Summary: This is a Bible study on the calling of Levi
The Calling of a Tax Collector
Midweek Bible Study
August 27, 1997
This takes place during the first year of Jesus’ ministry, early in the Galilean campaign, and shortly after the calling of Peter, James and John. This is all that we can say with assurance.
No location is given but since Jesus was around the Sea of Galilee and the text does not record Him leaving that area; it is logical to assume that He is still in that area. Tax collectors did not have booths in small towns or villages and many of the towns in the general area were somewhat small. This would leave Capernaum as the most logical choice for the location of this event but it is not certain by this text where Jesus is during the event.
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. 29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and `sinners’?" 31 Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
I. The Calling
A. Jesus calls Levi
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him,
Jesus is continuing to call the first of His disciples and is adding to the early leadership of this group. Jesus calls a tax collector named Levi to be a part of the disciples. This is the Hebrew name for Matthew, he was the only tax collector among the early disciples. The act of calling a tax collector into the followers was seen as an act of insanity but Jesus saw the potential in Levi.
B. Levi follows Jesus
28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
Jesus calls this tax collector out of his booth to follow Him and Levi immediately leaves his booth and follows Jesus. Levi becomes one of the most central figures in early Christianity and one of the greatest early witnesses of Jesus Christ. His written account of the life of Jesus has been one of the cornerstones of the New Testament and he was saved from a life that would have surely destroyed him. Jesus saw the potential for greatness and change in Levi.
II. The Celebration
A. Levi celebrates with a banquet
29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house,
In response, Levi throws a large banquet for Jesus in his home and invites his friends to share in this new found joy. This was indeed cause for celebration and Levi knew it. Jesus went and dined with the most hated and despised people of His time. This was a true act of grace and love. Jesus cared more about Levi, as a person, than He did about some reputation He would gain from these acts. Jesus truly loved Levi and He showed it in calling Him and dining with him.
B. Levi’s guest list
and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.
The “sinners”: Jesus was eating with one of the most hated groups in all of Israel, tax collectors. These people were viewed as traitors against the Jewish people and they were treated as traitors. The tax collectors had pledged service to the Romans and often raised the taxes they collected to line their pockets. These people were hated! In the house there were tax collectors and sinners. This second group was most likely prostitutes, thieves, and drunkards. Jesus ate with them as well and showed His love to them. Those who deserve love the least need it the most!
III. The Challenge
A. The Pharisee’s raise their complaint
30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and `sinners’?"
Pharisees and teachers of the Law: This is one of the most powerful groups in all of Jewish society because they regulate the holiness of the people. This group would go and pass judgment on people without love or mercy and Jesus took them to task on it. The Pharisees and the teachers knew the Law and knew it well but they had no love to put it into action. So, they became rigid and regulated in their practice of religion. The Pharisees leveled the charge against Jesus for eating with these sinners because it would make Him unclean for ritual. This idea of being unclean was part of the Mosaic Law and kept the people away from those who were sinners. Jesus tears down this wall and sets a new balance because He goes to them and shares His love.