We know the calling of Levi, how he got up and followed Jesus, ‘leaving everything’ (Luke 5:28). If we are skim-reading Luke’s Gospel – not always the most profitable way to read! – we might easily overlook the deep wonder and significance of this issue. A taxman gets up from his desk and goes with Jesus. Hadn’t a few fishermen done the same thing a few verses earlier? So what’s the big deal?
It was a big deal because Levi was leaving an extremely lucrative business behind. It was a big deal because he would have been regarded with suspicion by many others who were following Jesus. It was a big deal because he wouldn’t have been able to resume his old career very easily if this new venture didn’t work out as hoped; it would have been much easier to return to fishing! But above all, we are to see this event as the outworking of a power which was supernatural and life-changing. It was no less miraculous than the healing of the paralytic a few verses earlier. Levi’s life was irrevocably altered. From now on he is known as Matthew, a man with a new name and a new nature. Not only a disciple of Jesus, but an apostle. Not only an apostle, but one of just four men who were called upon to be Gospel writers.
B.B. Warfield began one of his greatest works, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, with the most majestic words: ‘The religion of the Bible is a frankly supernatural religion’. Here is a central pillar of everything that evangelical Christians have always affirmed. We are to see it wherever we look. The Bible is supernatural: ‘no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit’ (2 Peter 1:21). The great deliverances of the Old Testament can only be explained as an outworking of the supernatural; just read Psalms 105 and 106 if you need any persuading of this. Then take the key events recorded in the New Testament: the conception of Jesus, his baptism, death, resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Try to separate these epoch-making episodes from their supernatural content, and they lose any meaningful worth.
And what is exciting is that we continue to live in a supernatural realm! The gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit anoints the preaching, and men, women and children are born again. It takes a mighty and miraculous work of God to impart light and life to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. The church of Jesus Christ is defined as a supernatural community, brought into being by a God who speaks so that ‘new life the dead receive’. Great, indeed we confess, is the mystery of godliness!
Paul Yeulett is Pastor of Shrewsbury Evangelical Church.
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