Saturday 02.16.2013 reflections on Luke 5: 27-32
Levi was a tax collector, or a tax agent; he was a Jew who worked for and with the Romans to collect the tolls or taxes that were demanded by the Romans, just to allow the Jews to do what they had always done. It was bad enough that the Jews were almost prisoners in their own sacred land, and that the Romans made them pay for it…but to have one of your own actually collecting the money…and keeping a hefty cut for himself…added insult to injury. It’s no real surprise that the tax collectors were nobody’s favorites…tax collectors and sinners were frequently mentioned in the same breath.
And Jesus calls Levi…Jesus calls Levi. And just like Peter, James, and John, when Jesus says “Follow me”, Levi leaves everything behind and follows him. Not only does he follow him and leave everything behind…he throws a party! He is so excited that Jesus called him that he throws a party. And who comes to the party? All of Levi’s friends who, no doubt, are a lot like him, and Jesus right there in the middle of it all, with his disciples…ministering to those who need him most.
“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners.” That’s what Jesus tells the Pharisees and their scribes. Sin is the disease that makes us all sick, and the physician can only heal us if we go to him and repent. Levi left everything behind and followed Jesus. What a powerful example of repentance that is! He surrendered everything that he had become because Jesus called him.
We also know Levi as Matthew, and tradition identifies him as Matthew the Evangelist. Jesus called a parasitic, blood-sucking opportunist and transformed him…transformed him…into one of the great writers of the Good News.