In Mark 2:13-14, Mark records the further ministry of Jesus in communicating truth. Jesus had ‘preached the word’ (2:2) the gathered crowd inside a local residence, and now beside the lake, he ‘began to teach them.’ (2:13) Read through the gospels and note the preaching and teaching topics Jesus addressed e.g. the kingdom of God, repentance, prayer, hypocrisy, entrance requirements to the kingdom, showing mercy, justice… In contrast with the other ‘teachers of the day’ he demonstrated authority, masterfully wove the Old Testament (since these were the ‘Scriptures’ which were known and read) and brilliantly asked questions.
Mark summarizes this teaching ministry in just two sentences and then turns his attention to the calling of Levi. Parallel accounts in Matthew and Luke provide evidence that this was Matthew one of the Twelve who would later pen his own gospel.
Consider some of the details of the calling of this fifth disciple – fifth, because two sets of brothers (Simon and Andrew, James and John) were already on the pathway with their new Master.
#1 Jesus saw Levi. He was sitting at the tax collector’s booth, in a public place where the crowds would have their ‘opportunity’ to make another donation to the ‘beloved’ Roman Empire. Details of our lives, like those of Matthew, are fully known to our Master. As the LORD reminded Jeremiah, ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…’ The full acquaintance of God with us is both a comfort and a concern. It is comforting to know he understands and that no ‘surprises’ await His ears as we come to Him in prayer to address some of our issues. It is concerning, and rightfully so, that there are no ‘closets’ in our lives, no places to hide ‘secrets’ from His view.
#2 Jesus saw Levi sitting at the tax collector’s booth. Tax collectors had their ‘reputation.’ These were ‘jobs’ but jobs with the empire which had conquered. Anyone who would work for ‘them’ certainly could not be a devout follower of God’s way. Their potential pocketing of ‘extra’ fees (as witnessed in the testimony of Zacchaeus), may well have caused them to achieve a ’10’ on the most hated profession of the country.
#3 Jesus called Levi into a discipling relationship. Not ‘Follow Rome’ or ‘Follow the Pharisees’ or ‘Follow your heart’ but rather ‘Follow Me.’ Where was Jesus going? Who else would join them? What would following mean? Does anyone know fully upon the day of their regeneration/conversion exactly what lies ahead?
The call was compelling. ‘Levi got up and followed Him.’ Someone else would have to take his place at the tax collector’s booth. The decision may have seemed ‘rash’ to onlookers but the reward of his obedience is still being enjoyed by this early follower. That’s what discipleship implies, doesn’t it? Decisions, large and small, to follow, to imitate the Master, to ignore the other voices and hear His alone.
In our ‘Social Media’ world we follow all kinds of people. I wonder where they are leading us. As Christians, we are called to be Christ-followers. I wonder where He’ll lead us today?