A Retelling of The Call of Levi
(Imagined from Levi's Perspective) I was sitting near the edge of the Sea of Galilee, where I sit everyday, collecting taxes. It's not a noble job, but it's how I survive. I know people don't like me. It's been said that lying is sinful unless you're lying to a Murderer, Thief, or Tax Collector and if I'm honest that hurts just a little bit. But here I am, collecting taxes, and minus some of the sneers people throw my way, I'm enjoying the good life.
That's when I see Jesus of Nazareth approaching. He's made his home Capernaum as of late. There are all sorts of stories going around about him. He's been miraculously healing the sick. Preaching good news to the poor. There's even word that he's been forgiving sin but there's nothing about me that he'd ever pay attention to.
At least so I thought.
The crowds were following him as he taught. There's just something about him that's hard to ignore. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't been paying attention to him. You couldn't help but listen to the stories about this man.
That's when I was absolutely shocked when he walked up to me and said, "Follow me." I was the last person on the beach that day that he should have said that to. I'm a tax collector after all and I'm not exactly someone that people want to cross paths with. It seemed like time stopped, and in that moment, I realized I needed to follow him and so I did.
I invited him into my home for a meal with my friends, friends that the people weren't exactly fond of either. Other tax collectors, other sinners. He reclined at the table with us and we all shared a meal together. He treated us like we mattered. He treated us like we were human. I had no idea the life-changing journey that this Jesus was about to take me on. He had invited me from life to new life, and it was going to be world shaking.
But this wasn't the biggest surprise of the day. When some of the Pharisee's scribes began questioning his disciples about how he could possibly eat with the likes of us, Jesus didn't back down and apologize. He stood up for us. And he didn't just stand up for us. He had made us his life's mission. That's when I knew this Jesus was worth following. That's when I was truly thankful that he had said, "Follow me."
More Resources on Mark 2:1-22
Storyline Commentary on Mark 2:1-22
Every story can be broken down into a few parts. The setting, where the story takes place and why it might be important. The characters and their emotions and thoughts invested in the story. A tension that needs resolved. A resolution that brings us through the tension, and a through line (aka main idea) that carries the story through from beginning to end.
The Setting Jesus is walking along the edge of the Sea of Galilee, teaching the crowds as he went, when he called Levi to come and follow him.
- Jesus, walking along the sea of Galilee
- Levi. the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the booth where he collected taxes.
- Tax Collectors and other Sinners, sharing a meal with Jesus at Levi's house
- Pharisees' Scribes, observing Jesus eating with sinners
- Disciples, who the scribes begin to question about Jesus' behavior
The Tension Jesus is calling a sinner into his inner circle, even dining with Levi's friends who were much chagrined by others.
The Resolution Jesus is leading Levi from life to new life. He's leading Levi from a life of taking advantage of others, to a new life of loving others.
The Through Line Jesus didn't come to call the self-righteous, he came to call sinners.
Reflections on Jesus calling Levi
Why has this story endured? It's another story in a long of stories about how God operates in the world. God isn't dependent on our skills, reputation, or the way we've lived our life in order to use us. Jesus calls Levi to come and follow because of who Jesus is, not because of who Levi is. This is indicative of the mercy and love of God.
What is true for them then that is still true for us today? Jesus still calls the least likely. God can use anyone to accomplish his mission of grace in the world and no one, even when society thinks otherwise, is beyond God's grace.
How does this story help us love God? It reminds us that there's hope no matter who we are. God loves us because God is loving. Not because we deserve it.
How does this story help us love others? It reminds us to love others, not because they're lovable, but because Jesus is loving, and as we follow Jesus, we're being transformed.