Year 2 Day 56
Read - Mark 2:13-17
Message - Alan Burke
We all pay taxes, none of us like to pay them, we don’t think to ourselves, great a tax increase, I’ll vote for the guy who promises to increase taxes. Yet taxes are an important fact of national life and without them many of the things we take for granted wouldn’t be there. We might think it would be great to have taxes abolished but imagine the implications, the NHS would disappear, roads would crumble, we’d have to go back to homeschooling, the street lights would go out. The Romans may not have had street lights or an NHS but they still needed taxes to run their economy. Taxes that were raised by tax farmers called publicans in each part of the empire.
Once more Jesus is on the move, large crowds had come to him, he was teaching them, and off in the distance he spots a man sitting at the tax booth called Levi and he was a tax collector. Jesus calls this man to follow him and Levi got up and followed him. It can be easy for us to miss but this call confronts us with how scandalous, how shocking, how outrageous, how undeserving grace is that should cause us all to sit up and marvel.
Because if there was an award for scumbag of the year Levi would have been a strong contender. As Levi and all tax collectors were seen as so dishonest and were so hated that even the Pharisees taught that “It is righteous to lie and deceive a tax collector.”. They taught that lying to a tax collector was morally good. Tax collectors couldn’t be witness in court, they were lumped together with murders, they couldn’t go to synagogue, their family would have been seen as dirt, even the second cousin twice removed. They were collaborators, those who worked for the enemy, they were hated as much as informants in Nazi and Communist regimes, they were loathed.
Yet Jesus calls Levi to follow him, this is scandalous. Luke tells us that “Levi got up, left everything and followed him” (Lk 5:28) this was a decisive act. He gave up his business, livelihood, everything, and there was no going back. You weren’t going to be re employed by the Romans and he was unemployable anywhere else. This is such an unexpected call, to an unexpected person that it shouldn’t be lost on us. This call of Levi is not the exception to the mission of Jesus but rather typical of it.
This call confronts us with how scandalous, how shocking, how outrageous, how undeserving grace is that should cause us all to sit up and marvel because at the heart of it Jesus called sinners, Levi was a sinner yet Jesus called him. It is not the righteous that Jesus came to call but sinners! Jesus came for sinners, and indeed that is good news. For even though we may not see ourselves, we are all sinners, we have nothing to plead before God, we can’t say surely I have done enough, for all have sinned and fall short of his glory (Rom 3:23). Jesus comes for those who have no righteousness, those who have nothing to offer, sinners like you and me. The grace of God is scandalous, shocking, outrageous, undeserved and it should cause us all to sit up and marvel, be filled with praise to our Great God!
Q64 What is required in the fifth commandment?
The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, (Eph. 5:21) inferiors, (1 Pet. 2:17) or equals. (Rom. 12:10)