Scripture Reading: Numbers 16:36-18:32 / Luke 5:17-32 / Psalm 37:10-20
We live in a messed up and sinful world today but this is the world Jesus came to save! We forget that we were part of this God rejecting world before the grace of God rescued us. It is somewhat easy to see the evils of society, the depth of rebellion and be filled with righteous indignation. We certainly are not to conform to this world and never compromise truth but we must not write the world off as hopeless and unreachable.
The Pharisees dedicated their entire lives to keeping the Law of Moses and the oral traditions. They became very legalistic and overburdened people with impossible demands and legalistic laws. The Pharisees propagated a message of religious zealousness whereas Jesus brought a message of relational redemption.
As Jesus was walking along the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, He saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his “IRS” booth. There was a heavy flow of commercial goods that went through the popular seaport of Capernaum and Levi was the appointed tax collector for the Roman government. Tax collectors were called “publicans”, sinners, renegades and traitors because of their unscrupulous ways and extortionist methods. They were considered to be on the lowest rung of the social ladder.
It was this Jewish tax collector named Levi or “Matthew” that Jesus said, “Follow me.” (Luke 5:27) Levi immediately “got up, left everything and followed Him. (vs.28) Levi was hated by both Romans and Jews but Jesus saw something in him that others did not see…his physical, emotional and spiritual desperation. The world saw him as materially rich with a big house and fine furnishings but Jesus saw him empty and spiritually bankrupt.
Levi was searching and abandoned everything to follow Jesus. The words of Christ offered more hope and peace than he ever before experienced in his life. His life was changed and he wanted all of his friends to meet Jesus so he invited them to a banquet and asked Jesus to attend. Christ gladly accepted Levi’s invitation and the Pharisees accused Jesus of being a friend of sinners. They asked the disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and “sinners”?” (vs.30)
Jesus responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (vs.31) Christ’s desire has not altered since 2000 years ago…to reach the lost with the message of repentance and salvation. Interestingly the name Matthew means “Gift of God”. This gift of God who once was a hated tax collector became a disciple of Jesus and was now an extension of God’s grace, love and mercy! How many tax collectors, renegades, cheats, empty and spiritually bankrupt “Levi’s” do you know? Follow Christ’s example and reach them…whomever they may be and wherever they may be!