Mark 2:17 (NASB95): 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.”
I stand in awe of the Lord’s choice to transform us, not by mandate, but by the power of His Son’s story. There’s something wonderful about a great story. We have been captivated and instructed by them since we were children.
The Gospel writers waste little time establishing the main character in their story. As in all great stories, we come to know Him, not by description, but by walking with Him; from manger to cross. We simply get to watch Him interact with people; listen to His words, observe as He lives life.
Jesus is a magnet. People are drawn to Him. And in one really crowded moment, He takes the opportunity to show that He is not only a great teacher, but that He has the power on earth to forgive sin, through the healing of a paralytic lowered from the roof by his friends.
Immediately after this surprising revelation, Jesus further stuns the people by calling Levi from among the despicables of the day. He calls the tax collector to follow Him; to be a disciple. Yet ironically, Levi does not come out from among the tax collectors and other sinners, but He invites Jesus in among them. And Jesus gladly attends the reception.
As you might expect, that Jesus would be among them causes no small stir among the respectables. Fearing the mysterious wisdom of the man, they do not take up their concerns with Him directly, but they approach His disciples. “Why,” they ask. “Why is He eating with tax collectors and sinners?” It’s an important question in the development of the character. How they answer will determine how we see Him, and how we are to be, if we are to be like Him.
I love that Jesus does not leave such an important answer to His disciples, but answers for Himself. Why is He among them? Well, in His own words, “I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
After having demonstrated the power to forgive sin, and calling the despicable tax collector Levi, He is displaying the ultimate sign of friendship and camaraderie by breaking bread with the whole unenviable lot. It’s a scandal. The righteous teacher is with the despicables. Why, because that’s the reason for which He has come. He has come to call them. Calling them is His mission. And calling them does not mean standing aloof from them, hurling threats about their sin.
Still on Mission?
At the risk of ruining a great story with a technical question, are we no longer in the age in which Jesus is calling sinners? Is He now calling the righteous? Is He friends with us alone? If the age has not changed, then he is still not yet calling the righteous. If He is among us, then we are the sinners He came to call.
Unlike the Christ, we are all too often standing aloof from sinners, calling them to join us; forgetting that we are the despicables that He came for. We just don’t behave like people who’s righteousness it’s not our own. It seems we have walked in the righteousness of another for so long we have begun to wear it like it is our own. We are behaving like we’re the respectables.
We have become a people of the law, appealing to the law for the salvation of our culture. Though we will not betray the language of Scripture by saying openly that we live by the law, we are undermining the Scripture by proudly and unashamedly claiming to live by biblical principles. Law by any other name is law nonetheless.
I still identify with the sinners. I am one of them. I am of them; of the same stuff. Jesus’ appeal to us is that He came for us; the sinners. He doesn’t stand apart from us calling us to lofty principles that we have not been able to attain. We are not offended by His righteousness. He doesn’t threaten us with it. He breaks bread with us, treats us as friends, then offers to share His righteousness with us by faith alone. And we are changed by the surpassing grace of knowing Him. What an amazing story? What an amazing Christ?