Genesis 40:1-23, Psalms 22 and 130; Mark 2:13-22 (NRSV)
Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Mark 2:13-22 describes the calling of Levi the tax collector. Here at the start of his ministry Jesus shows he has come to search for the lost, not to fulfill the expectations of the self-righteous. That Levi responded by following is not surprising, who could look on the face of the Lord and say no?
But what has always struck me about this and similar passages is the stunning speed with which those called respond. No thinking it over and “I’ll get back to you.” They drop everything to follow Jesus. I find myself wondering about what they left behind. How do their families pay the rent? Who looks after the wife and kids, the mother-in-law? What happens to the fishing boats if half the crew leaves? It seems so much more complicated from a modern perspective.
Looking at the other readings, though, I can see that responding to the Lord takes many forms. Genesis 40:1-23 tells the story of Joseph’s time in prison and of his interpretation of his fellow prisoners’ dreams, eventually (after two additional years) resulting in his release. This is a different type of following, requiring patience and reliance on the Lord for deliverance. No dropping everything, instead waiting in trust and in hope. The message in Psalms 22 and 130 are similar. Although the first part of the Psalm is a cry of despair, each ends with a celebration of God’s faithfulness, power, and righteousness.
I still marvel at the response of the disciples to Christ’s call. My imagination conjures up all sorts of objections to dropping everything, but the other readings for today are a reminder that there are many ways of responding. I like to think of answering the call in little ways a hundred times a day.
Prayer (from Psalm 148)
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him from the heights!
Praise him all his angels; praise him, all his hosts!
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.