CHAPTER 2: LEVI
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. 15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Leaving everything, Levi (also called Matthew) followed Jesus. He was a tax collector and would have been considered a traitor to the Jewish people for being a tax collector. Becoming a disciple of Jesus meant leaving his old life behind and embracing a new life with Jesus. That is always what it means to be a disciple. Levi left behind wealth, a job, a household, allegiances, and even opportunity to argue with fellow disciple Simon the Zealot. Life in Christ is a visit with the Great Physician for the ultimate cure.
Every time I see Jesus call a disciple, I think He meets them once and then calls them. That was NOT true with Peter, Andrew, James, and John, it seems, if we read all four Gospels. It does sort of seem that way with Nathanael and Levi. Had Jesus met Levi before? Was Levi the one who always collected Jesus’ taxes and Jesus had formed a relationship with him? Did Jesus just walk up and Levi left everything to follow Him?
Victory for Jesus in His ministry was getting the attention of people who were sick with sin and offering them forgiveness and salvation. That is not the end of it, but also a lifetime of discipleship after the saving. Jesus called Levi, lifted him out of sin, and then instructed him for three years on how to be a follower of His teachings. Repent, turn to God, change your life, follow Him. That is the way it goes.
It means “follower.” It means “one who learns what Jesus teaches and then practices that in their lives.” It is lifelong. It can be recanted. It is all consuming. It is not easy. It brings hardship. It brings blessing. It is entered by the water and the Spirit. It is not genetic or inherited, but a personal choice. It is personal, but not private. What is? Discipleship.