27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 So, leaving everything behind, he got up and began to follow him. 29 Then Levi hosted a grand banquet for him at his house. Now there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others who were guests with them. 30 But the Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus replied to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Picture the scene. Jesus is out and about in Capernaum, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. He sees Levi, a tax collector sitting in his booth, and says “Follow me.” Luke records that Levi responded right then, leaving everything behind to follow Jesus. (This story is also recorded by Mark, and by Levi himself—whom we know by the name Matthew!)
Of course, we don’t know if this is the first encounter Levi had with Jesus, or if a relationship had already been established. Perhaps Levi had even collected taxes from Jesus in the past. What we do know is that Levi left a lucrative career to follow Jesus. If it had been me, I imagine I would have told Jesus to let me pray about it and to check back with me later!
Levi didn’t have second thoughts about his decision. He was “all in.” And to show it, he hosted a grand banquet for Jesus at his house. He also invited his friends and associates, perhaps so he could share with them his decision to follow Jesus and to introduce them to Jesus and the other disciples. Levi did not intend to keep his relationship with Jesus a secret.
We usually focus on the fact that Jesus and His disciples were eating with these tax collectors and sinners. We also notice how the Pharisees were bothered by this, asking the disciples why Jesus would associate with such people.
What we tend to overlook is that Levi was concerned enough about his friends that he made the effort to connect them with Jesus. Levi probably knew the Pharisees would have nothing to do with his friends. And most likely, Levi’s friends wouldn’t have felt comfortable with or enjoyed being around those who looked down on them. But Levi believed his friends would be able to relate to Jesus and that Jesus would accept them for who they were, warts and all.
So what about us? Do we try to create that bridge between our friends from church and our unchurched friends, or do we keep them separate? Are we concerned that our Christian friends will think less of us because of our friendships with others from work or our neighborhood? Or are we like the Pharisees ourselves and avoid those who don’t meet our standards?
Questions to Ask Yourself
- When was the last time you planned an activity that connected a few members of your LIFE Group with friends from your work or neighborhood?
- When you see or meet someone who is different from you, are you as accepting of them as Jesus would be?
- Do your unchurched friends know of your relationship with Jesus, or do you tend to keep it a secret?
Pray for Thom and Linda, retired global workers in our church family. Pray for those continuing gospel ministry in South Asia and for new work inspired by Thom and Linda. Pray for endurance, health, and wisdom as they have the blessing of parenting again later in life.