They were hated then, just like they are hated now. You work hard, earning your daily bread by the sweat of your brow and then, an open hand appears. It is bad enough when it is your own government's hand but it is even worse when it is a foreign government. A government that is hostile towards you and your people.
Rome was only interested in what they considered to be their due. If the Jewish tax collectors they employed wanted to take an additional... tip, well so be it. Rome had little interest in what the Jews did to each other, as long as they did not step on Roman toes in the process.
They were thieves and traitors. That was how Jewish tax collectors were viewed by their people. They wereto be shunned by respectable people.The only company they were fit to keep was that of people like them, other tax collectors.
As He passed by, He saw Levi thesonof Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, Follow Me. So he arose and followed Him.
Mark 2: 14 (NKJV)
That was all Jesus said. He didn't give a long discourse on why Matthew (Levi) should follow Him nor did He make any promises. He simply said to Matthew, "Follow Me."
Do you notice Matthew's reaction? He doesn't ask any questions like, "Why should I?" or "What will I get out of it?" He doesn't argue with Jesus nor tell Him to wait until he gets off work, finishes the tax season and so forth. Jesus speaks and Matthew responds. He responds by simply standing up and following Jesus.
To put this into perspective, imagine yourself busy at your job. Jesus passes by, tells you to follow Him and you get up from your desk (or from whatever you are doing) and follow Jesus out the door to who knows where? Would you?
I wonder how the other disciples reacted to Matthew? I suspect he probably was not welcomed with open arms; not at first anyway. I have no doubt that he had to prove himself, not to Jesus but to the others. What we do know is Matthew was willing to walk away from everything to follow Jesus. Are we?
He was an unlikely disciple but when you think about it, so were Peter, Andrew, James and John and yet Jesus called them as well. The truth is, God does not call perfect people because there are none. He calls messed-up, imperfect people like you and me. He doesn't ask us to be perfect. He asks us to be obedient and follow Him like Matthew did. Will we?
Excellent, but what a challenge you have laid down to us readers K