Richard Whitaker- Discipleship and Connections Pastor LHBC

Luke 5:27-32
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”  English Standard Version. (Lk 5:27–32). 

As followers of Jesus, seeking to pattern our lives after his, can we observe our King walking down the road leading out of Capernaum? We don’t learn much about the pace Jesus kept, whether he spoke a lot with his friends, or the nature of his conversations while walking. What we discover about Jesus in this text and many others reveals the loving nature of his vision.  

Fellow followers, let us observe that Jesus’ searching eyes most frequently fell on people who were despised, rejected, and maligned.  He saw the most isolated, spiritually needy people in society and gave them his attention.  One such person was Levi, sitting in the tax collector’s booth on the outskirts of Capernaum.

Jesus preached, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3).   I am quite sure that when Levi began his day that he did not expect the kingdom of God to come in his life, but that was about to change as he saw the crowd approaching and found himself in the gaze of Jesus.   

Not one for small talk, Jesus offers Levi a simple, but costly invitation – “Follow me.”  “Follow me” is a command to give up one’s life in exclusive service to Jesus and His kingdom (See Luke 9:23).  For Levi, following Jesus involved an all-or-nothing choice.  Because, unlike the disciples who could go back to fishing for their livelihood, there was no going back to service as a tax collector after quitting.

Wholehearted in his response,  Levi transferred ownership of his life to Jesus, choosing the riches of God’s kingdom and the value of people over job security and service to self.  By leaving everything, Levi knew that he gained everything to the glory and praise of Jesus.  In celebration, he prepared a massive feast for Jesus and invited all of his tax collector friends and associates.   

Hosting this reception signaled full acceptance of all who entered the house, disturbing the self-righteous onlookers.  A party-with-sinners way of living did not sit well with religious people because such overt acceptance and close proximity was a violation of their contrived religious traditions. 

In light of this example, we might ask ourselves, “When do we next plan to eat with _____________________?”   

Our neighbors will believe that we love them when they trust that we like them.  Sharing a meal is one way to say, “We like you, accept you, and want to know you.”  Jesus’ full acceptance of Levi instantly changed his life.   

It has often been said that God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called and such is the case with Levi.  Also known as Matthew, we have an entire gospel account written by Levi – a tax collector who celebrated Jesus by hosting a dinner for outcasts. 

Maybe you’re feeling a little like Levi.   Do you feel like your life has been sidetracked by past choices and present circumstances?  The eyes of Jesus look past all of our sin to our hearts.  Your potential is not based on what you can do for God, potential is based on what God can do through your yielded heart.  We open the door to these promises, just like Levi, when we leave everything behind to follow Jesus.

Levi’s response is not unique to a special kind of spiritual person.  The same invitation that Jesus offered to Levi is ours today.  That invitation is to leave everything to follow Jesus, making his kingdom plans our daily agenda by the grace that God supplies.  Just as there was no way for Levi to remain part tax collector, there is no way for us to halfway follow Jesus.

Let us follow Jesus with our whole hearts by transferring ownership of our lives to our King while taking certain steps to offer full acceptance to our neighbors, coworkers, and friends.  

Can you Imagine Jesus meeting Levi/Matthew in heaven and the conversation they had.  I wonder if they talked about that day when Jesus saw Levi at the tax booth.  It might sound something like this, “Jesus, that day you saw me at the tax booth changed by life.  Yes Levi, I remember seeing you and how you responded so quickly.  Yes Lord, I left everything that day, but then I gained everything!

Lord Jesus, I am glad that your eyes fell on me when I was corrupted by sin and shame.  Thank you for calling me to follow you out of darkness and into the light of your love and presence.  Like Levi, I leave everything to follow you.  Teach me how to take steps of faith that bring heaven’s full acceptance to the people you have placed around me.  In this way, I know that I will be following your example and loving my neighbors as myself to the glory of your name.  Amen.

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.