Why Did Jesus Recruit HIM?

15 09 2011

For those who only want to work with those who are naturally compatible, who want to “get the right people on the bus” (a la Jim Collins in Good to Great), who want a church that is homogenously attractive to people from one basic segment of society and ethnicity, I give you Jesus’ recruiting example.

“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” (Mark. 2:14).

At first blush, this may not seem very radical. The guy is from the tribe of Levi, the tribe assigned religious duties etc. But consider the reality. Next verse:

“Now it happened as He was dining at 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” (Mark 2:15)

Levi opened a door to an entire network, a social web, based on his occupation. This is a strategy Jesus was very intentional about. In Luke 10 He told 70 of his disciples to go into a village and look for a “person of peace” who would not only provide hospitality but would also open access into a web of relationships. Well, Levi’s network was one diverse group of people! I love the non-chalantness of “Now it happened” — in the course of life, Jesus interacted with “sinners — non-religious types you would least expect to be interested. No wonder these people did not respond to established religion (the version of the self-righteous Pharisees), for they were condemned by the dutiful observers of the religious establishment of the day. See any similarities today?

Jesus had only recruited four disciples by this time — Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John. All four were fishermen-partners who just days before were plying the waters of the sea of Galilee, likely despising tax collectors and the entire social strata in which they lurked. And now Jesus has recruited one of their number to also follow Him. Imagine what their reaction must have been! This is like four Iowa farmers thrown together with a Las Vegas pimp. Levi had contracted with the Romans to collect taxes for them, charging extra and pocketing the difference. Levi was not any tax collector. He was their, local tax man! They knew him, saw him, and likely had to satisfy his greed for years.

Imagine the barriers they had to overcome internally. Their idea of a Messianic fishermen’s club was shattered now. Thanks to Levi’s connections, many shysters were now following Jesus, beginning to outnumber the tradesmen in so few days. I wonder if the founding four, the charter members began to dread those irresistible words He uttered, “Follow Me”? It must have seemed that Jesus was inviting just about anyone to join His band!

Exclusiveness is a huge blind spot in the church. Because we want to worship alongside our kind of folk, we (sometimes) unknowingly drive off those who are different. If they wander in, we can freeze them out over time. But Jesus wanted diversity in His apostolic band, so Matthew Levi got the call.  Aren’t you glad recruit #5 was good with words? Through him the Spirit inspired our first Gospel.

Let’s be very careful who we consider unlikely to be called by Jesus into His troupe of committed followers!