Tuesday, January 27, 2015

When Simon Met Levi

I've always known that Jesus calls us to love our enemies.  And, I've sorta given lip service to the idea that Jesus called all kinds of people to be his disciples.  But it has never been so starkly brought home to me as when I began to prepare for this week's sermon.

I don't know why it's never hit me this way before, but it just hasn't.  And when it did....well, I just had to wonder.....So, anyway, here goes:

In Mark 1:16-20 Jesus starts out by calling Simon and Andrew.  They're fishermen and they're "casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen."  They were tossing a 'casting net' into the water.  This, indeed tells us that they're fishermen, but it also tells us that they're fishermen who fish from the shore (at least at the time Jesus came by).  A casting net is a weighted net that is thrown out into the water and it settles around the fish and closes up as it is drug back in.  One important note: you've got to be able to throw it far enough out to where fish of any reasonable size might be.
My guess is that the fact that they were using a casting net meant that they did not have a boat.  I could be wrong.  The gospels speak of Jesus being on a boat; but I'm personally inclined to think it might have been the one belonging to James and John (we'll get to them in a minute) and that Peter and Andrew were less wealthy and made their living fishing with the casting nets.

In any event, Jesus said, "follow me," and they left their nets and followed.

Then Jesus comes by James and John who are mending nets in the boat with their father and the hired help.  James and John are part of a family business.  They own a boat.  This represents a bit more wealth, a step up perhaps in the pecking order of fishermen.  They too follow when Jesus calls.

Then, a few days later, in Mark 2:13-14, Jesus is walking by the lake again and he spots Levi.  Now Levi is a tax collector.  His booth is by the lake.  This isn't because he wants a nice office that overlooks the water.  Levi is the guy who collects the tax on fish for Herod Antipas.  You can't look at this story and not think that Peter, Andrew, James and John didn't know Levi (okay, you can, I did it for a long time).  They probably not only KNEW him....they also DESPISED him.  You can almost hear Peter, "Lord, you got to be kidding me! You just invited this....this....(I don't know any expletives in Hebrew, but I'm sure Peter knew a few)..."

And I believe Jesus responded with some version of, "Get on the bus, or stand on the curb, but I'm gonna be the one driving.  And if you think this is challenging to you, you ain't seen nothing yet."

And I believe Jesus still says the same thing to us.  Who is our Levi?  Who don't we want at the table?  You can almost guarantee that Jesus is gonna invite them to the Feast....the Feast.....the one in the Kingdom where you wind up sitting next to your enemy and if you can't sit next to them, then you can't sit at all.

This is the challenge of following Jesus.  It keeps taking us places we never thought we'd go.  And the Kingdom keeps calling us to the place where we can turn to our "Levi" and say, without expecting them to clean up their act first, "the Body of Christ, broken for you."   What a Savior, what a Kingdom.  Thanks be to God.