If Levi had been an honourable member of society, it would seem reasonable for Jesus to call him. But he was a tax collector, and tax collectors were considered by the Jews to be defiled; traitors and thieves. The land of Israel was occupied by Rome, and taxes collected were sent to Rome. They not only worked for the despised Roman government, but were seen as defiled because of their association with them. Besides that, tax collectors often cheated their fellow Jews and extorted money from them. They were among the most hated members of society.
To such a “sinner,” Jesus extended his gracious invitation: “Follow me.” He not only called this despised tax collector, but went to his home and shared a meal with him and many others just as despised as Levi. Sharing a meal with someone indicated intimate connection or friendship.
Jesus lived out his message of grace, his message of inclusivity and absolute acceptance of the least deserving members of society.
How comforting-and challenging-for us, his followers!
God, help me to understand how completely accepted I am by you and to share that same loving acceptance to those around me. Amen. — KGT