The Call of Levi

After some time the Lord returns to Capernaum. So Marku. 1-12. soon as it is known that He is returned, the multitudes begin to gather, bringing their sick, whom He healed, Luke V. 17-26. The Pharisees and doctors of the law from all parts of the land, came to Capernaum to see and hear the new proph- Matt. Ix. 2-8. et. A paralytic is brought to His house upon a bed, ^whom He heals, forgiving his sins. This awakens the indignation of the Pharisees, who regard him as a blasphemer. Leaving the city, He goes to the seaside and Mark ii. 13, 14. there teaches. Afterward walking on the shore, He saw Matt. ix. 9. Levi, the publican, sitting at the receipt of custom, whom He calls to follow Him. Luke V. 27, 28.

The order of Mark, who places the healing of the para* lytic after the return to Capernaum, is plainly the right one.1 Matthew, in his grouping of the miracles in chapters viii. and ix., does not follow the order of time. Luke narrates it after the healing of the leper, but without specifying time or place. He mentions, however, the fact, that there were " Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present to heal them." It is not wholly clear who these persons were, or why they were now present. Greswell (ii. 298) cites Josephus to show that they were " a sort of village schoolmasters, or a class of inferior municipal magistrates, who might consequently be met with everywhere." They are to be distinguished from the scribes, who came down from Jerusalem at a later period, with evil intent, and who were sent apparently by His enemies to watch, Him, (Mark iii. 22.) These, on the contrary, came to be healed, or to see and hear Him whose fame had gone so widely abroad. There is no distinction taken by the Evangelist between those from Galilee and those from Judea and Jerusalem, as if the latter were present from any special cause. At this period of the Lord's career the nature of His work was very imperfectly understood; and many in every part of the land and of every class, looking for the Messiah, would be naturally attracted to one who showed such wonderful power in word and deed. But in a little time, as His teachings became more distinctly known, His disregard of merely legal righteousness, His neglect of their traditions, His high claims as a Divine Person, awakened great and general hostility.

1 So Robinson, Tischendorf, Alford, Greswell.

We see here how these scribes, who came, perhaps hoping to find in Him their Messiah, perhaps to judge by personal observation how far the popular reports respecting Him. were true, were turned into enemies and accusers when He said to the paralytic, "Thy sins be forgiven thee," which was to speak blasphemy, because implying an equality with God.

There are several allusions to the Lord's teaching by the seaside. Whether He now stood upon the shore or entered a boat, does not appear. It was not however till afterward (Mark iii. 9) that He commanded that a small ship should wait on Him. Thomson (i. 548) speaks of the small creeks or inlets near Tell Hum, " where the ship could ride in safety only a few feet from the shore, and where the multitude, seated on both sides, and before the boat, could listen without distraction or fatigue. As if on purpose to furnish seats, the shore on both sides of those narrow inlets is piled up with smooth boulders of basalt."

The road from Damascus to the cities along the coast passed by " Jacob's bridge" over the Jordan, and thence along the shore of the lake. It is probable that the place of toll, where Levi sat, was upon this road, near its entrance into the city.1 The manner of this call, like the call of Simon and Andrew, and James and John, presupposes a prior acquaintance of Jesus with Levi. The taxgatherer, from his occupation and local position, must have been aware of all that was taking place in the neighborhood, and could not easily have been ignorant of the Lord's person and work. Not improbably also, he was already a disciple in the wider sense of the term, this not involving the giving up of his usual calling. It would appear that the call wTas given on the same day in which Jesus taught the people, and soon after His discourse was ended.2

By some this call to Levi is placed after his election to the Apostleship.

1 See Lichtenstein, 230 ; Herzog, Encyc., xv. 161.

2 Bleek, Synoptische Erklarung. i. 384. As to the identity of Matthew and Levi., see Winer ii. 61.

Having been already chosen one of the Twelve, he returns to his ordinary labors; and now is called to enter upon his apostolic duties, to leave all and follow Christ. But this in itself is exceedingly improbable, and we shall soon see that the election to the apostleship is later.

The call of Levi to stand in such intimate relations to the Lord, must have been a great stumbling-block to all the Pharisaic party, and to all those in whose hearts national pride and hatred of foreign rule were ardent. The occupation of the publican was odious, if not in itself disgraceful, as a sign and proof of their national degradation; and the selection of disciples from this class to be His constant attendants, by one who claimed to be the Messiah, must have strongly prejudiced many against Him and His work.1 Such selection implies, also, that already the Lord was turning away from the legally righteous, the Pharisees, because His words found so little entrance into their hearts, and was turning to those who, though despised as publicans and sinners, were nevertheless ready to receive the truth. Unable to draw the priests into His service, He calls fishermen ; and what He cannot accomplish because of the unbelief of Pharisees, He will do through the faith of publicans.

Many bring the feast which Levi made for the Lord (Luke v. 29; see, also, Matt. ix. 10 ; Mark ii. 15) into immediate connection with his call.2 Still there is nothing in, the language of the Evangelists that implies ' immediate sequence, and as Capernaum doubtless continued to be his residence, and to which he frequently returned, the feast may with equal likelihood have taken place at a later time, and be here related, in-order to bring together all that concerned him personally.3

1 " The Talmud," says Lightfoot, iii. 61, hath this canon: "' A Pharisee that turns publican, they turn him out of his order.'"

3 Lichtenstein, Tischendorf, Stier.

s So Lightfoot, Neweome, Townsend, Robinson. Neweome, 259, refers to the Harmony of Chemnitius, "where it appears that Levi's call and feast were separated in the most ancient harmonies from Tatian in A. D. 170 to Gerson A. D. 1400."

The chronological connection between this feast and the healing of the daughter of Jairus (Matt. ix. 18-25) will be examined when we reach this miracle.

Greswell (ii. 397) attempts to show that the feast of Matthew (Matt. ix. 10) was different from that mentioned by Mark and Luke ; that the former was later, and not in the house of Levi; and that at this feast, only the disciples of John were present. This view removes some difficulties, but the arguments in its favor are more ingenious than convincing.