Verse of the Day Devotion: Luke 5:27
“After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, Follow Me.” – Luke 5:27
This verse speaks of Jesus’ call to Matthew, also known as Levi, to be one of His disciples. Matthew was seen by Jesus sitting in the tax booth when He was called by Jesus to follow Him. Matthew, having heard Jesus call him did not hesitate but left immediately. “And he left everything behind and got up and began to follow Him.” Luke 5:28. Not long afterwards, he gives a big reception for Jesus at his home where many other tax collectors reclined at the table with them. Now, tax collectors in probably every culture in every time in history are some of the most disliked of all people. And in the New Testament, the occupation of tax collector, or publican was looked down upon by the general population because it was generally recognized they required more than the taxes due in order to keep the overage for themselves. Also, they were Jews who worked for the hated Romans.
We then read that there were some present, mainly Pharisees, who did not approve of these publicans being there. So, they complained and asked Jesus and His disciples a question. “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” Luke 5:30b. To the Pharisee, a sinner was a Jew who did not follow the Law, which included the Pharisees’ own rules. And a tax collector was someone who was considered absolutely dishonorable.
Jesus understood how people viewed tax collectors and used it as an illustration of church discipline. “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17. He uses this simply as a means to explain the result of people who do not repent of a wrong done using wording they would understand. Jesus’ then answers, making it clear why He chose Matthew. “And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32.
Jesus saw tax collectors as those who were spiritually sick to be healed. The Jews saw them as enemies to be shunned by all. Jesus was offering forgiveness and the expectation of a new life, where the Pharisees simply offered them the Law that was to be rigidly followed. Jesus offered grace, where the Jews offered strict obedience to a set of rules. It is obvious why tax collectors viewed Jesus favorably.
Jesus has called us to tell everyone the good news of the gospel. “And he said to them, Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15. Too often, Christians choose not to go out and spend time with the unsaved for they do not wish to be seen as being associated with them. This is sad, for many times people will not listen to someone who they believe really do not care about them but only do it because they have to. But what did Jesus do? He fellowshipped with them and went out to those who did not know Him and shared the truth. And we are to do the same. John put it this way, “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” 1 John 2:6. As Jesus was willing to fellowship with unbelievers in order to present the gospel to them, we should also be willing to do the same.
I want to encourage us all to take whatever opportunities come our way to be a light in the world, shining it upon the unsaved, sharing the gospel with them so they can accept Christ as savior. And also let your life show the reality of your walk. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. God desires all should repent and be saved. Let us be those who help make this happen as we are able. It is our calling in this world.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.