September 19 - Luke 5:27-31

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Luke 5:27-31 – The Call of Levi

Something is beginning to happen in the world – a shift is occurring and Luke makes sure that we take notice.

John the Baptist came as a Jewish prophet to preach repentance to his people. Jesus arrived on the scene with an extremely Jewish background, blessed in the temple and he opened his ministry by reading from the scroll of Isaiah. He has spent his childhood and the first days of his ministry identifying with the people of Israel, the chosen ones.

Matthew is a Jew, but he is one of the least of the Jews. As a tax collector he is scorned and is a sinner. As a tax collector, he isn’t necessarily employed by the government. This is a business for him. As the tax man for the region, he liberally collects whatever he wishes to charge and then turns over, not a percentage – but a set amount, to Herod in Galilee or the Roman government in Judea and Samaria. These men exploited their neighbors and could freely charge a tax on anything they dreamed up.

Luke 5:27 tells us that Jesus went out and he ‘saw’ Levi (Matthew). The word that is used here actually means gaze. Jesus gazed upon Matthew intently and thoughtfully. When Matthew looked into Jesus’ eyes, he didn't find anger, but grace. All Jesus had to do was say “Follow Me” and Matthew left everything where it was … the tax booth was filled with his receipts and his money … and followed Jesus.

Just like the Israelites in the desert following the Exodus, the Pharisees are so afraid of anything new and different that they grumble. God is not allowed to change their world. Traditions are much more important than transformation. Luke makes this distinction with their words.

Then, Jesus responds to them. Their righteousness is nothing more than self-righteousness. Everyone needs healing, everyone is a sinner. His task is to heal the sinner and return the world to health and wholeness. The Pharisees represent those whom Jesus came to save, but want nothing to do with what he offers. The sinners at Matthew's table represent the entirety of the world, those who respond to the grace and forgiveness coming from the Messiah.

The shift is happening. The important people in Israel are rejecting Jesus ... the lowly are finding new life.