Scripture to reflect upon: Mark 2:10As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
Matthew (Levi) wasn’t merely a despised tax collector. He was a Jewish tax collector; an outcast of his own people. According to the Zondervan NIV Study Bible, “they could not serve as witnesses or as judges and were expelled from the synagogue…and their disgrace was extended to their families.”
And Jesus is strolling along. Just strolling. Going nowhere in particular. And there’s Matthew sitting in his “toll booth” to collect money from his own people on behalf of the loathed Roman government. What a traitor! Or was he?
The economy is incredibly tough these days. Jobs are hard to come by. If you’ve been out of work for months, maybe even years, would you take a job that could support your family even if it meant you’d become an outcast of society, and that your family members would then be ousted too?
What do you do: Not support your family to save your reputation and what others think of you? Or support your family with your reputation and your children’s reputation as the very high cost?
Jesus was merely strolling along, but keep in mind he was being followed by many people who were anxiously waiting to see what he’d do next. And what does he do? He stops at a tax collector’s booth and simply says, “Follow me.” Imagine now that you’re one of those “followers” lingering behind at a close 25 feet, watching it all. You’ve been following him, yet he never asked you. And here Jesus is now, talking to the outcast of society and inviting him to come along with Him. How would you feel? What would you think? Would you ask, “Why not me, Lord? I am good. I am not a sinner like him!” See, it’s understood today why Jesus chose Matthew over the so-called, righteous. But back then, they didn’t understand. Would you?
Now put yourself in Matthew’s sandals. You’ve heard of this “Jesus” fellow. You’ve seen the crowds tagging along, and many were getting healed from incurable diseases. You haven’t followed him because you’re the disgrace of your own people—Jesus’ people. No one wants you around. So now you see him coming your way, and as a fellow Jew, you hope he doesn’t see you in all of your shame and disgrace (although you’re only doing your job). Instead of walking by and pretending you don’t exist, or sneering at you like everyone else does, Jesus stops at your booth, rests his elbow on the ledge and basically says, “Let’s go.” Matthew didn’t say, “Why me, Lord?” or “Who? Me? Don’t you know who I am and what I do?” No. He didn’t say anything. He just…got up and followed.
Matthew was a disgrace. I was a disgrace. You were a disgrace. We were looked down upon by society. We were sneered at. We were the lowest of the low. We were outcasts. Our shame marked our children for shame, too. But Jesus stopped by our hearts, leaned against us a bit and simply told us, “Follow me.” He doesn’t ask, “Hey, do you want to follow me?” He doesn’t even spark up a conversation, or bring up your faults or sins, because He already knows you. He already knows your shame. He already knows your lowest moments in life. And He doesn’t care.
NOTE TO SELF: “Follow me.” Get up and go…