1Sm 9:1-4,17-19,10:1; Ps 21:2-7; Mk 2:13-17
The only time a king is glad is when the LORD is his strength and his victory. Without this kind of security any leader is in danger, real danger. Not just earthly danger, such a leader is in eternal danger. Leaders and followers alike need to find their strength in the LORD and trust in him for all victories. When we are totally dependent upon the LORD our heart’s desire is to do his will, and any prayer that arises out of such a desire cannot be refused. The LORD welcomes us with blessing upon blessing and the crown of honor rests upon our head. Even health and long life will not pass us by, because we become a blessing for those around us who are in need. This is the splendor with which we shine, and the LORD gladdens us with the joy of his face. Indeed, this interior transformation does have an external and visible manifestation. We see it in the anointing of Saul by the prophet Samuel. The prophet had to look beyond the obvious to hear the Lord’s voice. The Lord Jesus went beyond the external norms of his own culture in summoning Matthew to be his apostle. We, too, need to see with eyes of faith as God sees things and this is possible only because we have heard his voice summoning us to holiness.
This prophetic action seems a bit sudden. Was Samuel worried that Saul would not agree to be king? Was he concerned that the youth would shy away from such a responsibility? The Scripture does not answer such questions, however we do see many levels of communication going on in this encounter. The narrator describes Saul’s family background and his personal attributes. He is a strong and upright man from the tribe of Benjamin and he, “was a handsome young man…no other child of Israel [was] more handsome than Saul; he stood head and shoulders above the people.” His father gives him a job: find and restore the lost asses. Perhaps this is a foreshadowing of the role of the new king. Gathering the loyalty of all the tribes of Israel will demand many skills not unlike finding lost asses. Of course the story is edited for the lectionary, however, we do catch the mysterious behavior of the seer. Saul wants to take advantage of Samuel’s powerful vision to locate his father’s property. The Lord has already spoken to the prophet, and he knows what to do next. Samuel promises to help Saul as a ruse to get him alone and anoint him king. Before he has a chance to object or excuse himself, the deed is done. Like all prophetic deeds, it is irrevocable. The prophet does offer some consolation to Saul. He will save Israel for the grasp of their enemies roundabout. This is his sign and his commission; you will be victorious. As the story unfolds we will see that this sign is a source of great assurance and a temptation to not trust the LORD. Like the rest of us King Saul needs affirmation and sometimes it just seems easier to give it to ourselves rather than wait for the LORD to act. Such is the temptation for kings and commoners, leaders and followers.
The Pharisees could not react in any other fashion. They were convinced that by the faithful living out the law in all its detail the LORD would have to bring about his Kingdom on earth. If this itinerant preacher, Jesus, was going to have any good effect upon the People of God he had to teach them by example. His behavior here is completely befuddling. He chooses a tax collector to be his follower. This man is among the fringe who choose to cooperate with the Roman authorities and make money from their oppression. This Levi, son of Alphaeus, is no model believer, at the very least he’s a fringe person and probably a dishonest one at that. Not only that, this Rabbi Jesus celebrates a meal with others who collect taxes and are known sinners. He is entirely too familiar with the less than desirable members of society; he loves to eat and drink with people who the Pharisees would see as holding back the very coming of the Kingdom of God. Like Samuel in the first reading, the Lord Jesus saw in Levi something others could not see. The Lord Jesus stands up for Levi and explains his prophetic action in summoning him. Again the Lord Jesus reveals a heart after his Father’s own heart; he is full of compassion. “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Here is the one long waited for, the descendant of the true king of Israel. Here is the friend of sinners. Here is our friend. We are no longer left out and marginalized; we have a physician.