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. -Luke 5:27-32, NIV
One of the most dreaded dates of the year is April 15. Every year, we are reminded that our money is not our own and that a lot of it belongs to Uncle Sam. While we may not like it when Uncle Sam takes our hard earn money, we don’t consider everyone who works for the IRS a sinner just because of their employer. However, during Jesus’ day, tax collectors were considered sinners of the worst kind.
In fact, the Pharisees and teachers of the law reminded everyone just how despised tax collectors were when Jesus decided to break bread with the tax collector Levi. Instead of being swayed by the ultra-religious leaders, Jesus simply turned the situation around in favor of the sinners by reminding the haters that the point of his appearance on earth was to help those sinners – the ones in need of healing and salvation. Gotta love the way Jesus handles bullies.
By this point in the narrative, Jesus had already been rejected by his own, had healed many sick, including Simon’s mother-in-law. He had also set many free from demons, including one man of Capernaum whom he healed on the Sabbath in the synagogue. It was clear that Jesus came for those who needed him.
One of the fascinating things about this story was how Levi responded to the invitation of Christ. Jesus simply said to him, “follow me.” Jesus did not promise Levi anything. He didn’t promise Levi increased wealth, more power, additional possessions, or anything really. Yet, without any hesitation or worry about his possessions, Levi took a chance on an unknown man from Nazareth whose reputation was suspect.
What made Levi say yes? Was it the previous things Jesus had done? Maybe Levi found comfort and a kindred spirit when Jesus said, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” What was it in those two words, “follow me,” that caused the tax collector to leave all his possessions to follow a man who didn’t have a dime to his name nor even a place to live? Whatever the reason, Levi saw something in Jesus that he needed more than what he had.
The question for us today is this, do we see enough in Christ to give up all we have to follow him? This is also not about trying to earn points with God by giving up our money or possessions. This is not about donating to charity or doing community service. It is also not about how active we are in church, how loud we sing on Sundays, or even how good we are to our neighbors. It’s about following Jesus in a way that transforms our lives.
Following Jesus is about transformation. To be honest, we can do all the above and never be transformed. Transformation is about the deeper thing. God is always after the more important thing – our heart.
Levi was so moved that he opened his home and his heart to Jesus. He never questioned Jesus, nor did he ask Jesus where they were going. He simply trusted Jesus with his heart. His heart was so impacted that he didn’t just keep Jesus to himself. He invited others into his home to receive the same blessing he had. A heart open to Jesus can’t help but bless others. An heart open to Jesus has a multiplying effect. Are we multiplying? Are we helping to transform the world by trusting God with our whole hearts?
Prompt for the Thought: How has God transformed your heart and life? How have you been sharing that with others? Think of something more than the usual – charity and church activity.
Prayer for the Journey: God, it’s so easy for us to take the easy or familiar route when it comes to following you. Today, we ask that you stir us up in such a way that the world knows that we belong to you. Help us to do something that we’ve never done in a way that helps transform the world around us. Remind us that we are the only hands, feet, and bodies that you have to bring healing to this world. Don’t let our fears and other human hang-ups cause us to keep you to ourselves. Help us to share our transformed hearts in a way that brings you glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.