“Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house…”
Luke 5:29 (NIV)
Levi is better known in the Gospels as Matthew. His business of collecting taxes was located near Capernaum on a road that went from Damascus to Acre near the north west shore of the Sea of Galilee. Tax collectors were never popular people in Jesus’ time due to their common activity of charging too much tax and putting extra profit in their own pockets.
Matthew was not the only business man Jesus called to leave his work and follow Him. For example, in Mark 1:17-20; Luke 5:11, He called two pair of business owners to leave their work and follow Him. It says that James, John, Simon and Andrew, “…left everything and followed him [Jesus].”
Business men can become fine preachers and ministers of the Gospel. Although all of these men appeared to have good professions and made a considerable wage, they abandoned their prosperous work to become itinerant preachers trained by Jesus.
When Jesus called Matthew the verb used in Mark 2:14 meant to go on following Jesus forever. Because the fame of Jesus had spread in the area where Matthew worked and lived (Mark 1:21-34), it is entirely possible Mathew had heard of this wonderful circuit preacher (Mark 1:21; 2:1) as His fame spread everywhere.
In the calling of Levi or Matthew we see that he held a large reception for Jesus in his spacious home Luke 5:29. Such an open display of his loyalty to Jesus must have taken some courage on Matthew’s part.
While Matthew took a risk following this Preacher without visible means of support, Jesus also took a risk in asking a tax collector who practised that despised profession of working for Rome while being a Jew.
In Luke 5:30 we read that the guest list Matthew drew up for this feast in Jesus’ honour included a number of despised tax collectors like himself and “sinners”. Jesus apparently was very happy to accept the invitation and associate Himself with such a low class of people.
So on this occasion, as at other times, Jesus earned His reputation for being a “friend of publicans (tax collectors) and sinners (Luke 7:34).
Is someone reading this devotional and you regard yourself as a social outcast? Or do you have a relative who may be in trouble with the law? Do you feel that society rejects you and/or your family?
Look at this Jesus who called people who were notorious as corrupt business men to come to Himself. He said at Matthew’s reception that He came to call sinners to repentance. No one is too far gone into sin but Jesus can redeem them, turn them around, and make a sinner into a saint. Urge the “sinners” to come to Jesus, He came for them.