9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.
10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Matthew 9:9-13, NKJV
(See parallel passages in Mark 2:13-17 and Luke 5:27-31)
Jesus Calls Levi. We are continuing in our series of devotions called Words of Christ with a passage from Matthew 9 (parallel passages are found in Mark 2:13-17 and Luke 5:27-31). There are two things to note in this passage. First, we should look at the simplicity of Jesus’ call to Levi, otherwise known as Matthew. Second, we note the reaction of the Pharisees and Jesus’ response to them.
Jesus was near the sea speaking to a large crowd of people when He noticed Levi sitting at a tax booth. Looking directly at him, Jesus said, “Follow Me.” It was just a simple invitation. There was no pomp or ceremony and no mystical presentation by Jesus. How did Levi respond? “He arose and followed Him.”
There are a lot of views regarding effective methods to use when evangelizing, however there is a great lesson being taught in this Bible passage that we would do well to not ignore. Who did the calling? Jesus. Who calls people to Christ today? Jesus. Who called Paul on the road to Damascus? Jesus.
Yes, we should fervently share Christ with those we meet each day, but in doing so, we do not need to fear that we will do something wrong in our presentation. It is God who opens the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf so that they hear. The Lord Jesus Christ saves sinners, and when He opens their hearts and minds to truly understand, they come to Him. When Jesus calls Levi, no pomp or ceremony was required for Levi. When Jesus called him, He opened His eyes and the immediate response of Levi was to follow Christ.
Second, in this passage look at how the Pharisees responded to Jesus. They were indignant that Jesus would stoop so low as to congregate with tax collectors and sinners. How did Jesus respond to the Pharisees? “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” Then Jesus quoted from an Old Testament passage (Hosea 6:6), which should have been quite familiar to the Pharisees. “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” He then continued, “For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
The Pharisees were strict advocates of keeping the Law of God, but they forgot the simple message of Hosea 6:6. God desires merciful hearts. While the Pharisees were diligent at keeping the Law, they would not stoop so low as to congregate with the low lives of their world. In other words, they had no idea how to truly show mercy to the unloved, neither did they care.
Are we guilty of doing the same thing today? Are we zealous to attend church and recite Scripture while not even remotely applying that Scripture to our daily lives? Do we have a heart for the lost? Do we even understand what that means? Are we so self-righteous that we do not need to be saved? Jesus was not looking for people who felt they were good enough to go to heaven. He reached out to those who were lost and could find no redemption apart from a Savior.
Can we reach heaven by our own merits? Does God look down on this earth and seek those who are good enough to be a Christian and then say, “I choose that one?” No! God chooses the lost and lowly of this world, sets them on their feet, opens their eyes and hearts to receive Him, and then He guides them all of the days of their lives.
Remember those wonderful words of the Apostle Paul. God chose sinners, of whom I am chief.
When we consider the Bible story, “Jesus Calls Levi,” let us remember that
Jesus is still calling people to Him today. How amazing is that? He is not looking for those who are righteous in an of themselves, but rather, He is looking for the lost!