The publicans hired local men who bid to do the actual collecting of the taxes.  At the end of the year, the highest bider had to deliver the amount of revenue he had bid. He had to make up any shortage out of his own pockets — a position these greedy men were not likely to get themselves into.  Any amount he was able to collect over the amount he bid was his salary. These men, with intimate knowledge of their neighbors’ finances, a willingness to put material gain ahead of friendship and personal loyalty and with military support to back them  up, knew how to collect taxes.

Tax collectors like Levi were so despised and hated by their neighbors their money could not be donated to the temple or synagogue and their  testimony was not accepted in local legal hearings. We recall how when Jesus was born, Caesar authorized a world-wide census because he could not trust the tax collectors who were not even trusted by their own neighbors. Surrounded by that multitude, Jesus attention turned to a man totally despised by everyone in that multitude.

“rose up.” anastas

“followed” - ekolohesin

Jesus said to Levi, “Follow Me.”  Levi was intrigued by the Neighbor Who befriended him and he definitely wanted to know more about the new life Jesus was offering.

Levi arose and followed Jesus.  The tense of the Greek verb anastas - rose up - shows immediacy — there was no hesitation.  The tense of the Greek verb ekolohesin – followed -  shows permanency — there was no looking back.  For Levi to immediately follow Jesus without reservation involved a great loss of financial resources and political power but there was no hesitation in Levi’s decision.

In that moment of the Savior’s acceptance of the outcast, Levi’s life was changed completely and he even planned a very special dinner with Jesus to share with others the vision of the new life Jesus was offering him.

Levi reclined at table in his house… with Jesus and His disciples. That word  “recline” shows how special this dinner was to Levi.  When Judeans and Galileans ate they either stood or squated

- ready to return to work. Judeans and Galileans only reclined at a very special meal in which they anticipated the arrival of the long-promised they did during Passover. Levi’s decision to follow Jesus was the most important event in his life and he hosted a meal befitting the occasion.

Many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and His disciples for there were many who followed Him. Roman officials stationed in the Holy Land and local people who worked closely with them had homes which were surrounded by walls and had spacious courtyards between the home and the wall.  Special meals were often served in the courtyard where  anyone interested in hearing the guest of honor could come and stand at the far end of the courtyard where, while not partaking of the meal itself, they could observe and hear what was taking place.

And the scribes of the Pharisees when they saw Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”  The tax collectors and others branded as sinners by the Pharisees knew they had been invited to  Levi’s house to learn how Jesus could free them from their sins and put their lives on an entirely new and eternal path. 

The Divine Physician was making a house call on sinners who were spiritually ill.

Jesus continued, “I did not come to call the righteous” – of course, there were none and are none - since all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. Jesus said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  God Himself came to earth as The vulnerable flesh and blood Christ to make His house call to heal all humanity.

The Divine Physician’s great mission is to seek and save the lost — a mission to which Levi the despised tax collector responded totally and completely and a mission many scribes of the Pharisees rejected to their eternal regret.

As George A. Buttrick, points out, “Matthew’s sword of extortion was reforged into a plowshare of the proclaimer of the Gospel”. In fact, Levi the quisling tax collector who took the Gentile name Matthew to enhance his Roman position and loyalty became the evengelist to his Judean neighbors.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ According To Matthew is known as the Judean Gospel because it focuses on Jesus as The Judean Messiah. It all started with Jesus The Great Physician’s house call.

“Just as I am, Thy love unknown

has broken every barrier down;

Now to be Thine, yea Thine alone,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

“O Lamb of God, I come” to celebrate the gift of salvation as Matthew did “O Lamb of God, I come” to share the gift with all who will hear as Matthew did.




June 10, 2018


Dr. Kurt Borows

Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church. Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio


Bible Verse of the Day

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