The Calling of Levi (part II)

We were watching Jesus call Levi, the tax collector, to be His disciple. Flip back to last week’s post for a refresher, if you need it. Otherwise, let’s keep going.

Matthew 9:9-13, Mark 2:13-17, Luke 5:27-32.

Jesus said to Levi, “Follow me,” and Levi followed Him (Matthew 9:9). The pattern was the same for Simon (a.k.a. Peter), Andrew, James, and John (Matthew 4:18-22).

Jesus Embraces the Messes

When Levi stepped out from behind his collection booth, I imagine Jesus put His arm around him and they had a little chat as Jesus steered him down the road away from the toll booth. When Jesus finally stopped, they were standing at Levi’s own gate. Jesus looked at Levi, looked at the house, expectantly looked at Levi again…until Levi invited Him in. Yes, and everyone else. “C’mon in, y’all!”

Jesus walked straight
in to Levi’s mess.

Don’t miss this. Jesus walked straight in to Levi’s mess. Levi had no chance to wipe up his bathroom or get the expired milk out of the fridge. He didn’t get to forewarn his friends about what kind of person Jesus was and how they should behave in response. He didn’t make Jesus wait outside while he got his affairs in order. No, Jesus walked right into the house, embracing it and everyone in it!

We want to give Jesus
the impressive, pre-packaged
parts, but He want our
whole lives.

In the same way, we don’t get to choose what parts of our lives welcome Jesus. He walks in to all of it—the straight and the messy, the tear-stained and the laugh-creased, the half-worked jigsaw puzzle still out from Christmas and the brand new shoes you bought on sale after Christmas. We want to give him the good parts, the impressive pre-packaged parts, but He wants it all. Let him be the good friend who doesn’t care that your trash is overflowing and who thinks your one weird friend is delightfully quirky.

Jesus Embraces the Masses

Back in Capernaum that night, Levi threw a big banquet. He invited everyone in town who would still talk to him. That wasn’t exactly the cream of the crop. There were other tax collectors. There were probably some known criminals, some prostitutes, and some people who just didn’t fit the established protocol.

The Pharisees didn’t approve of what they saw. They stood outside with their noses in the air and grumbled among themselves. Finally, someone grabbed one of Jesus’ other followers as he walked by. (Maybe the follower was coming back from the bathroom. Only outhouses in those days, you know.)  If he’d been speaking today, he might have said, “What is that leader of yours thinking? Why are you all eating with these filthy people? You know, they don’t have any worthwhile connections. If Jesus is really planning to start a global movement, he’s off on the wrong foot. This is a terrible place to network.” (For what he actually said, click here.)

Why did Jesus eat with
tax collectors and sinners?

The Pharisees thought they could do it on their own. They didn’t think they needed a backwoods itinerant preacher to show them the way to Heaven. The people in Levi’s house, however, were all too aware of their frightful failings. Jesus ate with them because they were Levi’s people, because they knew they needed saving, and perhaps because they were frustrated with a religious system that categorically excluded them.

Jesus phrased it like this,

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.  -Mark 2:17

Where are you spending your time? (This really convicts me.) Are you playing it safe, keeping clean and rubbing shoulders only with other clean freaks? Do you think only Jesus can manage a life among “tax collectors and sinners”? Or do you think He was setting an example for us when he sat down to eat there? I think He gave us an example here and elsewhere. Are you embracing the messiness of real life outside our Christian bubbles? Are you friends with people who don’t follow all the religious laws and don’t know the standard order of worship in our American churches? This is an area of the Christ-Life in which I know I really need to grow.

Bad Networking or Good News-Bearing? Two perspectives on a New Testament party. (click to tweet)

There are so many spiritual applications here. I’ve hardly scratched the surface. What moment in this story sticks in your mind, convicting or encouraging you right now? How is God applying His Word to your life through my imagery? I’d love to hear about it in the comments

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