“After this he went out and saw a man named Levi at his work collecting taxes. Jesus said, ‘Come along with me.’ And he did—walked away from everything and went with him. Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner. The Pharisees and their religion scholars came to his disciples greatly offended. ‘What is he doing eating and drinking with crooks and ‘sinners’?’”
Luke 5:27-30 (MSG)
Levi, whose name was changed to Matthew (meaning “gift of Yahweh”), is a classic example of how a life is changed when someone accepts the grace of Jesus Christ.
In his job as a tax collector Matthew worked under a cloud of suspicion. Was he honest? Did he accept bribes? Did he steal from the people? The Romans appointed locals to collect the Emperor’s taxes but did not pay them to do it. Instead they allowed the tax collectors to add whatever they wanted to the tax amount and to pocket the difference. Thus tax collecting was a hated profession and those who engaged in it were regarded as Roman collaborators and were typically excluded from the synagogues. Chances are that Matthew knew of Jesus by reputation but perhaps he had not heard him preach the gospel. Also, had he been involved in corruption and so he chose to walk away and never go back to it?
Matthew’s decision to follow Jesus was a complete turnaround. He was so excited that he threw a party for Jesus. Matthew himself explained that, while they were eating (Matthew 9:10), the usual suspects – “disreputable characters” – joined them. The Pharisees and scribes did not get it…how could Jesus allow this? They did not understand grace: grace is for everyone, and through it anyone can turn his or her life around.
It all begs a question for us. Has our life turned around because we decided to follow Jesus? Has our acceptance of his grace made us look to him and not to look back at our past?
Let Jesus change your life.
Jesus, help me to follow you and to let you change my life.
Study by James Henderson
About the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. This weekend James is speaking at our Edinburgh and Glasgow congregations.You are welcome to attend any of our local congregations. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.wcg.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.