Living For His Legacy: Party Time

There were three places Jesus consistently frequented while on Earth; 

  • Open places, where He preached to the masses; 
  • Quiet places, where He prayed to His Father;
  • Festive places, where He celebrated with people. [i]

It’s the impact of the festive places we will visit today. In Luke 5:27-32, Jesus invites the most unlikely and unlikeable person to follow Him, Levi (also named Matthew), a tax collector. 

The outrageous nature of grace invites us to come and follow before we are cleaned up. Levi’s transformed life exemplifies the dramatic effect Jesus can have on even the worst of sinners, and Levi’s response is an example for us. 

He is public enemy number two, behind only the Romans and slightly ahead of the Samaritans. Jewish law classified tax collectors as robbers who could not serve as court witnesses and were excommunicated from the synagogue. 

The way collecting taxes worked was Rome assessed a district with a fixed tax figure at which they then sold the right to collect those taxes to the highest bidder. 

The winning bidder would collect that amount and hand it over to Rome but could keep whatever they gathered above it. This system invited extortion, and for that reason, fellow Hebrews greatly despised Levi. 

As Levi sits in his tax collecting booth, something about him catches Jesus’ attention. This was no casual glance. 

The Greek word theáomai translates as “saw” and means to view attentively, contemplate carefully, a deliberate vision which interprets its object. 

When God looks at you, He sees what we can become even while we are lost in our corruption and sins. 

Matthew responds when Jesus calls him, “…leaving everything, he rose and followed Him.” This is a perfect illustration of repentance. 

To follow Jesus is to leave your old ways and thinking behind and learn to live from Jesus.

I have always been astonished by how the disciples dropped everything and followed Jesus with the simple call of “follow me.” 

  • Jesus was an unknown Rabbi at this point. 
  • There was no discussion or bargaining going on. 
  • There was no three-point plan or motivational speech. 

Their willingness to follow was rooted in first-century Jewish customs. 

The purpose of reading and writing among the Hebrews was to understand the Torah and honor God by obeying His commands and receiving His blessings. 

There were three levels of education. 

Beit Sefer (Ages 6-10)

At the age of six, children would begin their formal education. Every child would memorize the first five books of the Bible. Then at ten years old, most would start to learn the family trade. 

Beit Talmud (Ages 10-15) 

Select young boys would further commit themselves to studying and memorizing the Old Testament, Genesis to Malachi. 

Beit Midrash (Ages 15-30)

While most would return to learn their family trade, the best of the best of the best of this group would continue by seeking out a Rabbi to study under. 

The Rabbi would grill you on the oral law and the written Word. He wants to know if you have what it takes to follow him. After a long series of questions, the Rabbi would come to one of two conclusions. 

He might say, son, I don’t think you have what it takes to be my disciple. So go home and continue learning the family trade. But if the Rabbi thought you had what it took, he’d say, follow me. 

At that moment, you left everything to learn from your Rabbi for the next 15 years until you became a Rabbi yourself. 

All of Jesus’ disciples were told, you don’t have what it takes. Even Jesus was rejected and became a carpenter like His earthly father, Joseph.

So when Matthew and the disciples heard Jesus say, “follow me,” it was the words they had never heard but always dreamt of hearing. And this was the cause for a grand celebration as Matthew hosted this party. 

An invitation can be an effective form of evangelism. 

  • Invite someone to lunch and share with them what God has done or is doing. 
  • Invite someone to church so they can experience why you love and follow Jesus. 
  • Invite someone to church and then take them to lunch, and share why you have joy and peace in difficult times.  

The Pharisees who caught wind of this lavish party, as the quintessential party poopers, began to complain to Jesus’ disciples.

From their perspective, sitting down and sharing a meal with sinners was to approve of them and their lifestyle. They believed they would become unclean by being around sinners. The faultiness of this belief is that they didn’t consider themselves sinners. 

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23

Their religious mindset blinded them to the need for others to be rescued from sin. Those who needed a way out had the door shut on them by the Pharisees. 

Jesus’ engagement with sinners was always intentional and missional. He came to proclaim liberty to the captives. 

To the scathing remarks of the Pharisees, Jesus responded, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

His statement had a splash of sarcasm as Romans 3:10 states, “none are righteous, no not one.” 

Matthew was aware of his corrupt nature and how he fell short of God’s glory. He knew he needed something more than what his title, position, and wealth could provide. 

And when he found it, he celebrated by inviting his friends to see firsthand the One who had forgiven him and made all things new. 

Maybe it’s time to invite unbelievers to share what God has done and is doing for you! 

[i] John Courson’s Application Commentary

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