“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 and his disciples. (Mark 2:14-15)
What do you do when your own family members write you off? When you are labeled and isolated as a black leg, and so locked up in that state by your job and the state powers that be, what do you do? Levi who is later called Matthew was possibly a subordinate officer, serving under the ‘publicani’, or superior officials who farmed the Roman taxes in the territory of Herod Antipas. As such he must have had some education, and doubtless in addition to the native Aramaic must have been acquainted with the Greek. His ready acceptance of the call of Jesus shows that he must have belonged to that group of publicans and sinners, who in Galilee and elsewhere looked longingly to Jesus; and to him, Jesus was revealed.
As part of the chain of that was a compulsory tool for the imperial Roman government to oppress and subdue the Jews partly through the taxation system, tax collectors were not popular. Worse still, many of them collected more than they were required to, perhaps for their own benefit, and this further put pressure on the Jewish common people; this is evidenced in John the Baptist’s sermon to them when they came to be baptized: ‘Don’t collect any more than you are required to.’ (Luke 3:13). As a result, Levi and his workplace colleagues were isolated for serving the wrong regime, for corruption, and for associating with the mafia and the oppressor. They were labeled sinners together (and comparably) with prostitutes. What a great wonder that to such Jesus was revealed as Saviour and Teacher!
He was revealed to the tired and hopeless shepherds, and they enjoyed the heavenly choir singing sweet night carols; He was revealed to three wise Easterners, who travelled all the way to worship with joy; now Jesus Christ is revealed to the ‘black legs’ of the Jews, and dines with them to draw them to salvation. The picture of a broken society is not difficult to construct from the Palestine into which Jesus was born; and the hope that He was to them, He is to us today – in the brokenness and difficulties of our day. He is ready to be revealed to the locals and foreigners, to the lowly and the highly placed, to the oppressed and the oppressor and their agents.
In his fellowship, Jesus’ disciples embodied a restoration that was being announced to the society; among them were people from all walks of life and fortunate and unfortunate backgrounds. The revelation of Jesus Christ is our hope for restoration today in Uganda and in the World. He welcomes all who respond to the call, ‘Follow me’. Will you decide now to follow Jesus? He is our hope for restoration.