“It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” ~ Mark 2:17b, NASB
In Mark 2, Jesus is teaching, healing, and calling for people to follow after Him. It always created a stir and gathered a crowd when Jesus was on the scene.
Usually, the Pharisees (religious leaders), take issue with what Jesus does. He goes against their traditions, their man-made rules, and their ideologies. That’s one thing I’ve always admired and loved about Jesus – He was a rebel of sorts.
In this particular event, He calls Levi, a tax collector, to follow Him.
Tax collectors were not well-liked. In fact, they were hated. They worked for the oppressive Roman government, extracted larger taxes than were required to line their own pockets. Although they knew the oppression their own people were under, the lure for favor with the Romans, status, and wealth won out over empathy or sympathy.
The Pharisees, disgusted that Jesus is communicating with this tax collector, begin to gossip amongst themselves like a bunch of old women. “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?”
And we find Jesus’ reply to them in Mark 2:17. “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners”
It’s easy to shake our heads at the Pharisees. It’s easy to assume we would never, could never, be like them. Yet, I think we are like them many times.
The Pharisees had attained status. They were well educated on all things holy. They followed all the rules (outwardly, in public). They called out the sinners. They refused to look toward those languishing in their sin. Refused to even interact with them out of fear of being stained. They had created rules and laws that kept themselves, and others, in bondage to the idea of perfection, keeping up appearances, and performing service. And they never once admitted to a struggle. They never once failed to appear as if perfect.
Think about it. We attend our church and speak of welcoming outsiders, but would we? What if a homosexual walked through the doors with their partner? A prostitute? A drug addict? A drunk? A convict?
I’m not talking about a welcoming smile for one Sunday. I’m talking about communication, a hug, an invite to our small group party, or to our home for a meal. Would we? Could we? Or would we become like the Pharisees with the side-eye glance and the chit-chat resemblant of a gossip session? Would we be more interested in making sure they understood their sin, or making sure they understood their worth to the Almighty?
Can we honestly say we are not like them? I can’t. I’m guilty. I’ve done all those things in an effort to meet others expectations of me, to not disappoint, to not have to admit my own struggles and weaknesses (it’s always easier to feel better about your own sin when you can point out the sinfulness of another, especially if their sin is more widely condemned by society at large.)
No. The older I get, the more I realize the fallacy of my thinking and behavior. Following Christ is not an easy way to perfectionism, overcoming your personal sins and struggles, or never making mistakes. If it was, He would not have referred to it as death to self, taking up our cross, or fighting against principalities and darkness. He would not have spoken of the importance of not just loving God, but also loving your neighbor.
Jesus didn’t come to heal the healthy. He came for the sick. He came for the sinners, of which, like Paul, I am chief.
I don’t want to pretend I have it all together. That’s too difficult to maintain. I’ve lived as a Pharisee before, but the truth is I am sinner in need of Jesus every day.
This passage was such a great reminder that Christianity isn’t about my outward appearance of holiness, but my willingness to follow, to be led, to be set free, to be changed. And as a sin sick individual, I am thankful the physician offered His services.