I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’
Mark 2:17 (NIV)

Read: Mark 2:13-28

Consider: In Mark 2 we are told that Jesus called Levi which he was sitting at the tax collector’s booth and that he immediately followed Jesus. Later in the passage we are told that Jesus and his disciples were eating at Levi’s house in the company of ‘tax collectors and sinners’ (2:15). This appalled the religious elite (the teachers of the law – Pharisees) who asked: Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners? (2:16). It is in response to this that Jesus said: It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners (2:17).

Can you imagine the response this would have generated from the Pharisees? Initially they might have thought that Jesus’ answer was fine, as it indicated just how needy these tax collectors and sinners were. Then it might have sunk in that Jesus was actually pointing out that although they saw themselves as righteous, they were in fact sinners; exactly the same as those they looked down upon. They would probably have been indignant at the implication of what Jesus was saying.

Jesus was also pointing out that there is a very clear difference between a person being ill and knowing they are ill. The Pharisees did not know that sinfulness was the illness Jesus was talking about. They saw themselves as healthy, because in their opinion they were the ones who kept the Law. Conversely, it was the tax collectors and sinners who knew the condition of their own hearts and that they needed forgiveness.

We have to be careful that we don’t adopt the same attitude as the religious elite of Jesus’ time. We think it is easy to see which sectors of society need ‘to be made healthy’, but today’s passage shows us that everyone needs God’s forgiveness. We often forget that people cannot hear the good news of the gospel unless someone shares it with them. We need to ask God to overcome our reticence to share the good news with particular people (or sectors of society), as if we see them beyond God’s help.

Pray: Father, may we never see anyone as beyond your salvation. Give us a burden for souls that is willing to share the good news of the gospel with those around us. Amen

Every blessing