I bend down and feel for the money bag at my feet. It’s heavier than normal for this time of the day. I’ve had the usual quota of ‘poor harvest’ stories, of course, but generally people know I mean business. Pay your taxes or suffer the consequence, that’s my motto. There’s the odd person who comes in and tries to play the ‘we grew up together’ card. Yet, I always remind myself of how they treat me once I leave this booth. To them I am the scum of the earth. They glare at me with haughty eyes and whisper as I walk past. There goes Levi, he’s not one of us. He’s a pitiful sinner, shouldn’t even be called a Jew. So, I no longer show mercy. I find my friends amongst the other publicans and outcasts who have bartered their souls for mammon. And every night I grapple with sleep, sensing a gaping void that all of Galilee’s gold can’t fill.
A shadow falls across the table. I don’t look up immediately, but rather dip my stylus into the ink and carefully jot down some numbers. I always like to make them wait a little just to remind them who holds the power here. One last flourish of the pen and I lift my head.
There are several men standing in front of me and Caesar definitely won’t grow rich from the likes of them. Fishermen probably, with the same sullen looks I see on all the faces around me daily. I only give them a cursory glance, however, because my eyes are drawn to another face. Maybe it’s the smile that draws me, but it’s so much more than that. This man is looking at me—no, into me—as if he sees beyond this booth and rich robes. As if he even sees the deep emptiness inside me. It’s disconcerting, but strangely liberating for in that moment I am known and still accepted. That too, I see in his eyes.
“Follow me,” he says softly.
For a moment I struggle to make sense of these two words. As I become aware of more and more people pressing in around him, I realise that this is no ordinary man. Suddenly I know—this is Rabbi Jesus! The one who heals and teaches, and has turned all of Galilee upside down.
I drop the stylus, splattering ink across the papyrus, and push the chair away. I don’t even glance at the money bag that has weighed me down for so long. It astounds me that Jesus has come to find me and that he wants me by his side.
And I will leave all the empty things behind to be there.
(Based on Luke 5:27-28)
I have looked into those same eyes and seen the acceptance. Right now, like Matthew, I want to push aside everything that promises to fill me but instead leaves me empty, and simply follow Him.
If you enjoyed reading this “Step Into the Bible” Devotional, you might also enjoy Water-Walking.
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