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Calling of Matthew

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

audio: The Calling of Matthew

Luke records several miracles in (Lk. 5), a man who is cleansed of leprosy and a paralytic man who is healed. After this, Luke tells the account of Jesus calling Matthew (Levi), a tax collector. Matthew leaves his duties, invites guests to a party for Jesus, and follows him. At first, these events may seem unconnected. However, I believe they reveal a deep purpose of Jesus.

Continuing our series Interactions, what do these events reveal about Jesus and our need to follow him? Notice the accounts as recorded in Luke.

A Leper is Cleansed

In (Lev. 13), the Law required strict separation of persons with leprosy or a defiling skin disease. They were unclean. They could not worship with the community and were cut off entirely from contact with others. If someone approached them, they were required to call out "unclean, unclean!" (Lev. 13:45)

A Paralytic is Healed

As Luke arranges these accounts, we are next told of a paralyzed man lowered down on a mat in front of Jesus (Lk. 5:17-26). Crowds, including some Pharisees and teachers of the law, were gathered around Jesus as he was teaching and healing. The crowds were so large that when the friends carrying their paralyzed friend went to bring him before Jesus, they could not reach him. So they took their friend to the rooftop and lowered him before Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." (Lk. 5:20).

Some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law considered this blasphemy. "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Lk. 5:21).

Luke 5:22–25 (NIV)

"Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." So he said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God."

Matthew Called To Follow

After this, Luke tells us that Jesus went out and saw a tax collector, Levi (or Matthew). Jesus said to Levi, "Follow me," Levi got up, left everything and followed him (Lk. 5:27).

As a tax collector, Levi would have been an outcast and alienated from his community. He would have been seen as someone who betrayed his people for material gain. Tax collectors gathered money from the Jews to give to the Romans. With the simple words, "Follow Me," Levi left everything to follow Jesus.

Luke 5:29-32 (NIV)

"Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Old and New

Jesus shares two parables—one about mending a garment and the other about wineskins

Luke 5:36-39 (NIV)

"He told them this parable: "No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, 'The old is better.'"

Bridging the Context

Why does Luke record these parables? At first, all of these accounts seem random. Jesus heals a man with leprosy; a paralyzed man is healed; Levi is called to follow; a party is given for Jesus, and then these parables. It could be that Luke is just patching these accounts together. However, I believe Luke is revealing a deep purpose of Jesus.

Jesus is doing something new. However, who Jesus is and what he is doing are connected to the story of Scripture.


Isaiah 61:1–2 (NIV)

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn"


Isaiah 2:2-3 (NIV)

"In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."

What some saw as a departure from the Scriptures, Luke demonstrates how Jesus is fulfilling and connected to the story of Scripture. The attitude or mindset that Jesus is departing from Scripture is incompatible with God's Story. It's like a new patch on an old garment or new wine in an old wineskin; it's not going to work.

Understanding the story leads us to Jesus and connects us to God's story of redemption.

This story instills hope:

”He who was seated on the throne said,

"I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Rev. 21:5)

Levi left all he had to follow Jesus. He left everything to participate in the hope of Messiah Jesus. Today, we have the same opportuto participate in the story of Scripture and to share the hope of God's good news. Jesus has come to make all things new! Levi was called to share this good news, and so are we.

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Scripture quotations: Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


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