Scripture:Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. (Mark 2:13-14)
Besides the call narratives of Peter and Andrew and James and John, there is the call of of Levi, a very short story about a tax collector invited to follow Jesus. The author of Matthew’s gospel alters the story he found in Mark’s gospel by omitting the detail of Jesus walking by the sea, changing the name of the tax collector from Levi to Matthew, and omitting his father’s name. The author of Luke’s gospel also omits the detail of Jesus walking by the sea, keeps his name as Levi, and adds that he left everything to follow Jesus.
Besides being a very short call story, the amazing note about the call of Levi (Matthew) is that he is a tax collector. At the time of Jesus, a tax collector was a Jew who worked for the Roman occupation forces in Palestine. The Romans didn’t care how the tax collector gathered the amount he had agreed to pay the occupiers, nor did they concern themselves with how much he gathered. The way the tax collector made his living was by raising the amount of the tax set by the Romans and pocketing the difference. There was nothing to keep a tax collector from making a lot of money off of his fellow Jews. Thus, from a Jewish perspective, a tax collector was a much despised man.
However, Jesus calls Levi (Matthew) to follow him, and a tax collector joins Jesus’s group of disciples. Jesus’s call of Levi (Matthew) illustrates a theme that runs through the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament): God’s choice is not always a human choice. God chose Moses, a murderer, but humans would not have picked him. God chose David, a shepherd boy, but not even his father, Jesse, would have chosen him. No one is worthy of God’s call, but that doesn’t keep God or Jesus from calling.
Journal/Meditation:In what ways are you like Levi (Matthew), unworthy of God’s call?
Prayer: You look into the heart, almighty God, whereas I see only with my eyes. Give me the ability to see what you see in that tax collector who follows your Son, Jesus Christ. He lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.. Amen.