October 8, 2008
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ’sinners’?”
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Our life with Christ starts with a personal call to follow him. For Matthew it came as he was sitting at the tax booth. For Peter it came as he was fishing. In both situations Christ broke into their private world and called them to a greater vision, an infinitely greater type of life than they could have imagined. Matthew, moved by the Spirit, went on to write the gospel of Matthew, and the early church recognized the primacy of Matthew’s gospel. Peter went on to become the earliest leader in the Christian movement, and a great apostle and missionary.
In their early days of being called out by Christ, it is unlikely that others saw much potential in these men – later they were called “unschooled and ordinary” (Luke 4:13) – but no one saw the potential and the promise that Christ saw.
As Matthew recounted his own calling (he is called Levi in Luke), he omitted two words that Luke added. Luke pointed out that he “left everything,” but Matthew avoided saying that. Certainly humility was part of the reason; Matthew did not brag about how much he had given up for Christ. But I believe also that in Matthew’s perspective he had not “given up” things so much as he had “gained life.” In other words he had not missed those things associated with the world. He had found a higher purpose in Christ.
Christ does the same today; he calls ordinary people by his Spirit to follow him, he is calling you to follow him, and the potential of lives in the path of following Christ knows no end. As the Scripture says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). Of course, we love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:7,12,19-20). But this new revealed potential of every person on earth, what Christ can do in every life calls us to see ourselves differently, but to also see every person on earth in a different light.
Paul wrote that the love of Christ had changed his perspective on every person.
This means that our knowledge of men can no longer be based on their outward lives (indeed, even though we knew Christ as a man we do not know him like that any longer). For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether - the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new. All this is God’s doing, for he has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ; and he has made us agents of the reconciliation. God was in Christ personally reconciling the world to himself - not counting their sins against them - and has commissioned us with the message of reconciliation. We are now Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were appealing direct to you through us. As his personal representatives we say, “Make your peace with God.” For God caused Christ, who himself knew nothing of sin, actually to be sin for our sakes, so that in Christ we might be made good with the goodness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Phillips Translation
So Christ came into the world to call sinners to repentance, people like you and me who are spiritually sick and need a spiritual cure that only He can bring. Now is the time to open up our hearts to him, to let him become our Great Physician of our souls, to let him become our Savior and Healer, to let him take us and reveal to us his high purpose for our lives to know God and to follow Christ.
Lord, we thank You that You see potential in us that no one else can see. You see our need of forgiveness and inner healing, and we can only come to You as You as we are, guilty and sin-sick. But we praise You and thank You that You love us too much to leave us in this condition. Cleanse us, Christ, and set us in the center of Your will and plan for our lives. Amen.