden way; it grows secretly; it saps our strength; and if it is not cured, it kills. It is tragic when sickness kills the body, but it is even more tragic when sin condemns the soul to hell.”
CONCLUSION – Yesterday, God put Linda Hill in the right place at the right time for a divine appointment. Linda is a nurse who does BP checks & other health-related things at MB. She met Timothy yesterday at Mission Byram but instead of diagnosing his physical needs, she found out about his spiritual need for salvation & led him to give his life to Jesus. Don’t know his story, but, just like Levi, & just like you & me, he was 1 lost man who needed to be saved, & God used Linda to show him the way.