Tax collectors were despised by the general Jewish population. They were outcasts from Jewish religious life. Levi/Matthew was in the tax booth when Jesus came by. He may have been a sub-contractor - an extortioner. He may have been the supervisor. Some facts in the passage lead me to think he was wealthy:
- he left everything when called to follow Jesus - signifying he had possessions to leave (28)
- he threw a big reception (29)
- his reception hosted a great crowd of tax collectors and sinners (29)
And there's another thought - Levi KNEW he was a sinner; this was revealed to Peter when he met Jesus. Jesus calls both those who KNOW they are sinners, as well as those who think they're doing pretty good, and He lovingly transforms both into His image.
Jesus says, "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." (32) Jesus calls sinners to a change of mind and a change of heart. Most Pharisees saw no need for either. Many today see no need of either.
Jesus called Levi, the tax collector, the despised sinner to leave his wealth and follow Him. He called him to repentance.
I observe again this call to follow once again:
- He calls to relationship
- He calls to repentance
- He requires a radical commitment from me; because He has made a radical commitment to me
- He will transform my heart and mind
- He will change the way I am subsequently viewed by others
Levi - the hated tax collector, excluded from Jewish religious circles - becomes Matthew and enters into the Messiah's inner circle.
Matthew - Rome's employee - writes the gospel of Matthew introducing Jesus to us as THE King and showing both Jesus and gentiles the way to the Kingdom of God.
Repentant following of Jesus will have radical consequences in my life.
We want our lives to matter, to count. We want to leave a legacy. We want to do something great.
Jesus calls us to follow Him.
Living all of life before the face of God...