Soon more people wanted to follow Jesus wherever He went. They were all simple people. They were not rich in learning, but they were certainly rich in love. They were better off that way, for love is greater than learning.
Among them was a tax-collector, a contemptible sinner whom the Pharisees would not allow into the synagogue. His name was Levi. Jesus spotted him sitting in his tax office. He knew that this man's heart yearned for the Messiah.
He said to Levi, "Follow Me." Levi obeyed without hesitation. First he held a great banquet at his home and invited all his friends, who were also tax-collectors. Other people came too. The doors of Levi's house were open to all. In the midst of all the guests sat Jesus and His disciples.
When the Pharisees found out, they threw up their hands in amazement and indignation. They would never touch food offered to them by a tax-collector! In fact, they wouldn't even enter a tax-collector's house. They were pure and pious and righteous, and therefore would have nothing to do with sinners.
How could the man who taught the people to come to God dare defile himself by contact with tax-collectors?
Sternly the Pharisees asked Jesus' disciples, "Why does your master eat with tax-collectors and sinners?"
Jesus overheard the question. Calmly He answered, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners, to repentance."
Jesus continued to spend time with tax- collectors and sinners. He belonged with sinners just as a doctor belongs with sick people.
The Pharisees simply did not believe that Jesus was the great heavenly physician who had come into the world to heal the sick and mend sinful hearts. These proud fools did not realize that they, with their hearts of stone, were the sickest people of all. Scoffing at Jesus, they went their way.
That same day something truly miraculous happened: the tax-collector Levi left his house and his money to follow the Savior as a poor wanderer. This actually made him richer than ever.
A little later, Jesus spent an entire night in the mountains alone, praying. After that He picked twelve men from among His followers to be His disciples. Seven of the twelve had already been called: Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Nathanael, who was later called Bartholomew, and the tax-collector Levi, who was later called Matthew.
The other five disciples were: Thomas, a quiet, melancholy man; James, the son of Alphaeus; Judas, who was also called Thaddeus; Simon the Zealot, who had once been a member of the Zealots, the group that wanted to force the Romans out of Palestine; and another Judas, known as Judas Iscariot.
From that day those twelve men followed Jesus wherever He went. They were friends He could count on when His enemies surrounded Him. Sometimes He sent them out to preach on their own in various villages. One day they would be apostles.
Apostles, ambassadors, fishers of men! All of them?
Only Jesus knew for sure.