Follow the Leader
Building community vs. radical individualism, separatism, sectarianism. Great challenge – great need. Heart of Christian community – is acceptance of one another. Not the "putting up with" one another that we see so often in offices or even in churches but a genuine acceptance of a person for who they are in Christ and for the contribution to the kingdom that they can uniquely make.
This isn't just a philosophy dreamed up in a classroom we see this kind of acceptance in the life Jesus the same Jesus who we are called upon to model our lives after. We see this first in various responses to the kingdom.
1. Responsive Disciple (27, 28)
Jesus' ministry was result of God's Call.
19 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
When Jesus approached Levi at the collection booth he was responding to the call of God on His life he knew what he needed to do and he did it. The call and response of Levi is often what is highlighted in this passage and rightly so.
Levi's response to Jesus was unequivocal there was no question in his mind about following Jesus. He heard the call of Jesus and he got up and followed. He didn't wait to put out a fleece he didn't create a list of things to bargain with God about Jesus called – Levi followed.
This is a wonderful example of how discipleship can be it stands there as that 'kind' of example Is Jesus calling you today? Are you hearing him say to you "Come to me." If so them follow the example of Levi follow the Master!
Jesus calls us to follow him and that will require many acts of leaving things behind old attitudes, old habits, old hatreds and bitterness
Jesus calls us to leave all that behind and to follow him
Levi was a toll collector (see note) he wasn't the most popular person on the block yet Jesus Levi and approached him
Some people feel a bit weird that Jesus would approach and reach out to so many people who were looked down upon in his society
Others feel comforted because if Jesus approach a person like Levi just maybe he would approach a person like me
From a person collecting tolls from trade caravans to being a co-worker of Jesus to assembling a Gospel under his other name: Matthew (Matthew 9.9)
God can and will take a person from drudgery to significance
Jesus came up to Levi and looked him in the eye and said: "come follow me"
Now in a spiritual way, Jesus does the same to us he looks us in the eye and says: "Follow me"
Words will not suffice What will we do when we hear those words from Jesus?
2. The Reverberating Disciple (v. 29)
The reaction that Jesus received from the establishment was less than warm for sure
The Pharisees and Scribes were taken back by the quality of the character seen in the guests
It is one thing to hear of a conversion of a "tax-collector" and come to a party to celebrate
It is quite another to get there and find all kinds of people who were of questionable character. who probably hadn't left there lives of disrepute who were there because they were invited by their ole buddy Levi
People who invest a lot of time and energy into a specific system of doing things most often have great difficulty seeing that system dismantled
So when Jesus started doing God's work in a new way he was criticized – the religious people of the day had lost touch with the rank and file citizen of the day they no longer understood their needs or concerns and frankly – they didn't care
Their job, as they saw it, was to protect a pure tradition and Jesus was upsetting things for them
Nothing has changed in 2000 years For us the rule keepers are not Pharisees and scribes quite often they are committed Christians people committed to serving Jesus but in serving him a certain way following very specific protocols and procedures
They see the new wine but they are too fond of their old wineskins
Levi throws a party and tells his friends and colleagues to come and meet Jesus and the rule keepers are deeply offended at Jesus' moral base, after all " what kind of person would even go to such a gathering?"
Levi is overjoyed by God's grace this salvation he has experienced the acceptance of Jesus and wants his friends to meet Jesus too and who wouldn't!
Whose life would not be infinitely better if they had a deep connection with God through Jesus Christ?
And the religious are offended and so we must be always on guard not for the rule-keepers in our midst but we must be on guard lest we become one
Lest the joy of our salvation the joy of new life in Christ
Lest the hope that Jesus has placed in our hearts be subjugated to our fears of offending someone
We must not err with the rule-keepers and we must not err with the anti-rule-keepers both have their eyes in the wrong place
We must embrace Christ as Levi did and make every opportunity to share is love and acceptance with those around us.
3.The Repentant Disciple
The rationale behind the Pharisees attitudes are quite common in the church today
Jesus compares them to doctors who will not treat sick people because they are afraid of getting sick themselves
What kind of doctor is that? they are a pathetic shell of a doctor they have allowed fear conquer their vision.
How many churches in Canada have stepped back from the call of Christ because of fear of being contaminated?
We quote verses like: "A little leaven leavens the whole batch" and then we build entire systems of discipline around this
But this misses the point of the passage and the historical context of the letter
These verse do not mean we should run to the desert avoid all contact with those who do not follow Christ it means maintain discipline among Christ-Followers
So many otherwise tremendous Christian people try so hard to be better – to be pure or holy
All the while Jesus says:
“I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
There are many paths in this life some look like great paths of holiness and righteousness
But I say with all sincerity today any path regardless of how good it looks if it diverges from the path that Jesus shows us that path will eventually lead us away from God
The true Christ-Follower responds to Jesus' call
The true Christ-Follower reverberates the grace of God to others
The true Christ-Follower repents of attitudes and actions that deviate from the life and teaching of Jesus Christ
Tax collectors forgiven of their misdeeds Sinners spiritually transformed by God's grace Critical religious folk fighting for the Status-Quo where do see ourselves in this story?
What are we willing to leave behind to be a true Christ-Follower?