There was probably a buzz that followed Jesus–enough that Pharisees showed up wherever he went:
17 One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seemed that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord’s healing power was strongly with Jesus. Luke 5:17, NLT.
Or that people would take risks to get near him.
18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, 19 but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. Luke 5:18-19, NLT.
I wonder what Levi (Matthew) thought, sitting in his booth. I’d bet he had heard of Jesus, heard of the miracles he could do and the hope he offered. For someone whose job was loathsome, he might have wanted a good dose of hope.
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.” Luke 5:27-32, NLT.
Levi (Matthew) was just sitting in a booth. He hadn’t professed that Jesus is Lord. He wasn’t thought of as righteous like the Pharisees. In fact, he was considered scum, like his friends. A bit of an outcast. I bet he knew what he’d get and who he’d be if he stayed there.
The world looks and labels, judges, rejects (or accepts). I’m glad Jesus sees the heart, the desires for change and healing. He’s ok with the baggage we bring, he can carry it. Or, like he did for Levi (Matthew), he makes it easy to leave everything behind and follow him.
Lord, there’s a lot of stuff I want to put behind me. Seems like every morning that baggage is at my bedside and I trip over it, kick it aside, watch it spill out, or I pick it up and take it with me. I know what I get when I stay where I am (in thoughts that play [failure] over and [worry] over). Lord, you are my hope for healing and freedom. I’m keeping my eyes on you today.