"As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him." Mark 2.14
Not exactly where you want to meet the Messiah of Israel; while working at the occupying Roman army tax booth in Capernaum. Let's face it, Levi (Matthew) would have been hated by the townspeople. He is not a spiritual up and comer and he certainly can be branded as a traitor to his people. Yet, Jesus calls him to follow. In the Biblical story what comes next is quite fascinating. They celebrate this new found friendship with a dinner at Levi's house. Of course Levi has all of his friends there as well and this causes quite a scandal! The Gospel tells us that 'many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples' at the dinner party. This of course didn't go over well with the authorities.
|One of the most powerful portrayals in the film|
Jesus of Nazareth by Zeffirelli.
What did Jesus see in Levi? Then again, what does Jesus see in me?
I love what director Franco Zeffirelli does with this in his epic movie/mini-series "Jesus of Nazareth." (Still the gold standard of Jesus films by my opinion). He has Peter angry as a hornet that Jesus would call his enemy the tax collector to also be a disciple. Peter will not go to the dinner party at Levi's house, but after an agonizing evening of personal struggle he shows up at the entrance to the door. Jesus seeing him, tells those gathered that he wants to tell them a story, and he proceeds to tell the parable of the "Prodigal Son." (Remember two brothers, one had strayed away and was welcomed home and the older brother was angry because he didn't think the younger one deserved mercy). After telling the story, Peter in tears embraces his former enemy. A truly powerful scene. Watch it if you can: Jesus of Nazareth link
What did Jesus see in Levi---the power of reconciliation, of forgiveness and new life. What do we see in others?
A prayer: "Dear Jesus, help me to see in others what you see in me. Amen"