I’m reading through the Gospel of Luke again. I love Luke. This is my favorite gospel. I find the way Luke portrays Jesus is much more accessible to me. I can relate and understand Him in a way I don’t get from the other gospels. So I get to chapter 5 verse 27, where Jesus calls Levi (Matthew) as a disciple. The way it reads in the New Living Bible is this:
Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax-collection booth. “Come, be my disciple!” Jesus said to him.
What a beautiful invitation. Never mind all the typical discussion about Levi being a tax collector and how Jesus broke all the normal cultural norms, blah, blah, blah. I want to focus on the invitiation, because Jesus makes the same invititation to us today.
The invitiation that Jesus offered Levi to be a disciple was much more than just sitting and learning a bunch of rules or principles. It was an invitation to a new life. It was an invitation to leave behind all the things that the world offers as success and enter into a new world. As I thought about the implications of this invitation four aspects came to mind.
First, Jesus invited Levi into an close, personal relationship with him. Being a disciple means living with the master, getting to know him and understanding him. We simply spend time with him. And that brings me to the second aspect of being a disciple. As we spend time with him, we observe the master; we watch how he interacts with people. We see what he values, how he spends his time and what his priorities are. As we spend time with him and observe him, we get to know him better, more deeply, more intimately. There simply is no substitute for just being together. But Jesus intended more for Levi, he also wanted to instruct him in the basics of Kingdom living. Jesus had to de-construct everything Levi had learned and start again to lay out how the Father intended us to live. Jesus wanted Levi, the other disciples and us, to go beyond mere rule keeping to a lifestyle, a mindset about how God wants us to live. The third invitation then was to instruction, not instruction on how to keep all the Jewish laws in order to earn rigtheousness, but to live out of a heart dedicated to God. Jesus was instructing Levi in what it meant to have a Father instead of a Ruler. Finally, Jesus invited Levi to imitation. It isn’t enough to simply hang out, observe and learn. At some point, Jesus intended for Levi to live like him. Jesus wants us to imitiate him, to live like him, to do the things that he did. Jesus wanted Levi to put into practice all that he had seen and heard and Jesus very deliberately sent them out on assignment.
The invitiation that was extended to Levi to be a disciple is still available to us. Jesus invites us to join him in leaving behind all the things that appear to give us worth or that the world says have value. He invites us to spend time with him and while we can’t do that with him physically, it is still possible to spend time with him. Some people dress that up in “spiritual” terms of prayer and reading the Bible. True, but I prefer to think of it as part of the process of observing him and learning from him. I spend time with him and grow deeper in intimacy with him. The invitiation is still open to us to be like him, to imitate him, to do the things he did.
I still see him in action today. I’ve seen him save a marriage that surely would have ended in divorce without his intervention. I’ve seen him heal a friend of cancer. I’ve seen a young woman’s eyes light up when she understands how much He loves her and doesn’t have to earn it. I’ve seen him bring folks hope and strength when they would prefer to simply fold. The invitation he offers is to go on this adventure with him. You can call it discipleship. I prefer to call it Real Life.