Posted by: gbake783 | May 3, 2011

Luke 5:27-32

Occasionally, when a celebrity accepts Jesus Christ as his Savior, evangelicalism bristles with anticipation over that individual’s potential to affect God’s Kingdom. And why not? What if a person of immense wealth, fame, or both used their talents, funds, and platform to exalt Christ? This is, of course, human thinking. Modernity has such little patience for faith – it simply marginalizes converted celebrities, or ignores them, whichever is most convenient.

We learn a valuable lesson from Jesus’ call of Levi. Levi is a Jewish man with a powerful job. He’s a tax-collector – despised by Jews, favored by the regime of Rome’s puppet ruler, Herod Antipas. Levi is likely no saint. Tax-collectors in those days were notorious thieves, extorting and blackmailing their way into the public’s pockets, which is illustrated in John the Baptist’s advice to tax-collectors who came to him for spiritual council, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do” (Luke 3:12-13). Tax-collectors stockpiled wealth on the backs of their compatriots, which, along with their antipathy for Pharisaic regulations, made them targets of derision and hatred. Not that the tax-collectors cared. Secure with lucrative jobs and the government’s ‘wink and nod’ backing, they toted bigger sticks.

Scripture does not reveal when exactly Levi accepted Christ’s gospel message. We know, however, that when Jesus called, Levi obeyed. Immediately. And unreservedly. He turned his back permanently on the financial security and influence his position afforded. He placed himself and his family in the Savior’s sovereign hands.

Levi loses his life in his Savior.

Immediately after his call, Levi demonstrates an evangelistic heart by inviting his now-former business associates to a lavish party with Jesus, his new Master, as the guest of honor. We learn that Levi later changes his name to Matthew – gift of God. Like the Apostle Paul, Matthew took a new name to symbolize his new life. And we’ve all read Matthew’s gospel. But if it weren’t for church history, we wouldn’t know it was Matthew who wrote it. He never refers to himself in the first person. Christ the King headlines his best seller – and Matthew doesn’t even put his own name on the dust jacket.

Levi the rich tax-collector becomes Matthew the anonymous servant of Christ.

What council would 21st Century American Christianity give Levi the newly converted tax-collector? Remain in your job? Maintain that influence for God’s Kingdom? Use your contacts to pursue change from within?

I wonder if Matthew recalled the day Christ called him when he wrote, “Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it. And whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39)?

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Responses

  1. […] Luke.  His abbreviated notes over Luke 5:27-32 (cf. Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17) can be read here.  Greg basically contrasts Levi’s post-salvation ministry with the excitement that is […]


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