Following by Command
Tax collectors had a bad reputation. They took their pay as a sort of informal 'commission' from the tax-payers. Nobody knew quite how much they ought to pay, and everybody suspected that the revenue officers were corrupt. Their social stigma placed them with prostitutes as the most despised people in society. No religious leader would be seen in their company (Luke 18:11). But Jesus knew that He was their only hope, and so He ate and talked with them (Mark 2:16-17).
Levi, his name indicates that his parents were from the priestly tribe, had not lived up to their expectations. But Jesus knew this cheat and He summoned him to join the team of disciples. Instead of counting the money and securing his financial future, Levi left it all behind as he obeyed the command of Jesus. Although many people drifted in and out of the travelling group of supporters, most of them gave up except the twelve appointed disciples (John 6:66-71). Each of them had heard the command to leave their old way of life and join with Jesus; and they obeyed.
We know Levi better by his other name, Matthew. The man who used to write down the wrong numbers was called to be with Jesus, and learn His truthful character. As we know Matthew wrote a Gospel account – showing that Jesus is the King who rules over everything (Matthew 28:18) and issues His invitation to everybody to join in His banquet (Matthew 22:1-14). What a turned-around life. From crime to Christ, from self to service. A very unlikely journalist of truth.
Today, many are drifting in and out of churches. They think that it might be a good idea to experience religion, as though God awards points for trying to be good. Discipleship is not about following a crowd of friends into church but hearing the command of Jesus and obeying (Luke 11:28). Christian faith is not traditional rituals which we try to copy from others: it is a positive and personal reaction to Jesus - who is calling and commanding obedience. Inevitably that will involve leaving corruption behind, whatever the cost (Matthew 10:37-39). Christians are disciples by royal command, not personal preference. In John 15:16, Jesus said, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last ..." If you have heard His call to repent of sin and submit to His authority, have you obeyed? (Psalm 95:6-11). It is the only way to peace and purpose (Job 22:21).
© Dr Paul Adams