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, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 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?”
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
~ Luke 5:27 - 32
It was going to be another normal day at the office for Levi, a tax collector who would find ways to make life difficult for people living in his community. The life of a tax collector in the days of Jesus was known as someone who was corrupt, made unfair decisions, and needed to be changed. In modern standards, I don't think we have to look too far to get an idea of what this role was like. There still exists people who are like this today.
But what was it that day that Levi went to work that when he met Jesus he simply walked away?
As Levi's feet hit the floor that morning, did he wipe the sleep from his eyes, and scratch his head? Did he know that his life was about to change?
Pulling on his tunic and adjusting his clothing, grabbing a piece of bread, did he feel something inside as he took the last bite before walking out the door of his home? Walking the dirt path that he had for some time, each day, going to the place where he would find ways to collect money for a foreign ruling government. Even he was a slave to a certain degree.
Did he see Jesus right away among the people that gathered around where he would sit each day, and when he did, what made him decide to immediately have him over for dinner, inviting others to come and meet the man who simply said, "follow me."
God has blessed my life with people that I simply enjoy being around. It doesn't matter if we are walking together on a path in the park, or at a place to eat that serves up some of our favorite foods. There are just some people that you just love having in your life. When you find these individuals, you then discover ways to do more together.
Jesus and Levi seemed to have that connection. And like so many people, when you really get to know the person, sometimes you even come up with names to call one another. Jesus begins calling Levi, "Matthew" and the rest is history for us.
Before Matthew emerges from the crowd of people that he once associated with, he invites them all together for a large party. Because he was a tax collector, that is what the majority of the guests do for a living. Of course, Jesus is told by those who already have their eye on him that what he is doing is wrong. They don't get it. Jesus is right where he needs to be, reminding them that what he is doing is just as important as a doctor visiting sick patients.
We still see that today.
Jesus and Matthew walk away together when it is all said and done. Sometimes I think that Levi had to become Matthew to help others see that he had changed. I'm sure that there were those who said, "Hey, isn't that Levi the tax collector?" as they point to Matthew. Matthew then had to correct them, but then gets to tell the story of how Jesus has changed, not just his name, but his life.
Inviting Jesus to walk with us each day is about inviting change. It's about helping those who are seeking a different life, and being the living Christ in the world today, while we all take on the name Christian.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2020
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.