All three of the Synoptic Gospels tell of Jesus calling of the tax-collector, identified here and in Luke (5:27) as Levi, and in Matthew (9:9-13) as Matthew. Today’s version in Mark is the most abrupt, but all three speak to the egalitarian nature of Christ’s calling. He calls without apparent regard to merit or standing. Tax-collectors, while Jewish, were reviled for their cooperation with the oppressive Roman occupiers and for their frequently extortionate application of their taxation duties.
Levi must have heard of the charismatic itinerant preacher and healer, but all accounts speak to the suddenness of the call and the required immediacy of the response. Jesus initiates, we respond.
In the 16th Century depiction of the event by the Renaissance painter Caravaggio, Jesus’ hand is forcefully thrust out, pointing at Levi. Careful examination will reveal Jesus’ torso and feet, partially screened from the viewer by Peter, are facing towards the door. Jesus calls, but is already in motion, as if to say: “Follow me…now!”