As we grow from childhood to adulthood, at some point we all face the same question; what do you want to do when you grow up? The answers vary, a fireman, a doctor, an actress. Most people desire to work in a profession that contributes to the better good, but some end up working in positions that come with the burden of intense scrutiny. Imagine what is must be like to work in a profession where upon completion of your duties, no one is happy about the outcome. A police officer dispensing parking tickets, a banker who must deny a credit application, and few, if any are happy upon meeting with a tax auditor.
In Jesus’ day, tax collectors were considered scoundrels. They were despised because most believed they took unfair advantage of those whom they would collect revenue for the Roman government. Yet, when Jesus encountered Levi he invited him to become one of his followers and later chose him to be an apostle. Jesus chose to associate with those whom society shunned. He invited sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors to dine with him in order that they might hear the message of repentance and redemption. However, the Pharisees, who were followers of Jesus of a different sort, took exception to the company he kept.
Because of the hardness of their hearts, the Pharisees and scribes could not see that Jesus came to save people from the powers of sin and evil. In order to do this, he must reach out to those who are trapped by their sin and unable to free themselves. Had the Pharisees known this, they would have joined Jesus and Levi at the table.
Jesus’ call to Levi shines light on our need to follow Christ and his command to love God and our neighbor. We are all sinners in need of redemption, unworthy on our own to receive Christ’s invitation to God’s table of grace. However, God makes us worthy through our baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection. There is a place at the table for repentant sinners; the feast is prepared for all who turn from sin and follow Jesus.
Just as Levi was called to follow Christ and share the good news of salvation, all Christians are called to tell others of God’s saving grace. This is yet one more occupation that comes with great scrutiny. Thanks be to God that the one who calls us is faithful to his promise, for he strengthens his people and is with us always, even to the end of days.