We remember that Jesus told His disciples back in chapter 1 that He came to teach.
38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”
While Jesus was out doing what He came to do (teaching) all the other opportunities for ministry were taking place.
I point this out because sometimes we can get caught up with the idea that we need to do a completely different thing in order to be used by God. We might feel like we need to quit our job, or move away in order to be used by God. The reality is that we just need to remain faithful to what God has called us to do and He will provide all the opportunities He has for us because we will be in His will living out His purpose in our lives already.
So, we see Jesus being faithful to His purpose and calling to teach, and here presents itself another opportunity in meeting and calling Levi (aka Matthew) to follow Him.
Mark and Luke call him Levi while Matthew calls himself Matthew in his account of being called by Jesus in Matthew 9. Levi and Matthew are the same person. We know this by the fact that the story of being called and the events at meal that follows is the same.
You may remember what we learned when we studied Matthew 9 about Matthew also being called Levi...
This is an interesting bit of information for us. If Matthew was also called Levi, it is very possible and has been believed by many scholars to mean that Matthew wasn’t just a tax collector, he was from the priestly tribe of Levi.
Why is that interesting? Well we need to ask what on earth a Levite was doing working for Rome defrauding his brothers and sisters.
Tax collectors got the job by betraying their fellow Jews to Rome. To get the job of a tax collector you had to bid for it. And the Romans gave the job to the highest bidder. Meaning, whoever promised to collect the highest taxes, got the job.
To make matters worse tax collectors (who just so happened to be fellow Jews) made their living by over charging their brethren. Anything over the amount they bid to get the job of tax collector was their salary.
To make matters even worse, the tax collector’s booth had Roman guards standing behind the tax collectors with their sword or spear showing as an intimidation tactic.
Tax collectors were so despised that their families disowned them, the synagogue excommunicated them, they were disqualified as being witness in the court because they couldn’t be trusted to be honest and true any longer.
Levi was this type of man before he met and responded to the call of Jesus to follow Him.
So when we read that Levi was a tax collector and his other name is Matthew - It paints a much bigger picture.
This man who was born to serve his fellow Jews and aide them in worship to their God, had for some reason turned his back on his calling and his people, and made a living out of defrauding his fellow Jews, and pledging his allegiance to Caesar.
However because of his background, he would have known what the law and the prophets promised about the coming Messiah. He would have seen the clear evidence that Jesus was fulfilling the words of the prophets who told of the coming Messiah. Things such as what Isaiah prophesied…
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
They have discovered ancient ledgers that show fisherman had to pay taxes on the fish they caught from the Sea of Galilee.
So, think about what Peter, Andrew, James and John would think each time they walked passed Levi. And imagine how they felt as Jesus called him now to follow him along side of them. I’m sure it was a little awkward at first.
But isn’t that the way the Lord does things? I mean when you look around the room this morning ask yourself how many of these people would you want to hang out with if it wasn’t for Jesus.
That is how Jesus builds His church! He doesn’t do a focus group to see what types of people are popular in the worlds eyes, He doesn’t call the popular and “good” folks, nor does He go around calling the bad boys and tough chicks either. Jesus calls people to follow Him. He sees us and loves us right where we are and then once He saves us, He does the changes in our lives that are necessary. Jesus said of Himself that…
10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
The reason the scribes and Pharisees complained about who Jesus and His disciples ate with was because the idea of the day was that you were becoming too close by sharing a meal with someone. It's the idea that if you're eating with people you are not only welcoming them totally into your life, but also that you are approving of their lives and thus taking on their characteristics.
So that's why they would perceive anyone who shared a meal with sinful repulsive people as also being unclean because of the company.
A guilty by association type of mindset.
But notice that response that Jesus has for them, and take note that He is saying these things to the religious teachers and leaders of the day.
The Rabbis of the day taught that during the weeklong wedding celebration, religious rituals could be bypassed if it took away from the enjoyment of the wedding.
Luke 18:12 tells us that the Pharisees fasted twice a week. And since they were the religious leaders they expected everyone else who took God seriously to do the same.
12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
God is not against fasting. God has told us to fast.
This was not the time for fasting. That time would come after Jesus was resurrected. Jesus even gave instructions about fasting to make sure His disciples didn’t make it just some other religious obligation that they could brag about...
16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Again this was not a time for fasting because it was a time for joy and to enjoy God’s presence. Being in the presence of Christ brought great joy just as the Psalmist said...
11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
The point is to not destroy either but to keep both from being destroyed.
That is not to say that what the Jewish leaders had made of Judaism was good. In fact what they had made of God’s word and how they had spiritually abused God’s people was ungodly and needed to be done away with.
With all of that said, Jesus didn’t come to destroy the Jews, but rather to reveal the heart of God for His people and for humanity in general. He came and fulfill the law all while showing the transforming power of God.
So yes, the religious system had to be completely renewed, but not at the expense of the people themselves.
You see then as it is now, the people of God were in desperate need for a revival, in desperate need for the Holy Spirit to do such a work that they could never be the same.
Jesus had come then to and in my opinion needs to again in our day do a fresh work in the lives of His people. Putting a patch on it just won’t work.
25 If you go into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor’s standing grain.
The disciples wear lawfully gleaning the grain. They were not stealing nor were they harvesting it.
The Pharisees had added to the word of God and added extra stipulations to what God said in His word to His people about His day of rest that He graciously gave to mankind.
Now let’s be honest, when we first experience the freedom that we have in Christ from legalistic religious behavior it can seem almost wrong to not act so devoutly until you realize that your past behaviour was a legalistic attempt to look good enough for God to love you. We are not permitted to add to or take away from the word of God to appease any of our desires whether that be to have more sinful fun or whether that be to think ourselves more spiritually superior to others which is also sinful before our holy, righteous, and perfect God.
Jesus is teaching these religious leaders that the needs of people outweighs religious rituals.
14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.