Who are you following?

Posted: June 3, 2011 in Acceptance, Following Jesus, Unconditional love
Tags: ,

I guess we all follow something or someone. Even leaders get that way because they’ve been followers. Some people just follow blogs – by the way thanks Hamo  for giving Amazing Meetings a plug.

Some people follow a career path or financial rewards. Some follow political leaders, or religious gurus or music or movie stars.

I’ve been following Jesus for quite a while now, but I recognise that there are a lot of people who would prefer to follow Buddha or Mohammed or Gaia. So my next interview is an interesting one because it is with a guy name Matthew who became a follower of Jesus.

Matthew, they tell me you are a tax collector. I suspect that is a bit different from someone who works for the Australian Taxation Office. Tell us what a tax collector is.

Thanks for asking. The Roman Empire  has a whole lot of provinces and here in Judea, we’re in one of those Roman provinces.  Although the Romans allow Judaism to continue, the Jews are still expected to pay their taxes to Rome. The problem is that the Jews really don’t like the Romans, so when a Jew like me collects taxes for Rome it doesn’t make me the most popular person on the block.

I’ve heard that it’s not just the fact that you collect taxes – the word on the street is that tax collectors are not the most honest people you could meet.

You’re dead right there. Things have changed since I met Jesus, but it was pretty normal for tax collectors to tax people more than necessary and pocket the extra.

So how did you come to meet Jesus?

Well, I’d seen him around a bit. I’d heard about his teachings and there was a lot of talk around town about him. In my work it’s not hard to find out what’s happening in town. One day he walks past my table in the market and says: Levi, (that’s my proper name); Levi, he says. Follow me.

Well you could have knocked me down with a feather. Why would he say that? For a start I’m a tax collector, but he doesn’t even know me.

So what happened? Did you follow him?

Yeah. When you’re as unpopular as I am, it’s pretty unusual for someone to take an interest in you that’s not criminally related in some way.  All that I had heard about Jesus was that he was a really good man. It may have just been that I was inquisitive, but I think it was more than that. I felt that he genuinely cared about me. I got up and followed him.

I’ve got questions about what happened to the money you had there and how you could just leave your tax collection booth unattended in the market place, but go on… tell me what happened next.

Well I invited Jesus and some of his friends back to my place for a feed, and I sent the message around my networks that there was a shindig on at my place.

Hang one, you’re a first century Jew but you’re using Australian slang. You mean, you had a party?

Yes, that’s right. Jesus and some of his friends came back to my place for a party and a whole lot of my colleagues came.

Colleagues?

Yeah, well like I said I wasn’t very popular, but thugs seem to attract thugs. It was a pretty shady bunch of people.  I wouldn’t call them friends, but once you mention on Facebook you’ve got a party, they come out of the woodwork. All of the worst kinds of people. They had all heard about Jesus and they wanted to meet him for themselves. It was like a meeting of the Skeptics Society.

Tell us how Jesus got on with these people. I mean, he’s a really good person, and here are all these people who you say aren’t generally accepted in society.

That’s what was so amazing. Here is someone who people are beginning to say is the Messiah, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messiah someone who has a reputation for healing people and doing good, mixing with the worst kind of people you could imagine. There’s was no embarrassment at all. Jesus just so naturally talked to these people and accepted them without any sort of judgement or criticism. He didn’t even try to change them.

Is that how you felt about him?

Exactly, I was sitting at the tax collector’s table and he just came and called me to follow him. He didn’t do an interview, or check out my police record which is just as well. It was unconditional love.

Some people would say that’s not a good way of treating people who have done wrong. That we should be telling them what they’ve done wrong and challenging them to change their ways.

Funny you should say that, because the word got out about my party – let’s face it there were a lot of people there and maybe the music was a bit loud. Anyway the religious leaders got word that Jesus had been to one of my parties, and they began to ask questions of Jesus followers.  They wanted to know why he was mixing with my kind of people.

Did Jesus have an answer to that question.

He sure did. When his disciples reported to him about what the religious leaders were saying, he told them that it’s not healthy people who need a doctor, it’s sick people who need a doctor.  What an answer. And that’s what got to me the most. I was sick. I was a thief, I was rude and arrogant, I didn’t care for anyone. But Jesus accepted me just as I was and invited me to follow him.

Obviously you not only followed him, but Jesus changed you over time, because there’s a whole book in the New Testament written by you. Thanks Matthew I appreciate hearing your story.

 

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