“And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:29-32)
In this passage, the Pharisees (the Jewish religious leaders at the time who were righteous according to man’s standards but not God’s) were criticizing Jesus because He was dining with people who were seen by society as despicable and unworthy. Tax collectors (though still hated today by some) were different back then. In those times, the tax collectors (who were also known as “publicans” at the time) were Jews that worked for the Romans and were used to collect taxes from their fellow Jews. They were seen as treacherous traitors and instruments of oppression. Then aside from the tax collectors that Jesus was dining with, there were the sinners. “Sinner” is a more general term that can refer to a myriad of things. This ranges from prostitutes, drunkards, those who have sex outside of marriage (and other purveyors of sexual immorality), liars, thieves, or anyone else who just didn’t measure up to the Pharisees’ man-made, religious expectations and standards. These people were marginalized by the Pharisees and were judged instead of poured into or helped.
They questioned Jesus because, what self-respecting man of God would dare dwell with such societal filth? Jesus then replies with the famous, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Let’s do a small word study of a few words in Jesus’ iconic answer shall we? I’m going to focus on three words. These words are “well,” “sick,” and “repentance.” The Greek word here used for “well” in the original is hugiainó (ὑγιαίνω). This word meant those who are “pure, sound. and uncorrupted.” The Greek word used here for sick in the original manuscript is “kakós” (κακῶς). This word translates to being “miserably ill/wrong/evil.” The Greek word for repentance is “metanoia” (μετάνοια). This word translates to “a change of mind.” So Jesus’ answer could also be translated as “Those who are uncorrupted, pure, and sound, don’t need help, but those who are miserably evil. I did not come to call those who are righteous, but sinners to a change in mind.”
With this perspective, we understand that Jesus’ healing power is unnecessary and useless to people who believe that they are “perfect” or “well off.” He came for those who are in need of change. He wants to save sinners, not pet those who believe that they are righteous when they are not (the great and prideful). “But aren’t these people also sinners?” You may ask, and the answer is yes, however, there is a fundamental difference. The difference lies in pride v.s. humility. God hates human pride. Scripture says that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Human pride seeks to 1up others in an attempt to put oneself on top and be revered by others at the bottom. Pharisees were full of this. Jesus told the Pharisees:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27)
On the outside they looked good because they did so many good religious works, however on the outside they were filled with death. Their insides stunk with religious formality, pride, and prejudice. Their hearts were hard with it! So though they measured up to man’s standards, they failed to meet up to God’s standards. There are many more examples of this being shown by Jesus (read Luke 18:9-14 whenever you get a chance), however, I’m going to segue into my main point.
A tragedy that has befallen people is that they think that they are too sick and sinful for Christ to heal them and change them. In other words, a lot of people think that they are simply too “screwed up” to come to Jesus and be accepted by God. Because they don’t meet up to man’s standards, they assume that they cannot meet God’s standard for salvation. I often hear things such as “I need to get right before I come to Jesus” or “I’ve done too many bad things.” I just want you to know that whoever you are, you are never too screwed up to come to Jesus. That’s a lie. Christ offers a sanctuary– a home for the misfits and the weak who cannot help themselves.
He gives belonging for those who’s hearts are heavy with guilt and have been ostracized and alienated for their sin. He offers peace for those who are crushed by the pressures of their own wickedness, those who are spiritually poor, those in need of hope regarding their eternal plight, those who have been trampled by and have had their miserable fill of this world full of death, decay, suffering, and evil. He offers a renewed life, a new heart with new desires, an infinite abundance of love that guides to truth (Him), and new mercies every morning. They don’t call Him the “Great Physician” for nothing. He heals the broken! You don’t clean up to come to Jesus, you come to Jesus to get cleaned up so that you can see God! “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God!” (Matthew 5:8)
It doesn’t matter what you have done in your life. The world may not forgive you, but Christ will. The world may not help you, but Christ will. The world will not renew you, but Christ will. The world cannot save you, but Christ will. Don’t put off Jesus and His gift of reconciliation to God, eternal life, and a new earthly life because you fear that your sins are too great. The point of Him dying on the cross was to save people. Perfect people don’t need saving, helpless people do and weak people do. God only helps those who can’t help themselves, those who understand their true circumstances. You may think that what you have is honor when you resist the Jesus and the Gospel, however, this is a form of pride and unbelief (a lack of faith). You believe that your sin is too great for God to handle and that you can handle yourself and that this makes you more righteous. No, this is not true but a lie. Jesus said this concerning the Kingdom of God and it’s people :
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Paul said this concerning the Church:
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
The qualification for receiving the salvation is not being morally perfect. If you were perfect, then you wouldn’t need salvation. The Gospel was not made for morally perfect people because they don’t exist. Those who realize this, and understand that they fall short of God’s standard for moral perfection, but want to be reconciled (all by the Spirit’s prompting) are those who have hearts ripe for salvation. These are the people that the Good News of God’s saving grace will be attractive to. In order to receive salvation, all you have to do is turn from the current lifestyle that’s destroying your soul and seek Jesus. Whoever truly comes to Him, He will “by no means cast out.” (John 6:37) Even the Pharisees could have been saved if they weren’t so full of pride that they resisted the Gospel by their flint hearts (some were saved).
Thanks for reading dear Reader, God bless.