Taking Your Place in the Crowd

Dear Members and Friends of IBCZ,

This past Sunday we continued our study of people in the Gospels who encountered Jesus, and
the impact He had on their lives, by looking at a most unlikely disciple of Jesus – Levi (Mark
2:13-17). Why was Levi such a surprising candidate to follow Jesus? First, he was a tax
collector, which in ancient Jewish times meant that he was a thief, for tax collectors were known
for collecting more taxes than necessary to line their own pockets. (For example, note the
example of another tax collector, Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10, who when he encountered Jesus
acknowledged cheating the people.)

In addition to unfairly taking money from the people, Levi was also viewed as a traitor, for as a
Jew he was collecting taxes to support the pagan Roman government and their occupying army.
Thus, Levi would have been despised by his fellow Jews.

Yet Jesus invited Levi to follow Him, even becoming one of the twelve disciples. This reminds
us of the abundant grace of God. If Jesus would call someone who was a thief and a traitor, the
door is open for anyone to receive His grace, no matter our background, failures, or sins. It’s not
that Jesus is unconcerned about such things, but the transforming power and love of Jesus can
shape us and change us into new people in Christ, people marked by the character of Christ and
equipped to do His will. All God requires is a heart surrendered to Him.

Thus, there is hope for all of us! We should never think that because of our past, God is not
interested in us. Nor should we ever assume that someone else is beyond the reach of God’s
grace. Family members, friends, and others in our social circles who presently show no interest
in God or the ways of God, can still be reached. Our task if to first pray for them, and second to
live a life of faithful witness through our lifestyle, words, behaviors, and attitudes, so others can
see the presence and wonder of the living God in us.

Let us join together in making this our passion!

Grace and peace,
Pastor Bob

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