The Call of Levi

July 16, 2015

The Call of Levi

Scripture: Luke 5:27-32

27 Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. 28 So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him. 29 Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. 30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”

31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.


Levi was a tax collector employed by Rome. He worked a tax booth similar to our toll booths that are on some highways. There was a highway coming from Damascus that went through Capernaum, Levi’s home town. As a matter of fact two highways converged just North of the Sea of Galilee and they ran through Capernaum. Tax collectors were despised by the Jews: they considered them traders and gave them the same treatment that they gave thieves and murders. Many tax collector were corrupt and the Roman government did not care so long as they got their fair share. There is no indication that Matthew was dishonest. He did have a good job: he worked for the government. Government jobs are good. Almost impossible to get fired, they don’t have to pay Social Security Tax which is 15.3 for me, they don’t usually work hard and they make good money. The only bad thing about the job was that the Jews would hate you. Jesus walked up to Levi’s booth and said, “Follow Me and be My disciple.” Levi left everything and followed Jesus.

TRANSITION: There are four comments I want to make about Levi’s salvation and call.


Sin deforms, education informs, the media misinforms, prisons reform, religion performs, the world conforms but only Jesus transforms. Jesus radically changed Levi’s life: Jesus gave him a [1] new life [2] new name {Matthew, Gift of Yahweh} [3] new purpose [4] new master and new [5] set of values.

I guess it was some 40 years ago that I heard the story of Mel Trotter. No, it was not a basketball player for the Harlem Globetrotters, he was a drunk, a bum and a failure.

Again and again Mel promised his wife that he would give up drink for good. Once he managed to stay dry for eleven and a half weeks. At the end, thirst overcame him. He sold his horse to pay for a round of drinks. He reached the point that he committed burglary to feed his awful habit. His wife and child suffered terribly for his sin.

They had only the one child. The boy was about two years old when Mel came home after a drinking spree. “I went home after a ten-day drunk and found him dead in his mother’s arms. I’ll never forget that day. I was a slave, and I knew it. It pretty nearly broke my heart. I said, ‘I’m a murderer. I’m anything but a man. I can’t stand it, and I won’t stand it! I’ll end my life.” But he didn’t have the courage to do it because he feared God’s judgment.

He put his arms around his wife and swore on the baby’s coffin that he’d never touch another drop. Some say he reached under and slipped the boys shoes off, pawned them and two hours after the funeral, he staggered home blind drunk.

On January 19, 1897, Mel Trotter made the decision to kill himself. Drunk, he staggered through Chicago, determined to throw himself into the freezing waters of Lake Michigan. Unable to break his habit, unable to keep his promises, he wanted to die and that is exactly what he needed to do, die to sin and self.

His progress brought him past the door of the Pacific Garden Mission. Harry Monroe, who himself had been an alcoholic, was leading singing. As the doorman helped Mel in, Monroe stopped to pray for Mel. “O God, Save that poor, poor boy,” he pleaded.

Monroe told the audience of his own past and how Christ had delivered him from alcohol. Mel listened and believed. That night, he answered Monroe’s invitation to make room for God in his life. Monroe explained that Jesus loved him and would change him.

And that is what Jesus did. Asked later how he knew he was saved, he replied, “I was there when it happened.”

Jesus can transform your life just as He did Mel Trotters.


Matthew get the call one day and the next, he throws a party in honor of his new Master. Matthew knew how to attract his friends, he put on a banquet, a back yard Bar-B-Q so to speak. He had a house filled with guest, most of the them fellow tax collectors and Jesus was his honored guest. He wanted all his friends to get to know Jesus.

It is always a good sign when a new convert wants their friends to know what they have discovered.

When I was in college I had a friend to get right with God. He got right as rain. By the time he came out of the counseling room it was 8:30 or 9:00 [Sunday Night] and he walked out with a glow on his face. I think he must have looked like Moses when he came down from the mountain. He grabbed me and hugged me so tight I couldn’t breath and then he said, “We have to go see Rodney.” I said, “It’s almost 9:00 pm.” “He doesn’t go to bed early,” he said. “Come on, lets go but you will have to do the talking.” I took a deep, deep breath. He drove and I rehearsed my speech but thank God I didn’t have to make it. When we walked in, he went to pleading with Rodney to give his life to Christ. Rodney bristled up, I thought there was going to be a fight but he would not leave nor hush. These two were best friends, as tight as brothers and although it got tense, Rodney finally calmed down a little but he made one thing clear: he was not about to give his life to Christ. We got out of there about 10 pm and I breathed a sigh of relief, “Thank God we are going home,” I thought to myself but he had someone else he wanted to see. I said, “We can’t go there, its after 10.” “He works midnights,” he said, “and he will not leaved for another hour.” So off we go. After that visit, he said, “I want to talk with your daddy.”  I said, “I know my daddy is in the bed.” “Well,” said he, “Lets go see.” Daddy was still up and we talked for an hour. Then he said, “Let’s go see my daddy.” “No, no, no, I’m not going into your daddy’s bedroom at midnight, not tonight, not any night. You will make this visit alone.” “No, I want you to go with me.” I’m thinking WHY? I never get a word is side ways. So help me Hannah, we walked into his mother and daddy’s bedroom with them in the bed asleep and he shook his daddy and woke him up. It did not turn out as bad as I thought but his dad was not thrilled. This young man witnessed to everyone he saw, young or old. I think he questioned every deacon in the church about their salvation and none of them got angry. I have never seen anything life it before or since. By the way, Rodney was saved while on a trip to New York City. He was battling loneliness in his hotel room and he pulled out the Gideon bible and began to read. He fought it all night but surrendered to the LORD the next morning.

If you are saved, you should be concerned about your friends being saved.


The Pharisee and Scribes were extremely religious but they were spiritual blind. Note verse 30… But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”

William Barclay says the Greek word for complained bitterly is the same word used of a covey of birds chirping. Pharisees were extremely judgmental, self-righteous and totally indifferent to human need. They cared much more about their rules and regulations than they did people. They were horrible about condescending and despising others. “Why does He eat with this scum.” The NLT is using a modern word to help us get the impact but the Greek word is ‘sinner,” one devoted to sin. It can also refer to wickedness. It would be equivalent to you and I referring to others as white trash or trailer trash. It is condescending and derogatory.

Real believers love Jesus and the lost. Religionist love church, morality, standards, achievements, awards, recognitions, etc. They don’t have a passion for the lost.

Religionist reform but never repent. Jesus was speaking satirically when he said,  Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent. Were the Pharisees and Scribes healthy? NO! They only thought they were. Will a man go to a doctor when he is convinced that he is healthy? Will a man repent when he is convinced that he is ok just as he is? We don’t go to a doctor until we recognize a sickness and we don’t repent until we recognize sin. Some folks are willing to talk about their sin; they confess but that is not the same as repenting. Repenting is turning away from your sin.

I am convinced of late that the majority of Baptist have never repented. Jesus said twice in Luke 13…”I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish.”



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