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Follow Me

by David Johnson

IMG_0666 It is good to be together again as we look into the Word of God. The title for the lesson is, “Follow me.” And the text is in the New Testament, the gospel of Luke cheaper five beginning in verse 27. Listen to the Word of God. “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.”  This is the Word of God.

I wonder who many people in our individual lifetimes really influence, impact and even changed us either voluntarily or involuntarily so that, for example, when they said: Follow me, we followed. For example, a teacher on the way to the principal’s office who said: Follow me. Or a dentist on the way to his happy chair who said: Follow me. Or a drill instructor in the military who said: Follow me. Or a coach on sports team who said: Follow me. Or even a best friend who said: Follow me.  Or even mom and dad who said: Follow me as we follow Jesus.

It was President Harry Truman who once said these words and I quote. I wonder how far Moses had gotten if a poll was taken in Egypt. Oh, what Jesus had preached, if a poll were taken in Israel or where the Reformation had gone if Martin Luther had taken a poll.  Polls don’t lead.  People lead, end of quote.  Real leaders don’t need to follow polls. Genuine, inspiring leaders change polls and potentially change people.  And the greatest leader of mankind ever was and is Jesus Christ who still says:  Follow me.

Some in Jesus’ day, most, in fact, did not follow. And some followed for a day or perhaps a month or a year and then they stopped following. They followed him no more. And some followed for a lifetime and that hasn’t changed.  That scenario hasn’t changed. It is the same today.  Most do not follow Jesus. Some follow for a short period of time whether it be a day, a week, a month or a year and stop and follow him no more.  But, of course, God deeply desires as our Father God for us to follow his Son Jesus for our lifetimes.

So which are we, our families, our friends, our circle of influence that we can impact, that we can influence to be lifetime followers of Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God? And how convicted, how convinced, how committed are we, our families, our friends as we follow Jesus Christ?  Let’s examine this question as we consider a genuine follower of Jesus Christ and apply principles found in our study text in Luke chapter five verses 27 through 32, for ourselves and to share with others.

In Luke chapter five and verse 27 it says, in part: Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. Follow me, Jesus said to him.  Tax collectors in the first century AD in Israel were despised by the Israelites. Even today tax and bill collectors are usually pretty much despised today.  But in the first century in Israel’s case monies collected were well above the actual tax, making the tax collectors thieves, in fact, extortionists either by force or by threats, embezzlers and collaborators under Roman supervisors. And, therefore, also considered traitors to the nation of Israel. And Levi was one of these hated tax collectors.

His given name, his family name was probably Levi.  Matthew, however, means gift of the Lord.  And that became his apostolic name. At his tax booth indicates that Levi collected custom taxes or tolls at a tax or customs station on the major international road from Damascus of Syria through to Capernaum in Galilee and went on to the Mediterranean sea coast and then down to Egypt. Follow me, Jesus said to him.

With what we know about Levi in his pre-conversion, that is, before Levi followed Jesus, do you think that you or I would have asked someone like Levi to follow Jesus, to follow us? What do we usually think of extortionists or embezzlers or traitors? And Levi would not have been considered just a petty thief. He was a professional profiteer off the backs of his own people. Certainly someone that we would probably not want to follow us, someone that we may even despise. But Jesus Christ in the first century AD and today, in fact, down through the centuries, down through the generations of the church age and even to the 21st century, asks and accepts people from every level of society and every background, even someone that may be and in fact is despised by society to follow me.
Jesus Christ asks us and all others to follow me no matter what our past, not matter what our faults or failures. We are all sinners and we are all sinners, terrible sinners, certainly to God’s standard, which needs to be perfection.  And that is why we need Jesus, because only in Christ Jesus are sinners sanctified by his blood. And so Jesus is still calling everybody today to follow me, because God desires and wishes that none would perish, but that all would come to repentance and follow his Son Jesus the Savior.

In Luke chapter five and verse 28 it says: And Levi got up, left everything and followed him. The calling of this apostle is recorded in Matthew chapter nine and verse nine and following in a parallel passage of our study here in Luke.  And the wording is almost identical in each parallel passage. However, in Matthew’s gospel in his own account about himself being called by Jesus Christ as opposed to Luke’s account he refers to himself as Matthew, not Levi, possibly because he even left his given name, his family name. He left everything behind, because Matthew was a totally changed man.  He got up. He left everything, evidently immediately, undoubtedly, of course, Levi had already heard and seen this Jesus. No one spake like this one. And undoubtedly heard or possibly even saw his great signs and wonders and miracles that accredited him, Jesus, to being who he said he was. And often Jesus whom headquartered his public ministry in Capernaum of Galilee, Levi would have been very familiar because he resided in Capernaum also with Jesus.

And so Levi left everything. Even more so than any of the other 11 apostles who were mostly fishermen and, in fact, did on occasion return to fishing, even for profit, not just for pleasure.  But for a tax collector who left, there was no turning back. Financially it cost Levi much more than any of the other 11 apostles. And when Levi undoubtedly left his tax booth, he guaranteed himself unemployment. Levi was called to apostleship.

We are all called to discipleship in Christ Jesus. And so that sort of begs the question: What have we left behind as we have become disciples of Jesus Christ?  As we discipline ourselves, as we are learners after our Lord Jesus Christ? For us we have not left everything like Levi, at least most of us. But certainly we have left behind some things, even many things like sinful habits, things and ways with an over emphasis on the world that keeps us from the kingdom, from growing in the kingdom, from maturing in Christ Jesus. And when Levi followed him, there were at least two major things that happened.  Jesus gave Levi a new life, a radically new life. Levi would have become, as Matthew spiritually alive, saved to serve. Is that our experience or do we still feel the need? Do we still want? Are we still committed as we were at first to serve?
And, secondly, Jesus gave Levi, Matthew, a new purpose for his spiritual gifts and physical talents. As a tax collector, he would have been a good above average record keeper. And as an apostle Matthew became a great record keeper of the gospel, of the good news of Jesus Christ to he world. As it were, like a biography of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, especially to his poor audience Israel, to the Jew. And it is interesting that as an ex tax collector, Matthew was not chosen to be the keeper of the purse, that is the keeper of the monies, that is the treasurer of the ministry of Jesus Christ and the 12. Perhaps the other 11 apostles were not sure that they wanted Levi, now Matthew, to be the one who kept the money for the ministry.

So how is our new life in Jesus Christ going?  How are we serving? How committed? How consistent are we as we are saved in our service to the Lord?  And how well, how consistently are we using our God given physical talent and spiritual gifts for the kingdom, for the King and to God’s glory? How is our commitment going?

In Luke chapter five and verse 29 it says, in part: Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house. And a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with him. And so obviously Levi was going to leave and did leave behind a lot of wealth and money making ability. And notice that Levi invited his former coworkers to meet Jesus, people who needed to follow Jesus also.  Now that is a great example for us that as we surrender, as we submit, as we are saved, as we are converted, as we become Christians, as we are born again, as we are changed from he inside out, one of the first paramount important commitments that we should make when we follow Jesus is to point others to follow Jesus, too. Then we would also have this concern, this care, this commitment to the great commission that Jesus himself gave all of his disciples, all of his followers, all believers to become ambassadors for him as Levi did and especially to his own circle of influence as we have a circle of influence with our family and friends, that as many as God convicts and as the Holy Spirit convicts to convince  to follow Jesus, too.

 

In verse 30 it says, in part, that the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, that is, the scribes, they complained. Why do you eat with sinners? They complained to Jesus.  And in verse 31 it says, in part, that Jesus answered. It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. IN verse 32 Jesus also said: I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. So what did Jesus men by all of this? Undoubtedly that the self righteous, the ones who think that they are spiritually healthy and spiritually wealthy, that is, good enough to deserve or to earn themselves heaven only in themselves, by their own good works and, or, their own good character, like the first century Pharisees and teachers of the law and even today the same kind of people, the same mindset that somehow anyone can attain heaven, can attain salvation, can attain eternal life in Christ Jesus by their own merit, they are often, today, seeking to save themselves.

And so the self righteous and the self promoters today think that they are spiritually healthy enough to be saved in themselves. In fact, there are many today that believe that they don’t need saving or don’t need a savior, that they do not need a cure or healing of the soul. But, in fact, all, according to the Bible, all accountable human beings do need to recognize that we are all sinners, that we are sin sick and that we desperately need a Savior, salvation and that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ who heals us, who saves us through obedient faith in him, because Jesus Christ is the great physician, physically and spiritually. And Jesus saves only sinners. Jesus cannot save the self appointed saints.  Jesus still says: Follow me.

 

                    Bro. David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, In.




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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10