The making of Matthew
Mark 2:13-17 (NIV)
13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he 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. 15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 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’?” 17 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.”
The master and the man
Jesus now teaches a large crowd by a lake. A despised and corrupt tax collector now yields to the Master’s call. Jesus simply says to Levi, working in his booth, Follow me. Levi rises and follows Him. Both Levi’s life and his name will change. Crooked Levi will become disciple Matthew, and write Matthew’s Gospel!
Tax-collectors were Jews willingly employed by the occupying power, Rome. They cheated ordinary people out of more money than was rightly due in taxes. Their own people hated them. Their Roman employers had no respect for them. Jesus knows all this as He calls Levi.
To understand Levi better, see how his name is spelled: L – E – V – I. He is V – I – L – E in the Israelites’ eyes as a collaborator with the enemy. God knows all about his sinful extortion from ordinary people. He has an E – V – I – L heart of unbelief. We share his basic problem, according to the Bible. Over his mind and understanding is a V – E – I – L caused by his sinful heart. That blinds him from understanding God’s holiness and the righteous life God requires of him. If that veil is not removed, by trusting in Jesus to forgive him and give him a new God-conscious life, he will be lost eternally. But there is very good news! Levi now begins to L – I – V – E. Resulting from his personal faith in Christ, he leaves his old sinful occupation and follows Jesus. This impacts many people. Someone is always affected when Christ changes a sinner’s life! The wonderful truth is that his new life is eternal life.
Although it starts as soon as you trust in Christ to save you, that life will continue in Heaven! That eternal life becomes yours by God’s grace when you totally rely on Christ’s death on the cross, punished for your sins there. Through His risen life, He will enter and indwell you as a forgiven sinner.
The meal and the misunderstanding
Jesus accompanies His disciples to eat at Levi’s house with many other tax collectors and obvious ‘sinners’. Levi wants them to meet his Saviour. Again, Jesus meets religious opposition, now by the Pharisees. Like the scribes, they teach but don’t keep God’s law. Criticising Jesus, they show they misunderstand God’s forgiving love by asking, Why does He eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’? They wrongly think they are superior to other sinners because they are religious. Jesus tells them I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
Like the Pharisees, do you think you are better than others? Do you refuse to turn from your sins to ask Jesus for forgiveness? Or do you see yourself as God does—a guilty sinner for whom Christ died?
Although, like me, you are a vile sinner with an evil heart, God will lift that veil for you, through repentance and personal faith in Jesus Christ. Receiving eternal life produces a desire to live differently and to help others come to know Jesus. But expect some opposition too as you follow Him as your Lord.
 . It is a miracle of God’s grace and love that guilty sinners receive a new nature from God when they trust Christ and are born again. (John 3:3, John 3:7). God also gives them a new name—CHRISTians!
 . Jeremiah 17:9 – I prefer the NKJV translation to the NIV: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?
 . Matthew 7:13-14.
 . John 3:16.
 . 2 Corinthians 3:16.
 . 2 Corinthians 5:17.
 . 2 Timothy 3:12.
Questions on Chapter 7
Mark 2:13-17 The making of Matthew.
A. What similarities and what differences do you see between yourself and Levi? Can the way that Jesus brings him into blessing be the way He blesses you too? Romans 3:23 Jeremiah 17:9 Mark 2:17
B. Why do you think that Levi was keen to get his friends to meet Jesus? How can that be an example for your own Christian life? John 1:40-41 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 2 Kings 7:3-10
C. Consider why people who are not Christians sometimes oppose those who are. Why do the Pharisees and Scribes oppose Jesus? 1 Peter 4: 1-5 Isaiah 53:5 Matthew 5:11-12 Matthew 16:11-12 Matthew 21:33-45