(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Our Pastor Matthew delivers a great sermon each Sunday. I take notes because there is hardly a single presentation from which I don’t learn something new! Most of the time I heartily agree with him. Last Sunday, his featured Scripture was Mark 2:13 through 17. There is only one point he made about which I would differ. It was a point that did not affect the sound preparation my pastor put into that sermon. But I thought that difference just might make for a good Gem subject.
Here is a shortened version of Mark 2:13 through 17:
...[Jesus] went out again by the sea [of Galilee], and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. And as He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and said to him, “Follow Me.” And he arose and followed Him. Now...as He was dining in Levi’s house...many tax collectors and sinners sat together with Jesus....And when the scribes and Pharisees saw...they said to His dis- ciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collec- tors and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
First, let me highlight what Pastor Matthew preached, some of which I hadn’t thought about before:
- Verse 13 (this point was new to me) – “…[Jesus] went out again by the sea [of Galilee], and all the multitude came to Him….” But not all the multitude was there! For Levi (also known as Matthew – see Matthew 9:9) was still “…sitting at the tax office.” (Matthew 2:14).
- This call of Levi took place in Capernaum (see Mark 2:1). Capernaum, located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, was the home of Peter and Andrew, and (apparenlty) James and John (see Mark 1:29), for “…they were partners with Simon [Peter]….” (Luke 5:10).
- Their partnership business was fishing, because the Sea of Galilee was a body of water full of fish!
✞ Mark 1:16 – “As [Jesus]...walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.” ✞ Mark 1:19 – “When He had gone a little further from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending their nets.”
- A tax collector was in the employ of the Jews’ hated overlords, the Romans! The tax collector himself was a Jewish man who had bought the office from Rome, which entitled him to collect taxes from his fellow Jews. But whatever he could collect (swindle) above and beyond the required Roman taxes, was his to keep!
✞ Many, if not most, tax collectors were wealthy. They had made their money at the expense of their fellow Jews! ✞ Consequently, tax collectors were classed with the worst of sinners, and hated by those they exploited! (see Mark 2:16; Luke 18:9-14).
- (This point was also new to me.) Most likely, there was a tax, a duty on the fish caught in the Sea of Galilee when they were brought to shore. So Levi (Matthew) had probably collected taxes from Peter and Andrew, and James’ and John’s father Zebedee, who ran the family business!
✞ Levi was probably initially despised by these four dis- ciples who were called by Jesus just before He called the tax collector to follow Him. ✞ Did the other disciples have to learn to forgive and accept Levi? Do we have to forgive and accept some people who have wronged us, but now are brothers and sisters in the Lord with us? What did Jesus say? ➔ Luke 17:3-4 – “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall for- give him.” ➔ John 13:34, 35 – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ✞ No wonder “...the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith...”! (Luke 17:5).
- Levi threw a big party at his house! Remember, as a tax collector He could afford it.
✞ The party was to honor Jesus, and to celebrate the new direction Levi’s life had just taken – following the Lord! ✞ Mark 2:15 – “...in Levi’s house...many tax collectors and sinners sat together with Jesus and His disciples....” ➔ Levi invited those with whom he regularly asso- ciated! ➔ Shouldn’t we do the same? “Hey, come and see what I have found – eternal life, full life in Jesus!”
Now, let’s get to the one point in my Pastor Matthew’s Sunday morning sermon on which I disagreed:
- He thinks the reason why Levi did not join the multitude to hear what Jesus was teaching, but sat in his tax office, was because Levi was totally taken up with his business of collecting taxes and making himself rich! He could not be bothered with distractions! That is a possibility, but…
- I believe Levi was so ostracized by his fellow Jews, he was not about to put himself in a position to be looked down upon and reviled as a terrible tax collector and sinner! I think he was deeply ashamed of his profession, and didn’t want to be reminded of who he had turned out to be!
- Then there is this in the Gospel of John:
✞ John 1:4 and 5 (Literal Translation of the Holy Bible) – “In Him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shines in the darkness, and the dark- ness did not overtake it.” ✞ John 3:19 and 20 – “...this is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”
But “…the light of the world…” (John 8:12; 9:5) came to Levi and called him, personally! And by responding to God’s call, the despised tax collector found light, life, cleansing, purpose, and direction! According to tradition, Levi ministered in Judea, then to Ethiopia (south of the Caspian Sea, not the country in Africa), Persia, Macedonia, and Syria. He may have been martyred in an eastern country, but that is more legend than fact.
What legacy did Levi give for Christians today?
- A wonderfully informative Gospel, the first book in the New Testament!
- The model of a faithful disciple of our Lord Jesus!
- An example of one who did not allow the negative perception of himself to deter him from finding light and new life in Christ!