Mark 2:13-14

Jesus went out again beside the lake; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. Mark 2:13-14

Someone once said that “Character is what you do when no one is watching you.” I can’t argue with that…I just want to add that character is also what you do when everyone is watching you. Like Jesus will later teach us, what and who we are on the inside will inevitably spill out to what everyone else sees on the outside.

Today’s verses teach us something important about both Jesus and Levi.

About Jesus. He continues to draw crowds. Casting out demons and healing paralyzed people will do that sort of thing. So will car accidents. That is just how people are. But people remain attracted to Jesus even when all he is doing is teaching them. Why?

Ask any teacher today and they’ll tell you that one of the hardest parts of their jobs is motivating students to want to learn. These crowds are motivated, maybe because they are desperate. And Jesus has them in the palm of his hand.

So how does he use that power? He calls out to Levi – who everyone knows is a tax collector – and invites him to “Follow me.”

You should know that tax collectors made their money by over-taxing everyone they could. You owe $100? The tax collector demands you pay him $225 and he keeps the difference. And if you don’t pay? The tax collector calls on the local Roman troops and you suddenly wish you would have paid. Tax collectors were despised in the way that poor people despise slumlords, Pay Day lenders, and everyone else who shamelessly rips them off as they fill their own wallets while complaining that poor people don’t work hard enough.

THIS was the guy that Jesus called! Think about what he was risking! He could lose his whole audience. Crowds are fickle (as we’ll see at the end of the story), but Jesus cared more about his purpose, his principles, and his passionate love for people who are hurting than he did about his crowd size or celebrity.

About Levi. Why did Levi leave everything to follow Jesus? He didn’t need to go. He had it made. Tax collectors were wealthy. They were wealthy because they kissed up to the hated Romans – the only way they could become tax collectors in the first place – which only added to the hatred other people felt toward them.

So I’m thinking he was troubled because he knew that what he was doing wasn’t right. Yes, he might have had far more material pleasures than most people, but he lacked peace, purpose, joy, love, contentment, friendship, community, real connection.

Mark doesn’t tell us what motivated Levi to follow Jesus. Maybe that is so we can kind of “fill in the blank” with all of the areas of our own lives that could be better. That falls short of the lives that God would have for us. Jesus promised something better.

In the end, maybe Levi wasn’t any different than the crowds – maybe he finally got desperate enough to become teachable.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, you invited a hated tax collector into your inner circle, risking everything to give him a life that was truly life. You’ve done the same with us. You accept us as we are. You don’t check our credentials or credit rating before loving us with everything you have. May we, like Levi, get up and follow. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

One Response to “Mark 2:13-14”

  1. David Armstrong Says:

    Well said!!

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