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The look of Jesus that changed a tax collector

Walking next to the Sea of Galilee I thought of the different kinds of people Jesus tried to reach with His holiness, with His love and His offer of forgiveness.
With what class of sinner did Jesus have the greatest success?
With what kind of sinner did Jesus have zero success?
How are you reacting to the greatest offer ever made to sinners? The offer of forgiveness, peace and a future of pure delight without pain or death. An offer of living continuously in the presence of a loving God?
My dear friend do net let sin with its misery mess up your life and cause you to miss heaven.
Somewhere here on the shores lived a tax collector.
Instead of collecting taxes directly, through its own officials, the Roman government auctioned off the privilege within a province or a city to a wealthy citizen who paid a stipulated sum, irrespective of how much he was later able to collect, whether more or less.
The person thus contracting to collect taxes either subdivided his assigned area among subcontractors, or hired agents for the actual work of collection.
The NT “publicans,” or “tax collectors,” were these agents who actually received the taxes from the people, and they were, in nearly every case, Jews. It was expected that each would collect a sufficient additional sum in order to realize a profit.
The taxes comprised: (1) the poll or head tax, which was deeply offensive to the Jews in view of the fact that its payment was considered tacit acknowledgment of enslavement to Rome (see Jos. Ant. xviii. 1. 1); and (2) the land tax, which was equally offensive, since its payment was considered as an real insult to God, whom the Jews regarded as the real owner of the land and the dispenser of its bounties.
It was considered bad enough to pay the Romans taxes, but infinitely worse to assist the Romans in collecting them. Thus the “publicans,” who, with a few noteworthy exceptions, were extortioners, and who, with the connivance of Roman soldiers, pressed the traffic for all it could be made to bear, were greatly detested.
They were ostracized from society, avoided as far as possible, and seldom seen in the Temple or synagogue (see Mt 11:19; 21:31). A Jew who became a publican was considered a lackey of the hated Romans and a traitor to Israel.
Though recognizing the low moral state of most publicans (cf. Mt 5:46, 47; 18:17), Jesus nevertheless freely associated with them, and thereby incurred the censure of the Jewish authorities (chs 9:10–13; 11:19).
The reason He gave for so doing was that He had come for the very purpose of calling sinners like them to repentance (ch 9:13). They appreciated His kindness, and a number of them believed and became His followers (see ch 21:31, 32).
In His parable of the Pharisee and the Publican Jesus contrasted the 2 to the advantage of the publican (Lk 18:9–14). One of Jesus’ disciples, Levi, was a publican (Mt 9:9; 10:3).
At some time subsequent to his call, Levi entertained Jesus in his home, with many of his fellow tax collectors present (Mt 9:9, 10; Mk 2:14, 15; Lk 5:27–29). A few days before His crucifixion Jesus befriended Zacchaeus, a Jewish tax collector of Jericho (Lk 19:1–9), who became one of His followers.
Levi was one of the sinners who listened to the messages of hope of Jesus. This was one of the most uplifting spiritual experiences of his life. His body language was radical different to the arrogant priests of Pharisees.
Jesus was acquainted with Levi’s corruption and evil. But He also knew about the pain and rejection caused by sin. But Jesus also saw a sinner who longer for salvation.
Levi kept listening to Jesus but there was some doubt in heart. The spiritual leaders regarded him as too wicked to be saved. Would Jesus accept him?
Mark 2:14  As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.”
The previous night Jesus spent most of the time in prayer. He needed an additional disciple besides Peter, Andrew, John and James.
The saving of sinners was more important than negative public opinion of them. He was going to call Levi at his tax office to follow Him. And by the way my dear friend He still walks to our sinful tax houses, calling us to follow Him.
Luke uses an interesting word when he recorded this story:
Luke 5:27  After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 
Luke uses the word Theaomai when he refers to seeing Levi. It is related to the Greek word theatre.
I have visited quite a few on these ancient amphitheatres. In my mind’s eye I see these spectators with eyes full of admiration at the performing artists.
One lexigraph defines the word as eyes full of love, admiration and desire.
Levi hears the friendliest voice ever spoken in his tax office. “Levi follow Me”.  With this divine, heavenly love -filled musical voice, he looks up, and what does he see? Please tell me?
When this word theaomai is used in the New Testament it always point to a loving look of love, admiration and ecstasy.
Its very interesting to note that Jesus gave the first disciples the same kind of look when He met them at the Jordan River where John the Baptist announced the imminent appearance of the Messiah
John 1:38  Then Jesus turned, and seeing (theaomai) them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” 
Two unpolished fishermen looks into the eyes of Jesus and what did they see? Eyes telling the story: “I love you. I admire your and I desire you!”
They looked at the theatre of God’s accumulated love of an eternity.
After looking into the eyes of Jesus, John and Andrew could never again live and exist apart from Jesus. His theaomai, His theatron, conquered them for a life time.
Through faith it is possible for you and me to see the same expression in His eyes. Look up in the night skies and Him smiling at you. Can you see His great love for you? Can you see His admiration looking at you? And can you see His desire to have you accept Him?
More than 60 years ago I was driving a Studebaker sedan. The pastor asked me to transport the young people to a picnic spot with his car.
On the back seat there was a young lady. When I looked in my rear window mirror I saw a smile which I never saw before.
It gave this poor young man with an almost zero self-image a psychological boost that words cannot explain. It was an theaomai smile: love, admiration and desire.
I still see that smile. It changed my life for the better.
Age has changed her. Brown hair made room for grey hair; the beauty of youth allowed old to remind us of inevitable…
But that smile in that Studebaker never grew old. I have opened a folder in the best part of my brain and nothing can delete it – it remains young, new, beautiful and invigorating. Just as an earthy smile can change our lives, so too can a divine smile, look, change our lives for the better.
About 40 years after this memorable experience in the life of Levi, he wrote one of the four inspired gospels.
He is an old man. His thoughts take him back to greatest and most glorious experience of his life.
With tears in his eyes he wrote the following words:
Matthew 9:9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. 
Do you recognise a name change? What name did Mark and Luke gave this publican? Levi. 
But here where he writes about the story of Jesus he does not call himself Levi but Matthew. Why?
A dishonest tax collector called Levi sat in his office and experience the most hateful looks you can imagine. Society regarded him a scum and rejected him.  His name was stigmatized.
But the Jesus stepped into his life and he received a theaomai look, a theatre look. The look said to him: Levi, I love you, I admire you. I desire you.
Jesus does not talk to a criminal, he speaks to Matthew.
Matthaios comes from the Aramaic word Mattai which means a gift from God.
Luther says when sinner come to God they are beautiful.

Updated on 21st Mar 2022

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