• Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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  • July 2016
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And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. (Mark 2:14 ESV)

Every culture has people who are unpopular for one reason or another. How would you feel if you answered the door bell to find an agent of the IRS who has come to audit your taxes? However, Levi was a very different type of tax collector than we have experienced.

Levi was considered to be a traitor and collaborator by the Jews because he worked for the occupying Romans who ruled Israel during this time. Tax collectors in Israel were hated men because they not only worked for the enemy, they were thieves. The Romans sold tax collecting franchises to anyone who could afford them. Once you owned the right to collect taxes, you would collect so much to give to the Romans and then you were allowed to add whatever amount you wanted to the tax for your fee.

As a result, Levi was a social outcast. Such a man was not allowed to enter a synagogue or even give evidence in court. He certainly was not someone who you would invite to a party. Levi was a pariah and Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”

And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:16 ESV)

Levi invites Jesus into his home and throws a big party which includes all (from the Jewish point of view) his scumbag friends. Levi is not ashamed to invite Jesus into his home to meet his friends and Jesus is not ashamed to be there. Can you imagine the scandal? When He hears the words of the scribes, Jesus replies:

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. (Mark 2:17 ESV)

Yes, Levi and his friends were sinners. The scribes and Pharisees were offended by Jesus because they considered themselves to be righteous men who were obedient to the Law. If Jesus was from God, they wondered, how could He associate with such men? Their failure to see the truth of Jesus’ message was, in part, due to their inability to understand the magnitude of their own sin. If you have any comprehension of the gospel at all, you understand why Jesus came to save sinners and I praise God that He does. We are all sinners (from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high) without any possible hope of saving ourselves. However, these tax collectors and sinners understood their predicament and began to follow Jesus. We too would do well to follow Jesus. After all, He came for us to save us from the consequences of our sins.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:1-5 ESV)

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