Jesus the Totalitarian

And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. Mark 2:14

When Jesus calls Levi–tax-collector and generally despised member of society–he calls him with authority, and authority with which the society at this time was not familiar.  When a normal rabbi called you, he called you to follow the Mosaic Law, and then spent all of his time demonstrating and explaining what that meant.  Jesus is completely different.  He calls Levi to follow him. Bob Utley points out that this is an official call to discipleship.  This is no offer to Levi to consider changing his vocation, it comes as a clarion call to radically alter his life.  Levi, as all of the other disciples will do, drops everything that he is doing and follows Jesus.  It’s a remarkable scene.

This is the nature of Jesus.  He everywhere and always seems to think that the world revolves around himself and that if he calls you to follow, then you should be all means follow, and those whom he calls seem to agree!  We see it again and again.  They do not follow grudgingly or under compulsion, as if Jesus knew enough about their lives to blackmail them into it. They genuinely seem to think that following Jesus is the thing that they ought to be doing.

In his book The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings, Robert H. Stein points out:

“Although the term ‘totalitarian’ has many negative connotations, Archibald M. Hunter’s use of this term is an accurate one and describes well the total commitment that Jesus demanded of his followers. On the lips of anyone else the claims of Jesus would appear to be evidence of gross egomania, for Jesus clearly implies that the entire world revolves around himself and that the fate of all men is dependent on their acceptance or rejection of him … According to Jesus, the fate of man centers around him. Rejection of him means eternal judgment; acceptance of him means acceptance by God. The pivotal point of history and salvation, Jesus claims, is himself. To obey him is to be wise and escape judgment, but to reject his words is to be foolish and perish, for his words are the only sure foundation upon which to build (MATT. 7:24–27)” (p. 118).[Bob Utley commentary]

Jesus was a totalitarian.  When he called men and women, he, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer points out, “bids them come and die.”  This is the nature of following Christ.

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