Leaving It All Behind
What would it be like to suddenly get up, leave everything behind, and head for something new? Some people would probably jump at that opportunity while others would want to really think it through and calculate the cost of such a rash move. Who has the guts to jeopardize what they already have, to follow an unmarked path into the unknown?
This is exactly what happened in the life of Matthew, one of the disciples of Jesus, and the human author of the first book of the New Testament. Matthew was not a very popular guy, at least among his fellow Jews. At that time in history, the Jewish nation was under the power and control of Rome, and Matthew was one of the Jews who had aligned himself with Rome and was employed by them as a tax collector. The taxes were high and basically helped to fund the interests of Rome. Very little, if any, of the money collected was used for improvements for the Jewish people where they lived and worked. Tax collectors were despised and hated, and no Jew would ever want to spend any amount of time with them.
Except for Jesus.
There came a point in time when Matthew’s life was completely flipped around as Jesus emerged from the crowd and came walking into it. The Bible doesn’t tell us if Matthew had any previous knowledge of who Jesus was, although it is likely that he had heard about the wave of excitement that Jesus was stirring up as He began to heal people, talk about a new kingdom, and ruffle the feathers of the religious leaders. Then one day there was Jesus, standing before Matthew’s tax collector’s booth, beckoning him to come and follow Him. There must have been something especially compelling about the way Jesus looked at him and the words that he spoke because Matthew was willing to abruptly leave behind his job and his way of life. Maybe there was a tangible energy in the air as Jesus opened his eyes and he felt a peaceful assurance that this sudden new option for him was something that he didn’t want to let pass him by.
This scene is depicted in a very moving way in the movie Son of God, which was produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. It is emotional and compelling as, in that moment, Jesus focuses all of His attention on Matthew and gently breaks down the barrier between them. That feeling can translate directly to us as well. Although we can’t actually interact with Jesus in the same way that Matthew did, He will still give each person who asks Him the same kind of personal attention.
The risk that Matthew took to follow Jesus was enormous. Tax collecting for Rome was his job, his way of life, and the basis of his social network. Once he left, there would be no re-negotiating and coming back later if this new opportunity did not work out. He probably had no idea at first of what Jesus had in mind, and the group that he would be joining consisted of Jews who were comfortable with each other and had stayed true to their Jewish heritage. Matthew would be the obvious outsider and it would probably take some time before the other disciples actually trusted him. But he was willing to take that chance because being that close to Jesus would far outweigh any other discomfort or trouble that might come as a result. Following Jesus was risky then, and can be the same way now, depending on a person’s circumstances. But the peace that can be felt now and hope that is available for the future is completely worth any price that must be paid.
Jesus is still calling people today to leave things behind and follow Him. For those who don’t know Him already, His hand is reaching out to anyone who wants to take ahold of it and leave a life that will lead to eternity without Him. For those who do know Him, He is calling us to leave behind things like fear, anger, or a sin that we have let get a foothold in their lives. Sin can trick us into thinking that it will not cause any harm if we only allow it a little space in our lives. But sin will eventually bite, and when it does, it can bite hard. Jesus wants to call us away from having to suffer that kind of consequence.
Maybe there is something in your life that you need to leave behind. You have felt the tug on your heart and you know that now is the time to get up, turn your back on whatever that might be, and begin to move in a new direction. Jesus has strength and power to give to those who have the courage to walk away from something destructive in their lives that goes against His higher and perfect plans for them. Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted and can talk to Him freely and tell Him that you’re ready to begin a new journey. If you have a friend or family member in your life who you know can be trusted, you might also consider letting them in on your decision. God will work with you directly, but He also specializes in working through people to help Him accomplish amazing things.
2 Corinthians 5:17