Summary: Jesus loves the outcast and calls them into redemption, and so should we.
Apprenticing Under The Master
The Calling of Levi
I don’t think that tax collectors have an equal today in Canada in terms of how people in Judea felt about them.
Hate would be too weak a word. Even today, tax collectors are not well-loved in the best of situations! But these guys were given carte blanch by the rulers to get as much money from the people as they could with only the official portion going to the government. It was sanctioned corruption. This would be bad enough except that the government that they were collecting taxes for was the occupying forces of Rome. They were collaborators with the pagans that were controlling God’s promised land. They were traitors. They would be first against the wall in the revolution.
Levi (Matthew) was a tax collector.
13Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. "Follow me," Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
15While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and "sinners" were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and ’sinners’?"
17On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Apprenticing under the Master.
How does Jesus treat this outcast, this corrupt traitor to God’s people?
He loves him – he calls him out of his destructive lifestyle, and comes to eat at his house!
Jesus Love is Unconditional
You might wonder what was going through the mind of the disciples as Jesus walked toward the tax-collecting booth. “Is this it? Is this the beginning of the revolution, is he going to turn over the table, rip down the booth & beat this guy up? … That’d be good.”
“maybe he is going to call that wicked man to true repentance, I hope he’ll let him know how low he really is!”
Jesus doesn’t list all that Levi had done wrong in his life – he doesn’t make sure that Levi has “a good understanding of his need for salvation.”
He simply says, “Follow me.” And Levi does!
Jesus invites him to join this little group of His – the group that would include Simon the Zealot. The Zealots were the resistance movement against Rome. It would be like having Ossama Bin Ladden & George Bush in the same Bible study group.
Jesus invites them both to follow him.
Matthew decides to have a party to celebrate his new life & he invites his best friends to come and celebrate with him. – the mayor, the high priest, the principal of the local school, president of the Synagogue – not. He invites more tax collectors and the people who had nothing to loose by hanging out with tax collectors – the lowest of the low.
Jesus and the boys join him – The Pharisees see what’s going on and say, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and ’sinners’?"
We sing that Jesus is the friend of sinners, but he was originally called that by the Pharisees as an insult.
But Jesus says to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ came into the world to save sinners” – 1 Timothy 15
This is the radical thing about God’s love – he doesn’t love us because we are good – he just loves us. I is not that we were having this great love affair with God and he sent his son to life and die for us because we loved him so well – God sent his son while we were in rebellion against him! He loves us whether we are good or bad.
“Long lay the world in sin and darkness pining, ‘til he appeared and the soul felt its worth” – O Holy Night
We are loved by God no matter our history
If The calling of Levi teaches us nothing else, it teaches us that you cannot not go so low that Gods hand is to short to lovingly rescue you. If Jesus could show love to Levi & his friends, there is nothing that you could have done or that was done to you that can keep him from loving you.