Psalms 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
When I read about the call of Levi to be an apostle, I find it easier to identify with him than with most of the other apostles. I am not a fisherman or a country person like most of the apostles. But, like Levi, I am a city person and most of my work is done sitting at a desk as was his. The call of Levi the tax collector shows us once again that our ways are not the Lord's ways. It seems to me that Levi was an unlikely choice to be an apostle. He didn't have much in common with the other apostles except Judas, who seems to have had previous experience handling money also. The other apostles were fishermen or earned their living by working the land. Levi was a city person. He lived in Capernaum, the big city of Galilee, and he had a sedentary job, sitting at his customs post. He was the equivalent of a modern day civil servant. He worked for the hated Romans and the taxes he collected were a symbol of Roman oppression. As a tax collector, he was resented by the Jews, and presumably by the other apostles prior to their being called by Jesus. His friends were other tax collectors and persons the Jews considered to be sinners. Yet Levi was called to be one of the twelve apostles.
More than most of the twelve, Levi's call to follow Jesus involved a complete and permanent break with his past. The others could and did on occasion return to their fishing or other occupations. Levi could never return to his job as a tax collector. The Romans would never have rehired him after he walked away from his job so suddenly. And as he followed Jesus he realized that he needed the good will of the crowds so that they would listen to his message about Jesus. As a tax collector, he would not be readily listened to.
After he began to follow Jesus, Levi gave a reception for Jesus. He wanted to have his friends meet Jesus, and he knew that most of them had not been among the crowds already following Jesus. Jesus went willingly to the reception with his apostles; but by going he scandalized the scribes and pharisees. They were scandalized that he was willing to mingle and eat with persons they considered sinners. Jesus knew that the pharisees had closed their hearts to him. So he gladly took the opportunity to meet with many people who wouldn't have been among the crowds that followed him around Galilee, and to tell them about himself.
Levi probably remained friendly with those at the reception and undoubtedly helped many of them to know and believe in Jesus. I think that Jesus teaches us two things here. First, he teaches us that he can see the good in each of us. The Jews looked at Levi and saw a sinner only; Jesus looked at Levi and saw a good man who would make a fine apostle. Second, Jesus here shows us once more that he didn't come to earth to save the saved but rather to bring sinners to repentance and a change of heart. He came to me and to you and to all who read about the call of Levi. Levi, or Matthew as he calls himself, gave us a great gift. He is responsible for the gospel according to Matthew, the first account of the life of Jesus here on earth. Today we can learn, as Levi did, to be open to the Lord in our lives.
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