Monday, February 7, 2022

An Unexpected Invitation

“As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me and be my disciple,’ Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him” (Mark 2:14 NLT).

Levi, who also was known as Matthew, collected taxes for Rome. Rome was the occupying force in Israel at the time, so people would have thought of Matthew as a traitor. We don’t know whether it was money that motivated Matthew to work for Rome. But whatever the reason, he seemed to have gone out of his way to offend his fellow Jews.

Matthew also would have been familiar with Jesus, because Jesus was ministering in the region where Matthew was. And being a tax collector, Matthew would have been aware of what was going on around him. We also know that he was a great student of the Scriptures because Old Testament prophecies fill the gospel that bears his name.

Ninety-nine Old Testament references in Matthew show how Jesus was the Messiah. So this was a man who knew the Word of God but chose to rebel against it. Yet there was something that Jesus said and did that softened Matthew’s hardened heart.

Why do people turn away from God in the first place? Why do people turn from the church?

These are interesting questions. I’ve heard people say they lost their faith because a tragedy happened, or they suffered the loss of a loved one, or they saw hypocrisy. But a faith that can’t be tested is a faith that can’t be trusted. That isn’t a real faith.

However, when Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow me and be my disciple” (Mark 2:14 NLT), Matthew stood up and followed Him. And in the next verse, the Bible tells us that Matthew “invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners” (verse 15 NLT).

Notice that Jesus never said, “Follow My people.” Rather, He said, “Follow Me.” So put your eyes on Jesus Christ.

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