In several places in the gospels Jesus is recorded as saying: “Follow me.” I often wonder if these seemingly blunt requests are more nuanced and subtle than what appears on the surface.
In one of today’s readings Jesus says it to Levi – one of the social undesirables – who then in turn, with generous hospitality, celebrates Jesus with other undesirables at a banquet. But all is not well. Of course. Some officials are, perhaps unsurprisingly, perturbed by all of their shared joviality. Jesus’ response to these naysayers is clear and pointed. Yet this conflict seems to have begun with Jesus’ direct, deceptively cryptic, and likely lovingly rendered entreaty to Levi: follow me.
It seems there could be several ways of translating this phrase differently from the Greek. One alternative is something like “move along with me” or “walk with me in tandem.” The operative word in this interpretation being “with.” Another interesting one is “follow the thread.” It’s as if he’s saying bear with me or — less literally — muse on or contemplate the teachings. He offers no recipe or list of directions of exactly what to do. For that, perhaps the other readings for the day from Isaiah and the Psalms offer some hints as to the personal work to be undertaken.