Called to Repentance

Today’s study ties into our study on Repentance Proclaimed. Not only is Repentance proclaimed by John the Baptizer, by Jesus (and His Word), by the apostles, and by all Christians, but in that proclamation is a beckoning, a calling.

Read Luke 5:27-32.

Levi was also known as “Matthew” – the same Matthew who wrote the gospel account. We learn from this package that in his BC (before Christ) life, Matthew was a tax collector. In Jewish society at that time, tax collectors were seen as being on the same level as prostitutes. They were contractors who worked for the Roman government to collect taxations from their people.

If the governor needed to collect a given amount, tax collectors would bid for the collection, sometimes adding to them sum as an enticement for him to choose their bid. Let’s say in our scenario here that Matthew is awarded the collection. From his own resources, he gives the amount in full to the governor, then set about collecting the taxes from the people, plus a little extra for himself.

Because he’s already invested a substantial sum into this collection, he isn’t going to be patient, kind, and gentle in collecting. He will use threats and force when necessary. So not only is he supporting the occupying Romans whom the Jews don’t like, but he’s being terrible to his fellow Jews.

Matthew must have known that his life wasn’t right. He knew God’s Law. He knew the prophecies concerning the Messiah (Matthew’s gospel account sites more Old Testament prophecy than any of the others). He even had two Jewish names, maybe in some small attempt to atone for his life. But he still wasn’t on the good side of any of the religious leaders, which becomes evident in the passage. Before we get to that, though, let’s explore Matthew’s reaction to Jesus’ invitation.

Did you notice in Luke 5:28 what the Holy Spirit leads Matthew to do? He leaves everything. Now, if I’d invested a large amount that I knew I could never get back, I’m not sure I’d be able to leave it all behind. But at the Holy Spirit’s urging, Matthew does.

When big things happen in life, we tend to celebrate. Birthday parties, graduation parties, wedding showers and receptions, baby showers…Matthew celebrates this pivotal moment in his life by holding a feast, a party, and invites the people he knows.

Which, as it happens, includes tax collectors.

The Pharisees are not happy about this. More than most of the other religious leaders, the Pharisees despise the Roman occupation of the land that God had promised to their forefathers. And anyof of their own who collaborates with those occupiers? They are the lowest of the low. We can imagine how impossible it would have been for them to keep quiet when Jesus, this powerful miracle-performer and popular, compassionate teacher is happy to spend quality time with people of low quality.

Jesus answers their question of why He eats with them in a way that speaks peace to a sin-weary heart like Matthew’s. Like mine. Like yours.

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Let that sit a moment. Breathe it in.

Here in Texas, it isn’t uncommon for our children to come inside with a fire-ant bite. They sting and burn, and in come cases, swell up with a painful reaction. My six-year-old came home from school the other day with one such bite. I slathered some ointment on it and told him to let it sit a bit, then wipe away the extra later.

Read Jesus’s words again. Let that balm permeate your heart.

Repentance (6)
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We don’t have to make ourselves good enough for the Righteous King of all creation. Because we can’t.

We don’t need to cleanse ourselves of our sins by taking on a super-Christian identity like Matthew/Levi tried to do. Because we can’t.

Our sin is always more than we can handle.

But our sin is never too great for Christ’s blood to make atonement.

He calls us, as we are. His Spirit leads us to Him and works in His Word. He works on our sin-sick hearts with the healing balm of God’s abundant and lavish love.

Of course, the Pharisees don’t suddenly “get it” with the words of Jesus. They’re silenced for the time being, but ten chapters later, in Luke 15:1-2, we see them once again grumbling about the same thing. “Why is He surrounding Himself with these unsavory characters?” Ultimately, that grumbling turns to scheming for the death of this upstart teacher Jesus.

But it is that death, when His holy blood was spilled, that full atonement was made. For your sins. For my sins. For the sins of all.

For quiet devotional time, I invite you to pray Psalm 42.

For you journaling sorts: Consider what in your life needs healing, what needs the balm of God’s Word. Pray to your loving Savior for the healing only He can bring.

NOTE: Again, I’m sorry for the delay in posting…I’m working on catching up and getting us to finish before Easter! Thank you for your patience with me. 😉


2 thoughts on “Called to Repentance

  1. Thank you for the insight on tax collection in the time of Jesus. I have never heard it explained this way. I am re reading Matthew currently and had assumed he just walked away from a job that made him rich but unpopular. I found it interesting that among the Disciples Matthew was not the treasurer for the group. Judas was entrusted with their funds.


    1. I got most of the Matthew info from my husband–he teaches and studies Ancient Rome and Early Christianity. And you’re right! I’d never considered the fact that Judas kept the money, not Matthew…old reputations die hard?


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