So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him. I Kings 19:19-21 ESV
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:27-32 ESV
Harold Hill was a con man. He traveled from town to town, sold expensive band instruments and uniforms to the boys in the town, and claimed to be a band leader. He used a method called the “think method,” where the boys didn’t actually have to practice their music, but just think about it, and would learn to play that way. He also found himself a girlfriend in every town, who would help him escape before the people in town caught on to his dishonesty and got him in trouble. But when he came to River City, something unusual happened. He fell truly in love with Marian, the town’s librarian, and didn’t want to leave her. He decided to face his punishment for his dishonesty so that he could stay with Marian and lead an honest life. He left behind his other girlfriends and the way he had lived before.
This is only a story, and it can be really hard for someone to make a new start in life like that. When Elijah called Elisha to serve him, Elisha knew that his whole life was going to change. He knew he would have to leave his parents so that he could follow and learn from Elijah. Someday he would take Elijah’s place as God’s prophet, and he knew that it wouldn’t be an easy job. Not only did he say goodbye to his family, but he also took the oxen he had been using to work in the fields and killed them as a sacrifice to God. He knew he wouldn’t need them to work his fields any longer. He gave a feast to his friends and neighbors to celebrate his new life.
Jesus called people to follow him, including a man named Levi, a disciple we know as Matthew. Levi left his business, where he was making a lot of money, and started a new life as one of Jesus’ disciples. He gave a big feast to celebrate his new life, and at this feast the religious leaders complained about the kind of people that Jesus was spending time with. These leaders didn’t understand that Jesus was calling them to come away from the sins in their lives and to start a new life with him. When Jesus calls people, their whole lives change.
Jesus calls us to follow him also, and to leave behind sins that separate us from God and his ways. It isn’t an easy job to follow Jesus and to live his way, but Jesus went to the cross to win the forgiveness of all our sins, and that forgiveness is there for us every day. Jesus sends his Holy Spirit to give us new lives in him, now and always.
Dear Jesus, thank you for calling us to follow you. Please forgive our sins and help us each day. Amen.
The Music Man. Dir. Morton DaCosta. Warner Brothers, 1962. Film