I started reading the Gospel of Mark this morning and one of the things that struck me was what happened when Jesus encounter Levi the Tax Collector who is better known as Matthew, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus and the author of the four Gospels. In Mark 2:14, Mark records that Matthew was sitting at his tax collection booth when Jesus said to him, "Come, be my disciple." Matthew did not ask Jesus why nor did he even ask, "What's in it for me?" He did not even say, "I'm working at the moment but I'll follow you as soon as my shift is up." Matthew simply left his booth right then and there and followed Jesus without any questions or excuses and he continued to follow Jesus until the very end. While we can't be certain, tradition says he later preached the Gospel in Persia and Ethiopia where he was martyred.
As a tax collector, he would have been a wealthy and unscrupulous man. His occupation made him a hated man. As a Jew collecting taxes for the Roman government, he was viewed not only as a traitor but profiting from the misery of others. Tax collectors were notorious for adding "commissions" to the bill and were not above demanding "bribes". The Roman government didn't care how much they collected on the side as a long as they paid Rome their due.
In the eyes of the world, Matthew had a lot to lose. To follow Jesus meant Matthew was walking away from a lucrative position and could mean the loss of friends and even family yet the moment Jesus called, Matthew followed. This is in direct contrast to others in the Gospel who said they wanted to follow Jesusbut first...
It is not enough to start out following Jesus, you have to keep on following him.
The other night, I met my son at the location where he was going to pick up a table and chairs he had purchased as he would not be able to fit all of the items in his car in one trip. It was at night in an area unfamiliar to me and so even while I did have access to GPS, I decided to follow my son as he knew how to get back to his house which was located in the opposite direction of mine.
As I was following him, my phone began squawking out all sorts of different routes I could take. I ignored them because I was following my son who was taking the backroads rather than taking the long way. Besides I wanted to arrive there when he did, rather than have him wait for me or sit outside waiting for him!
I have to admit, I got a bit nervous at times out on those dark, unfamiliar backroads but I had confidence in my guide so I continued to follow him, after all, he had been this way before and knew where he was going. I also found comfort in knowing that should I run into trouble like an unexpected break-down with my car, I would not be alone in unfamiliar territory. My son was there to not only help me but protect me.
The road God takes us on is often "unfamiliar territory" and sometimes it is dark and even desolate. He knows where He is taking us and He has walked that way before. He is the God Who Goes Before Us as well as our fortress and our ever present help. We do not need to fear, even when we have no idea of where we are or what direction to take next. We simply need to follow Him.
Sure enough, eventually we came to a street that I recognized. We were approaching my son's house from the opposite direction of how I normally came. We were almost there! Sure enough, after a few minutes, I saw the name of the street he lives on and we pulled up to his apartment building. Though it was not the route I would have taken, I had arrived at the right place at the right time.
I must remember that God does not always take me on the route I would take. In fact, usually He doesn't. I can be confident though, that when I follow Him, I will arrive at the right place at exactly the right time.
So, why are we making excuses? Just follow!