On December 28th of last year, my wife and I needed a doctor. My temperature was spiking, and Pam was headed towards major chest congestion. In both cases, it was COVID-19 attacking our bodies in different ways. We knew we were weak and needed assistance.
Christians are the same way. Each of us recognize our personal weaknesses and screw ups and need help getting our lives in order. There is a realization that we are unable to heal ourselves because of problems bigger than our capabilities to get well. We need a doctor.
There is a great illustration of this found in Mark 2 when Jesus reaches out to Levi (also called Matthew, the author of the first New Testament book), a despised tax collector. “14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. 15 And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “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.” Jesus hung out with and associated with folks who were unscrupulous sinners and knew it. Tax collectors were hated by the Jews. They were hired and empowered by the Roman government to collect taxes. Often, they invoiced much higher rates than should have been charged. Jesus did not have to tell these guys that they were sinners. These tax collectors knew what they were doing was wrong, but the money and trappings were worth it.
There was another group involved in the above episode, “the scribes of the Pharisees”, who despised the tax collectors and their associates considering them to be reprobates. They had created their own inflexible system of laws and customs that choked the joy out of life for the Jews. These guys were hypocrites considering themselves without the need of help especially from this lowlife carpenter from Galilee named Jesus. Their pride was far above what the Great Physician offered. These Pharisees judgmentally wanted to know, “Why is Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus assessed the two groups above succinctly, “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.” In their eyes, these self-righteous Pharisees did not need help. On the other hand, many of the tax collectors and their associates were convinced Jesus was the son of God who could graciously and mercifully forgive them of their multiple sins, make them a new person, and show them a new way of life. They were sinners who desperately needed help.
We must be like the tax collectors who knew they needed a doctor. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8&9). Have you been to the Doctor lately?