As Jesus walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:14-17)
In my quiet time this morning, I came across this passage, and it spoke to me as though Jesus Himself were sitting here with me, reading it and providing His own commentary. I say that hesitantly, because I am not a Biblical scholar. I have only had two semesters of seminary, and those two semesters were concentrated on a counseling ministry that wasn’t meant to be. I have not done extensive studies of what the original Greek meant in any particular passage, nor do I know what the most learned commentators say about most subjects. All I know is what the Spirit speaks to me when I dive into the Word, and while it may not be perfectly interpreted, I do believe that what I venture to share here is consistent with the nature of God and what He wants us to know about Himself.
That being said, this passage had a profound message for me this morning, and my heart is racing as I try to get the words down for any of you who might need that same message.
I was struck while reading this passage by the fact that Jesus told Levi to follow Him…and that then they wound up at Levi’s own home. I know, certainly, that the Biblical meaning of “follow” is not the literal meaning we give it today, i.e. Levi was probably not literally walking behind Jesus, though he certainly might have been. If you imagine, though, that Jesus was leading the way physically, with the crowds of people walking behind Him as he took them wherever He wanted to go, this is powerful.
Levi got up from where he was, followed Jesus, and Jesus took him to his house.
It’s safe to say that Levi probably wasn’t expecting to end up there. He was embarking on a lifelong journey of following a rabbi – taking on that rabbi’s yoke and learning all that he had to teach – and he probably imagined that his first night would be spent elsewhere…not at his own home. Of all the places Jesus might have taken Levi and the other disciples that night, Levi likely least expected it to be his own home. Jesus took him there, though, to accomplish two things.
First, I think Jesus took Levi back to his own home to show him that while they had just met, Jesus knew where Levi lived.
Levi may have been surprised to see where they were heading as they walked. “Wait a second…that’s my house! How does He know?” And then, the rational thoughts of anyone with a surprise visitor: “Did I clean up this morning? Do I have enough food there to feed my guests? My house is humble…I really wish they weren’t going to see it.” Jesus knew where he lived, though, and he wanted Levi to know that.
Jesus knows where WE live. We don’t have to tell him about the dark places and scary rooms we have always stayed in. The dark place of my depression – where I have lived far too long – is no surprise to Jesus. He knows I live there. He knows all about every room of that house. He knows the color of the paint on the proverbial walls. He knows the layout. He knows all about the place where I live because He has been there with me and even allowed me to move in to that place. He knows. Nothing about it is a surprise to Him, and nothing about it can faze Him. He chose me to be with Him with no regard to where I have come from or where I might be now. He chose ME.
Second, I think maybe Jesus took Levi back to his own home to teach Levi – and the other disciples – more and more about who He was.
Imagine with me that Levi hated his home. Imagine that he was ashamed of the way he lived and was eager to begin following a rabbi to get away from the place he had always lived. Imagine that he wanted to go anywhere in the world as long as it was far, far away from the place he called “home.”
He wanted to go anywhere but there…yet back “there” was exactly where Jesus took him. And upon arriving there, Levi saw more of who this man Jesus was…and was able to really be changed as He stuck up for him in the face of worldly scrutiny.
And so am I.
I expect Jesus to take me anywhere – absolutely anywhere – but back to the dark, depressive place I call “home.” He is Jesus, after all. The Light of the World…the One who came to save me from all of that. “Surely,” I think, “by following Him, I can get away from this place forever.”
But then…when I least expect it, when I have possibly renewed my commitment to follow Him and am more zealous about my love for Him than ever, I look up and realize where we are heading. I know that house. That house is mine. Wait a minute…no…please, no….
He takes me back there, though, to continue working on me. He takes me there because in the familiar places of “home” – where I have been so comfortable yet so miserable – I will be changed. He takes me there so that I – and everyone around me – can see something more about who He is and why He has come and what He wants to do with all of us.
Jesus took Levi home that night perhaps just to have dinner – a stopover, if you will, before they got back on the road the next morning. From that little pit stop, though, I see something for me:
Jesus did not design the “house” of my depression, and ultimately, He DOES want to take me away from there. He wants me to follow Him to grander and more exotic places. He will take me far away from that place when I commit to follow Him.
Sometimes, though, in order to get to those places, we will have to make a stop in that house. We’ll go there briefly so that He can remind me where I have come from…to keep my testimony fresh and relevant…to keep me humble and completely reliant on His plans and His map for our journey. He’ll take me there when I least expect it, but when we get there, He’ll show me something about Himself that I needed to know. He’ll use our little visit back there to reveal more of Himself…
…and ultimately, if by being there, I get to know more of this man Jesus, I’m willing to live there forever.
The great news, though, is that I don’t have to. Tomorrow, He’ll take me somewhere else. All I have to do is get up and keep following.