Today we’ll explore the story of a time Jesus became friends with someone unexpected:
After this Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. – Luke 5:27-29 ESV
Tax collectors were collaborators with the oppressive Roman government. They were known for taking some off the top, or extorting and pocketing extra taxes from people.
People like that are usually careful about who they associate with. They get to positions of power through taking advantage of others, by being crafty and independent, or using people for profit.
But there is something about Levi’s encounter with Jesus that changes all that. After meeting Jesus, Levi has his coworkers over to dinner. All the other collaborators and extortioners come to his place. He knows what they’re like, maybe they will steal. Or will they see some of his belongings, or family members, and use it against him in blackmail and extortion?
Why would he put himself at risk like that?
Because they suddenly matter to him more than just partners at work.
Because of Jesus, now they’re friends. Not just obstacles or opportunities. They are people he can feed and host.
The passage says Levi left everything and followed Jesus. It clearly doesn’t refer to all his material possessions – he still has a house and means to throw a big feast. This saying represents a spiritual about-face as he leaves behind his old way of life.
Research shows that vulnerability is key to friendships. Levi does this, he leaves himself dangerously open to dangerous people. He has them over and shares a meal with them.
This was even more significant in this culture – table fellowship indicated you were on the same page spiritually with others. You broke bread together, and legally became a religious fellowship. Jews didn’t eat with non-Jews, for that reason. Levi is Jewish, as is Jesus, but Levi is a Roman collaborator who would be dealing with non-Jews all the time, and regularly breaking the law by extorting fees from Jewish brothers.
We’ll learn more tomorrow about how people reacted.
Question: Why do you think Levi invites his co-workers over to supper with Jesus? What’s he doing for them, for himself, and for Jesus?
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