Was the calling of Levi (or Matthew) a significant moment? It was obviously significant because Levi was called by Jesus to be an apostle. He was also going to write a Gospel. Yet we are told about his experience and not about the call of some of the other apostles. I would suggest that we are told about his conversion because he was from a different background from most of the apostles. Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, and Nathaniel (Bartholemew) were devout Israelites, individuals who would have been respected in their local communities for their dedication to the Jewish faith. With Levi, we move to a different kind of person.
It is possible to speculate about why he had the name Levi. Parents usually chose names for reasons. Perhaps, in this case, they wanted their son to serve God in a special way. After all, in Jewish history, Levi was the tribe chosen to serve God as priests and Levites. If that was the parents’ wish, then eventually their prayers were answered far above what they would have asked or imagined.
The one thing that is clear is that Levi was not living up to his name. Instead of serving God he was serving the Roman Empire as a tax official. We don’t regard the office of a taxman as sinful, but in those days the tax officials were notorious for their corruption. Levi would have to raise enough to satisfy the demands of his superiors, and on top of that amount he would have to raise enough to satisfy himself. Those demands would have made Levi very unpopular in the community.
So we can see that Jesus chose as one of his apostles a man who was a disappointment to his family, a collaborator with the foreign powers who ruled the country, an individual who lined his pockets at the expense of others, and a person who was deeply unpopular. In fact, we could say that he was everything a presbytery committee would not want! Yet Jesus wanted him, and called him to this role.
Moreover, Jesus called him in public, when he was sitting at his desk, probably with a line of people waiting to pay tax. There is no hint that Jesus had a private meeting with him beforehand in order to discuss things. Of course, Jesus did not have a need for such a meeting, but we could imagine Levi needing one. After all, Jesus did give a private meeting to Andrew before he became a public disciple. The obvious lesson is that we should not be surprised at those Jesus calls into his service.