Sep 16, 2012
Mark 2:13-15

Download Audio:

Calvary316 Twitter Calvary316 Facebook Calvary316 Square Donations


Mark 2:13 “Then He (Jesus) went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them.” 

Scene of Activity

Jesus is still in the region of Galilee - more in likely the city of Capernaum - and Mark tells us He goes out “by the sea” - the “multitude came to Him” - and “He taught them.

First Observation: Jesus didn’t limit His teaching to the synagogue.

Though Jesus commonly taught from the Jewish synagogue on the Sabbath, Mark has made it clear Jesus’ teaching ministry was not limited solely to the synagogue.

We’ve already seen that Jesus taught the people from the home of Peter. 

And in this passage Jesus is teaching from the shore of Galilee. 

No doubt with larger crowds coming to listen, Jesus was constantly looking for larger venues that could provided some natural vocal acoustics, as well as plenty of space. This is why Jesus would often teach on the side of a mountain or, as in this case, with the water at His back.

I know on the surface this seems like a simple - even trivial observation, but here’s my point.... if Jesus didn’t limit His teaching to the synagogue - or in our case - limit His teaching to a church building, we shouldn’t limit our study to a physical location either. 

So many Christian limit their study of the Bible to church, but may I ask.... if Jesus is always looking for chances to teach, shouldn’t you always be ready for the opportunity to learn? Let me encourage you to take your Bible to school or work. Read a chapter with your children before bed, with your wife over breakfast, or on your lunch break. When He finds a willing audience, Jesus is always willing to teach!

Second Observation: The best resort is in Jesus.

I love how the Old KJV translates this passage.... “And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them.” 

This word “resorted” indicated that the people who came to hear Jesus came to Him out of a deeper longing of the soul. Their motivations were pure. They came so that Jesus’ words might satisfy and quench a deep spiritual thirst.

When Jess and I went on our honeymoon we went to one of those all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic. We wanted to go to a resort because we didn’t want to deal with all of the typical hassles of travel or vacations. At a resort everything we needed was provided which enabled Jess and I to sit back - relax - and in many ways recharge our batteries after the hectic month of planning leading up to a wedding. 
Our only job was to get ourselves to the resort - everything else was taken care of by our host. But you know the problem we ran into.... we had to come home! It was only a temporary and short-lived reprieve. 

Do you realize you have a constant all-inclusive vacation spot in Jesus? When the day grows long and the hectic nature of life begins to weigh you down, you can find a “resort in Jesus.” 

Mark 2:14 “As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.”

Scene of Activity

Jesus finishes His sermon and is making His way presumably back to Peter’s house which was His headquarters there in Capernaum when He sees Levi the tax collector. According to Mark, without hesitation Jesus goes out of His way to call Levi to be one of His followers - and with equal resolve and immediacy Levi arose - accepted the invitation - left behind everything - and followed Jesus.

First Observation: Jesus calls interesting people to follow Him. 

Levi the son of Alphaeus” was also known as “Matthew.” He would not only be one of the 12 Apostles, but would later write a narrative of Jesus’ life similar to Mark known as the Gospel of Matthew. 

Though only one verse, we do learn a lot about Levi from this passage....

By his namesake, we can conclude Matthew was a Jew with a priestly heritage.

Because of his occupation, we can conclude....

Matthew was an educated man.... to be a tax collector you’d need to be skilled in arithmetic and literate in both Aramaic and Greek.

Matthew was a democrat.... aren’t all democrats tax collectors?

Though wealthy, Matthew was hated by his brethren.... because they collected taxes on behalf of the occupying Roman government, Jewish tax collectors were viewed by their brethren as traitors and extortioners. The common perspective is that they had betrayed the people of God for money. 

Let me explain how did a tax collector make a living.... 

1. The job of tax collector wasn’t a job you applied for upon merit. These limited positions were auctioned off to the highest bidder. Matthew had to purchase the position - he had to buy the power - he had to put in a significant personal investment. 

2. Matthew was then given a figure by his boss for what he needed to bring back on a monthly basis. These figures were not disclosed to the public and could vary depending on the season or how much money the boss needed.

3. Anything you brought in above and beyond the figure the boss gave was pure profit. It’s how you got paid and made a living. Matthew literally made his living gouging, ripping off, even intimidating the people. If someone refused to pay or ante up.... Matthew had Roman soldiers available to be his muscle. 

In my mind we confuse who Matthew really was when we call him a tax collector.

For whatever reason we’ve developed this mental picture of a book nerd - little man -  sitting behind his desk - counting coin in kind of this “obsessive compulsive” manner when there is little historical data to substantiate this claim. 

When we think of a “tax collector” we typically think of “Ben Stein” from “Farris Bueller’s Day Off.” However, I think this isn’t an accurate portrayal of Matthew. Instead, I want you to see Matthew as being more like a “Paulie Walnuts” from “The Sopranos.

Matthew was a first century gangster. He was a lone shark. He was kind of like a lieutenant in a very complex mob family. With this in mind, Matthew was guilty of more than just ripping people off.... cross Matthew and you might have found yourself being “fed to the fishes.”

The distain and hatred for the tax collector was so deep within the Jewish community that (as a tax collector) Matthew would have found himself excommunicated from the temple - not allowed in the local synagogue - and when it was all said and done.... he really wouldn’t have cared!

When Jesus called “Jewish fisherman” to be His disciples, it no doubt raised a few eyebrows.... but when Jesus called Matthew, it left people in complete disbelief! 

Though unconventional, at least Andrew, Peter, James, and John were good Jewish boys - maybe not the smartest, but at least they were honest and religious. 

When Jesus called Matthew to follow Him, He was adding a traitorous, notorious, anti-religious, Paulie Walnuts to His inner circle. 

And to make matters worse, recent archeological data has shown that on the shore of Galilee there was believed to have been a special tax on fish. It’s interesting to think that the other disciples not only knew Matthew, but had been personally ripped off by Matthew! Can you imagine Peter’s reaction when Jesus called Levi?

In one and a half chapters of Mark’s Gospel we learn that Jesus not only calls the “common man” to follow Him, but He also chooses the deviants! If Jesus would call Matthew to be His disciple, not one person in this room can be excluded.

Second Observation: Jesus sees people differently.

We’re told that before Jesus called Levi, Mark is clear He first “saw Levi.” 

You have to wonder.... what did He see? 

If Jesus saw people - and therefore, evaluated people the way we do.... there’s not a chance Jesus would have called Matthew to be his follower. He would have seen the hardened, tough, possibly even cold, detached, Paulie Walnuts persona Matthew had carefully crafted to be good at his job. 

So.... when Jesus looked at Matthew what did Jesus see?

I believe it’s clear Jesus saw more than Levi’s outward appearance or outward persona. When Jesus looked over and saw Matthew, he saw a side of this man no one else could have.... or ever would have cared to see. 

Jesus saw beyond the tough guy facade and peered directly into Matthew’s heart. And what did Jesus see? He saw a man mired in guilt and condemnation - in desperate need of salvation. Though he’d never admit it to his friends, Matthew was lonely - empty - longing for something more.... something better! 

The proof of this is Matthew’s immediate reaction to Jesus’ invitation. Jesus commanded, “follow me” and you know what Matthew did.... he left it all behind and followed Jesus. Matthew heard the call and responded immediately to the invitation. 

And it wasn’t as though Matthew’s decision wouldn’t carry with it life-long consequences.... as a tax collector the decision to follow Jesus brought with it major implications for Matthew’s life. 

“Fishing” was a business you could return to if the “Jesus thing” didn’t work out. 

“Tax collecting” on the other hand was not a game you could simply pick back up once you left! Just like the mob.... once you’re out - you were out for good!

Not to go to far with the analogy (and maybe I should write a book titled, “The Spiritual Lessons I learned by watching the Soprano’s”), but as a tax collector the only way you could escape you’re old identity was by assuming a new identity. To get out of the mob, you’d have to go into witness protection and assume a new identity.... it was the same dynamic for Levi. 

Jesus gave Matthew an opportunity for a fresh start - a new beginning. And with few words Mark tells us Matthew jumped at the opportunity to leave behind the “identity of tax collector” for a “new identity as follower of Christ.”

What did Jesus see that day? Aside from Matthew’s spiritual longing, I am convinced - as He does with you and I - Jesus saw even more than presently existed. 

As in Matthew’s case and in ours.... I believe when Jesus invites a person to follow Him, He extends the invitation - not based upon past mistakes, but rather future potential! In that moment, Jesus doesn’t care who you are in sin, but rather who you’ll become through His righteousness. 

You see Jesus invites you and I to leave behind the old life in sin - for a new life in Christ.... to leave behind the person I once was - for the person He desires to make me into.... to leave behind the fleeting things of this world - for an eternal reward reserved for all eternity. 

Third Observation: Jesus’ methods are unpredictable.

Sometimes when we look at stories like this one we tend to isolate them, but if you really consider the flow of Mark’s narration.... spiritually, Matthew was both the leper and the lame man (sin had taken its tole on his life, and he was paralyzed to do anything about it).

But there is one interesting distinction.... I find it amazing that the leper desperately came to Jesus on his own accord - the lame man was lovingly brought to Jesus by four friends - but Jesus went out of His way to come to Matthew. 

I’m so encouraged that you can’t put Jesus into a box. 

  • For some of us we come to Jesus out of desperation. We’re tired of this life in sin, and like the leper we come to Jesus on our own asking for cleansing. 

  • Others of us are like the lame man. We’re paralyzed in our sin and stubborn to come to Jesus. But in His grace, God uses our friends to pick us up out of our weakness - love us through our lameness - and bring us to the Savior for cleaning. 

  • Then there’s Matthew.... oblivious to sin’s damaging effects - no positive influences to point him the right direction - judged and written off by the religious establishment.... but Jesus saw the need - and when the moment was right - He comes in the most supernatural of circumstances with a simple call to follow Him.

  • So whether this morning you find yourself in that pew out of desperation - or because a friend brought you - or you are here with no expectation at all.... Jesus in speaking through the void with a simple command.... follow me!

Mark 2:15 “Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. 

Scene of Activity

Jesus calls Levi to follow Him. Levi responds by accepting the invitation. 

Then Mark tells us - instead of heading back to Peter’s home - Jesus accepts Levi’s invitation to head over to his house for dinner. 

Knowing that Jesus and His other followers would be hanging out, Levi invites all of his friends to come and also hang out with Jesus. 

The result of the evening is that many of Levi’s friends have the same encounter with Jesus that he had earlier in the day.

Simple Observation: There should be two immediate result to following Jesus.

1. “Following Jesus” immediately resulted in Levi bringing Jesus home with him. 

So often - when we think of these early men responding to Jesus’ call - we have in our minds that every aspect of their lives immediately changed. We often twist the idea that these men “forsook all to follow Jesus” in a way that simply isn’t true. 

As we have already seen.... Peter responded to the call - remained married - and used his home as a place Jesus could utilize whenever He came to Capernaum. In the case with Matthew, this man left behind his former identity, but the first place Levi brought Jesus was to his home. 

Please understand.... Jesus saves in order to transform the individual into a new creation, but this doesn’t mean he provides an immediate escape from our present circumstances. 

I think the first place Jesus wants us to go once we’ve encountered His saving call is home to live out our faith.

2. “Following Jesus” also resulted in Levi exposing his friends to Christ. 

Matthew didn’t hide his new relationship with Jesus from his friends. He wasn’t timid as to what they might say or think. It seems we can conclude Matthew’s life had been so radically changed by Jesus that sharing Him with the lost people he cared deeply for was only the natural, loving thing to do!

Levi’s friends arrived that night as sinners, but they left followers of Christ. 

I think it’s sad that most new Christians are encouraged by many well meaning believers to immediately change their environment and their associations when they give their life to Christ. 

Instead of seeking to be a presence for Christ in our current circumstances (family, work, or the world at large), or a presence for Christ in the lives of our non-Christian friends and family, in so many ways we end up isolating and insulating from sinners and the very places we’ve been called to influence. 

Don’t get me wrong.... there are occasions where a certain level of isolation and insulation might be a necessity, but let me challenge you to think about it in a different way....

In regards to our environment.... if Jesus desired His followers to live in a “Christian utopia,” He would have already called us all home to heaven. 

But.... He instead has called us to be “light in a dark world.” Yes, we shouldn’t conform to the world around us, but running from the world around us defeats the purposes of Christ. We should seek to reach the world around us - interact with the world around us - and seek to transform the world around us through the presence of Jesus working through our lives.

In regards to our friends and associates.... if Jesus desire His followers to only have relational connections with other believers who thought and believed what and the way we do, He would have called us all home to heaven. 

But... He instead has called us to “make disciples of the nations.” Yes, the Bible is clear that “bad company corrupts good morals,” but if you only interact with other Christians who can you possibly reach with the Gospel? We’ve been called to reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus - to be salt in a flavorless world desperate for something real and true - and practically be the Lord’s hands and feet to the lost amongst us.