Desperate is not a word we usually like associated with our name, is it? And yet, the feeling is probably common to all of us at some time or another. In the Gospel of Mark we meet a man who many think of, not as desperate, but as a ‘desperado’ – a dangerous, bold outlaw, a thief and a traitor. His name is Levi in Hebrew, but we know him best by his Greek name, Matthew, one of Jesus’ twelve apostles.
If you’ve ever been bullied or made to feel inadequate in your workplace, you can probably relate to this man Levi, who sat at the tax collector’s booth all day just doing his job – and, of course, growing fat with cash! But wealth apparently hasn’t bought him any respect or good feelings about himself. It’s a lesson to all of us who think the next job promotion or winning the lottery will solve all our problems!
In typical style Mark doesn’t give us any details about Levi’s feelings or the stress of the job. But we really don’t need any in this case. We can pretty much guess that he thought his job defined him! It makes me think, you know? Deep down, do I see my identity in what I do for a living? Do you? Those of us in ministry are especially vulnerable in this respect. Our statistics are heartbreaking! Pastors are burning out and giving up in record numbers. Of course, the reasons for this are many. But I wonder, what’s the source of our desperation?
Levi was so smitten with Jesus that not only did he get up and leave the tax booth empty, but he threw a party and invited all the other bullied and despised people he could find. Can you imagine the scene? The best wine, the freshest fruit, the most delicious roasted lamb, and a bunch of losers all gathered together – former losers, that is!! There’s a different mood now in Levi’s house. Jesus has given the command that carries a new and beautiful “Identity” with a capital “I” to all who will heed it, and nothing else matters. Let the Pharisees and the teacher of the law think what they will. This desperado has just become “the dangerous kind” for the kingdom of God!
P.S. You’ll find a copy of The Dangerous Kind by Graeme Sellers on my Discipleship Kiosk in the Fellowship Hall at PLC – or order it from Amazon. You will never see yourself the same again!