July 17 I Friday
“As He walked along, He saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow Me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed Him.” —Mark 2:14
When the Romans occupied the nation of Israel in 63 BC, they appointed Herod the Great as king. Herod the Great was a ruthless dictator; in fact, he was the one who had all the children two years old or younger in Bethlehem put to death when the magi came from looking for the king of the Jews—for Jesus.
The Romans erected the Roman Eagle symbol in the Jewish temple. One evening, a bunch of Jews climbed to where the Roman Eagle was and cut it down with an axe. Herod the Great found out and arrested 40 young people and two prominent teachers from within the temple to kill them. When Herod the Great died, his kingdom was split amongst his three sons: Herod Archelaus, Herod Antipas and Herod Philip.
Herod Archelaus ruled in Jerusalem and its surrounding region. He met with some of the Jews wanting justice for the two teachers and the 40 young people that his father put to death. But Archelaus did not want to concede and proceeded to having a feast with his friends for becoming the new ruler. As more and more Jews entered into the temple in preparation for Passover, there was a growing discontent for Archelaus. An uprising started within the temple and Archelaus sent in some soldiers to reason with the people, but the Jews stoned those soldiers to death. What Archelaus did next was unleash the entire Roman army into the temple and about 3,000 Jews died.
This was the political climate in the Middle East during the time of Jesus; the Jews despised the Romans with a passion. Religion was political so if one was a friend of the Romans, one was an enemy of Israel; and if one was an enemy of Israel, one was despised and rejected by God. Considering this backdrop, we meet Levi who is a tax collector for the Romans and he served under Herod Antipas.
While Jesus was walking along, He saw Levi and told him to “Follow Me.” Imagine how Levi must have felt. Jesus went against all the social, political and theological understanding of the common Jew. This must have overwhelmed Levi because everybody despised him and taught that God wanted nothing to do with him. But Jesus, the Son of God, called him to relationship. We are told that Levi gets up, leaves everything behind him, which displays his repentance and willingness to sacrifice all, so that he can walk with Christ. Walking with Jesus requires faith mixed with bravery because we will find ourselves in uncomfortable places. Are we ready to leave behind cultural expectations and be brave enough to follow?
Prayer: Dear King Jesus, thank You that You welcome me with open arms. Like Levi, I want to leave everything behind and follow You. Amen!