Against all prejudices – Levi
Few people, if any, have no prejudices at all in life. There will always be those issues that stir up the strongest emotions which we struggle to get past. Luke chapter 5 records one such instance. The Romans ruled first century Palestine, and the Jews carried a strong prejudice against Rome, understandably. They were enemies. So, for a Jewish person to support Rome, or to work with the Romans in any way was considered unforgivable.
Luke 5:27-32 records the short but revealing story of a man by the name of Levi whom Jesus engaged with. Jesus had just healed a bedridden paralytic man who was lowered down through the roof by friends, landing at Jesus feet. But this man walked out of that house on that day glorifying God.
As Jesus was walking away from that place He stepped into the life of a Jew by the name of Levi, who was a collector of taxes for Rome. Levi was sitting at the tax booth (Lk 5:27), minding his own profitable business of exploiting excessive taxes from his community on behalf of Rome. Levi was not looking for Jesus. In fact, there is nothing to suggest that Levi was interested in Jesus in the slightest. Uninvited, Jesus steps up to the tax booth. Without any recorded greeting or introduction, Jesus speaks His first two words to Levi. “Follow me” (Lk 5:27). That was it, end of conversation.
Obviously, Levi would have thought through and calculated his options. How would he respond to this stranger by the name of Jesus who abruptly stepped into his life and demands to be followed? Whatever was going through Levi’s thinking resulted with his leaving everything, he rose and followed Jesus (Lk 5:28). The Jewish Pharisees and scribes would have hated Levi as a traitor of his people for the profit of self and Rome. But now, they would hate Levi even more, as a man who had left everything to follow Jesus.
The certainty and joy of Levi’s decision to follow Jesus was quickly seen when Levi made him (Jesus) a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them (Lk 5:29). Having abandoned his old life of tax collecting, Levi celebrated his new life as a follower of Jesus with his old-life friends. Levi was now actively introducing Jesus to all of his old-life friends, who were a large company of tax collectors and others (Lk 5:29). Levi had no shame of being seen with Jesus. Levi also had no shame of announcing publicly that he had left the tax collecting life. Levi had even invited Jesus’ other disciples to join the celebration with his old-life friends. I’m sure that many of Levi’s old tax collecting comrades thought he was crazy, and no doubt many would have happily picked up Levi’s clientele.
Meanwhile, the news has reached the Pharisees and scribes who raced across town and grumbled at Jesus’ disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (Lk 5:30). Levi would now be considered a traitor of Rome, a traitor of Israel, and a traitor of Jewish religion. The nation’s prejudices where fully stacked against Levi, but Levi celebrated with Jesus!
Much to everyone’s surprize I’m sure, Jesus steps up to these self-righteous Pharisees and scribes, and proclaims the liberating repentance of Levi which was at the very heart of Jesus’ earthly ministry. “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:32). Repentance of sin with its lifestyle choices has always been at the heart of Jesus’ gospel, and nothing has changed. May we also rejoice with repentant sinners, calling them to leave everything of their old sinful lives and follow Jesus.