When I read this verse, I think of Levi plopping an “out of office” sign on his desk and leaving. But let’s try and put our heads where Levi was at. Levi was unmarried, probably a young adult. Marriage may not have been his thing. Commitment might have always been a bridge too far. Plus, what father would hand his daughter over to a guy who sold out to the Romans who were an occupying abusive force. Then one day as he is taking payments (and bribes), Jesus appears. There may have been enough talk about Jesus for him to know who he was. He may have even snuck into hear him preach or heard him at an open air gathering. He knew that this guy did miracles. But what else did he know? I think we could speculate all day on this. It just appears that Jesus comes to Levi out of nowhere and says to him, “Follow me.” Levi wasn’t looking to get his life together for all we know. He had a good thing going with the Roman government. He was climbing his way up the ladder. He knew there were ceilings. There were places his kind wasn’t tolerated, and he knew to stay away from them.
Jesus stood before Levi. I don’t know if there was a pause or if Jesus just walked up to him and quickly said, “Follow me.” All we are told is that Jesus walks up to his booth and says, “Follow me.” And then Levi does it. Now Jesus did this previously with Peter. He sees them fishing and then does a miracle with fish and then Jesus says, “Follow me.” Peter in his calling had an emotional melt down. But we don’t see that here in Levi. He just gets up and follows. Maybe he heard about the fishing miracle from a coworker or buddy at the bar—those words, “largest catch, I’ve ever seen,” may have echoed in his mind. I don’t know. All I know is that Jesus came to Levi (aka Matthew) and says, Follow me, and then Levi leaves everything and follows him out the door. I’m pretty sure, Levi didn’t start emptying out the petty cash drawer for a just in case fund. I’m sure he left the stacks of coins right next to the ledger, got up and left—like he had been alien abducted.
I think as Christians we read this and move on. But I got stuck right here. He left everything. He left his identity. The people that Levi associated with didn’t do religion. And if they did, they didn’t get too fanatical about it. They certainly wouldn’t leave a sweet government job with benefits. He left his job. In our culture, we preach, do what you love, but have a plan to do it. Don’t just get up and leave. So here is Levi, he may been a corrupt Jew, but he was still a Jew who handled money. Guys like that don’t just walk out with some sort of income stream set up. But that’s what he did.
When Jesus calls you, what do you do?
Look down at your feet, shuffle a bit and say, “Nah, I’m good here. I’ll just stay at my booth and collect taxes.” Levi would have missed out on a lot.
But more than what Jesus does for us, it’s what are we called to do? Jesus wants all of us. He wants everything. He is the creator of the universe and so therefore it’s all his, but again, our culture preaches in moderation in everything. But even moderation needs moderation. This following Jesus thing is all in.
When Jesus calls. He wants everything.
He doesn’t want your identity in your job. He wants your identity in Him. He doesn’t want your identity in your family. He wants your identity to be in Him. He wants everything. He wants your identity to not be in your sexual orientation. He wants your identity to be in Him. If we cling too closely to anything else, that thing will consume our mind and be reinforced by actions that lead us away from leaving everything for Jesus.
Is Jesus calling you?
So as you are going through your day, is there any part of you that is keeping a reserve stash of cash or relationships ready in case the Jesus thing falls through. Maybe you don’t want to spend too much time with God in prayer, because you are busy, and God—well he may not know how to make this deal come together. You know God is in charge of your children, but instead of going to the Lord and seeking him and asking him for help, you just get louder. Maybe you want to hold on to your marriage, because God doesn’t understand how messed up your spouse is. (Didn’t he make your spouse?) So instead of taking a break from the argument to retune with the Lord, you say really mean manipulative stuff because if you don’t parent your spouse, your spouse will get out of control. We do all sorts of things to keep everything together. And that everything becomes our savior. So today, follow Levi as he follows Jesus “out of office.”