1 One day Jesus was standing beside Lake Gennesaret [another name for the Sea of Galilee] when the crowd pressed in around him to hear God’s word. 2 Jesus saw two boats sitting by the lake. The fishermen had gone ashore and were washing their nets. 3 Jesus boarded one of the boats, the one that belonged to Simon, then asked him to row out a little distance from the shore. Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.”
5 Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”
6 So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. 7 They signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled both boats so full that they were about to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinner!” 9 Peter and those with him were overcome with amazement because of the number of fish they caught. 10 James and John, Zebedee’s sons, were Simon’s partners and they were amazed too.
Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be fishing for people.” 11 As soon as they brought the boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.
27 Afterward, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at a kiosk for collecting taxes. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”
28 Levi got up, left everything behind, and followed him. 29 Then Levi threw a great banquet for Jesus in his home. A large number of tax collectors and others sat down to eat with them. 30 The Pharisees and their legal experts grumbled against his disciples. They said, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
31 Jesus answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. 32 I didn’t come to call righteous people but sinners to change their hearts and lives.”
In Onward, Barley Lightfoot tells his brother Ian, “We are going on a grand and glorious quest.” * Who knows—if video games had existed in Jesus' day, he might have used similar language to invite Simon Peter, James, John and Levi Matthew (and others) to follow him. The response suggests that his call to “follow me” must have created a similar sense of excitement and possibility in those who received it.
Lord Jesus, I love you, and I really want to love my neighbors. Thank you for calling me to join you in the grand and glorious quest of “fishing for people.” Amen.
* Onward quote from https://lolalambchops.com/
(Ginger Rothhaas wrote Insights blogs faithfully and well for 5 years. In June 2018, she wrote this reflection on how Jesus called Levi Matthew to follow him. The story still carries today the powerful lessons she shared in this blog.)
It is interesting that both Luke and Matthew placed a tax collector story in the middle of miraculous stories of Jesus healing disease. (Luke gave the name “Levi,” Matthew used “Matthew.”) When I think a story is in a strange place in the Bible, I have learned to slow down and think a little more deeply about why it is where it is.
Maybe because greed and desperation can be like a disease that takes over our souls. A dis-ease in our souls, for which we need miraculous healing.
Jesus gives us two words as the miracle cure: “Follow me.”
This phrase appears over 20 times in the gospels. Jesus says, “Follow me” to fishermen, to the wealthy, to the disciples, to tax collectors, and through those stories, to us today. And, in the Greek, the word Jesus used that's translated as “follow” means to join, partner with, walk alongside, accompany on a journey.
Greed and desperation have been part of the human experience since the beginning of time. Today it may look like pressure from earnings expectations at work, or finding ourselves in a corporate corruption situation, or getting upside down on a car purchase, or taking on a too large house payment, or credit card debt that exceeds our income. All these scenarios can result in moments of desperation, greed, and fear.
Profound healing can occur when we surrender and see ourselves joining God in a partnership. Here are words we might say: “God, I am yours. I want to be free of the career, situation, circumstances, or choices that have placed me into a life of greed and desperation. Free me by letting me join you in a new way of living. I want to surrender and follow you. Please give me the courage today and every day to follow you. Please show me the way.”
Matthew walked away from the tax collector table. If we need to, we can too.
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