“After this [Jesus] went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth.
And he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.”
“And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.”
Ours is the God who sees the outcast. With compassion and love shining through His eyes, instead of the ridicule and judgment they face elsewhere.
Jesus had just left a house where He forgave and healed a paralyzed man in the midst of a crowd of people. He then saw Levi and spoke these simple words: “Follow me.”
With his quick response, I imagine Levi had wanted to hear Jesus and see Him more closely, perhaps overhearing what was happening in the house and wishing he could be a part of it…but knowing the harsh resistance he would encounter from the crowd who hated him and saw him as a traitor to the Jewish people – aligned with Rome, their enemy and oppressors, and corrupt in his dealings.
So Levi remained at his booth. Likely hiding his longing for acceptance and inclusion behind a hard mask.
Until Jesus came. And approached him. Not to call out betrayal, but to call Levi to Himself.
The door was opened, and Levi did not hesitate.
He then summoned his friends, the fellow outcasts, to dine at his house with Jesus and his disciples. Each of them finally included. Finally seen with eyes of love and warm welcome.
Jesus, who is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, shows us the heart of God by gathering the outcasts here. He gathered the outcasts then, and He gathers them still. Seeking them out in their wilderness to draw them in. And transforming their lives so that they flourish in beauty and joy as reflections of Christ, accepted and whole and overflowing with the love of God poured directly into their hearts.
We are outcasts no longer. Shame does not bind or define us. In Christ, we have become children of the God who sees us and draws near in personal relationship. Jesus took our shame upon Himself, so that we would know freedom and joy in Him, giving praise forever to our God and making His great name known.
May we see the outcasts as well, with the eyes of our dear Savior who came – and died – to draw them in. That they might see His love. That they might realize they are seen, known, and loved by a God who desires a relationship with them.