In today’s One Year Bible reading in Mark 2, Jesus calls Levi, a tax collector, to follow Him. Levi (whom we also know as Matthew) was despised by his fellow Jews, for he had aligned himself with the Roman government that was occupying Israel. By doing so, Levi was seen as a traitor to his people. Nevertheless, Jesus chose him to become one of His disciples.

Then Jesus attended a dinner party at Levi’s house — a dinner attended by many other tax collectors and other “sinners” (what other kinds of friends would a despised tax collector have?). When the Jewish religious leaders criticized Jesus for doing this, He pointed out that these “tax collectors and sinners” needed reconciliation with God. (Unlike the religious leaders, these people recognized their sinfulness.)

Jesus’ choice of Levi is consistent with what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 1:26–28:

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

Yes, Levi was certainly one who was “despised.” But he wasn’t the only one of Jesus’ disciples who wouldn’t be welcome in polite society. In fact, that was probably true of most of the disciples. In this group were fishermen, a zealot (who opposed the Roman government; we might label him an anarchist), and a thief. But through their involvement with Jesus each of them was changed; none of them was what he was before he met Jesus. As Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 5:17, This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Paul expanded on this theme in 2 Cor. 4:7:

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

Yes, as with Jesus’ disciples, God has called us, who are “like fragile clay jars,” to follow Him. But God doesn’t leave us as He found us — He works in and through us, giving us the privilege of being His “hands and feet” in accomplishing His purposes.

by Darrel Eppler, Chairman of the Elder Board

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