Markby Robert M. Solomon
When Jesus passes by, expect your life to change significantly. This is what happened to a tax collector working in Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee. His name was Levi (also known as Matthew; see Matthew 9:9). He was a tax collector, an occupation coveted by those who desired a quick path to riches and hated by those who suffered under heavy Roman taxes. Tax collectors were authorised to gather money on behalf of Rome from the local population based on an official rate per head or unit of weight of cargo, but could overcharge and keep the excess for themselves. They were thus widely hated as traitors and cheats.
Capernaum was an important port on the Sea of Galilee. Large quantities of goods passed through and were conveniently taxed. Levi was busy with his lucrative business when Jesus spotted him. He must have viewed him with compassion and with the knowledge of one who looks into the hearts of people. He said only two words, ″Follow me,″ (v. 14) and Levi immediately left his job and followed Jesus. Perhaps his heart had been in turmoil lately, or something in the face and voice of Jesus convinced him, but Levi left a profitable business to follow Jesus.
He invited Jesus to his house for a meal. It may have been a farewell party for his fellow tax-collectors, but what a witness Levi turned out to be! It appeared that he wanted his friends to meet Jesus as well. Converted people often opened their homes in gratitude and generosity (cf. Acts 10:48; 16:15, 34). The fault-finding Pharisees criticised Jesus for mixing with sinful tax collectors. Jesus answered that it was normal for a physician to be with sick patients, and He was the physician of the soul (v. 17). It was sad that the Pharisees, who were the really soul-sick ones, recognised neither their need nor Jesus as the soul physician who could heal them.
As long as people deny their spiritual condition, they will remain unhealed. The tax collectors and sinners in Capernaum who believed in Jesus were blessed when they met and followed Him.
Note that the passage begins with Jesus teaching a large crowd (v. 13). He did what He came to do. How important are the teachings of Jesus? How important are they to you?
The call of Jesus is simple yet profound: ″Follow me″ (Mark 1:17; 2:14). Imagine Jesus coming to your regular place of work-at home, in church, or in your workplace. What do His words mean to you personally and how are you following Jesus? Is there anything you need to leave in order to follow Jesus?