Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:10-13)
Everyone Is A Sinner, But Some Don’t Know It
Jesus never fit the mold of what the Jewish leaders considered a rabbi, teacher, or the promised One, Messiah. People hated by the religious elite flocked around the man from Nazareth. Tax collectors were Jews who worked for the Roman government, imposing heavy taxes that made them very wealthy and powerful men. Rome turned a blind eye if the tax collector imposed larger taxes for their own greed. Jesus had one of the Roman tax collectors as His apostle. Many people lived on the fringe of society that were looked upon as sinners. These people were disreputable men and women despised by the sophisticated and well-respected members of society. Cripples, lepers, and blind men filled the ranks of the cast-aside society of God’s people. The Law of Moses warned against abusing the poor and unfortunate, but the Pharisees hated the people of a lesser degree than themselves.
It offended the Pharisees that Jesus would eat with tax collectors and sinners. They recognized Jesus as a person of importance, considering He was not viewed as a sinner but that He ate with sinners. His perceived station in life should have propelled Him to refuse to eat with the rabble of society. At least the Pharisees gave credibility to Jesus’s work, indicting Him for the company he kept. But why would Jesus eat with such people? Why would He risk the criticism of the religious elite of Israel and compromise His work?
A doctor exists for the sole reason there are sick people in the world. There will always be those who will serve as physicians because there will always be sick people. When Adam and Eve were taken out of the garden, sickness and death came upon all men. The moment a child is born, they begin to die. Disease is not a respecter of persons. It comes upon all ages, male and female, young and old, and without national distinctions. Methuselah lived to be 969 years old but he died. Sick people fill the earth because all men have the same DNA of mortality. There will always be those who help the sick and try to cure disease. If there were no diseases, there would be no need for a doctor. Jesus told the Pharisees healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. Who among the Pharisees did not suffer from illness? The point Jesus made to the religious elite is that all men have disease, and the greatest sickness is sin.
Jesus came to save sinners. Who are the sinners? The Pharisees did not believe they were sinners. They justified themselves by themselves. It was ironic (and sad) that they called others sinners when they were the greatest of sinners. Jesus did not come to call the righteous or those without disease. If every disease were cured, there would be no work for the doctors. Jesus came to offer to heal those with sin, including the Pharisees. The problem with the Jewish leaders is they did not see their illness. They did not think of themselves as sinners, but they were sinners. Jesus was calling the sinners to repentance as the Great Physician.
The Pharisees were upset Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, asking the disciples why their teacher would allow those people to eat with Him. Jesus heard them asking His disciples. He tells the Pharisees He came to save them from their pride and arrogance. They could not see themselves as sinners. Jesus pointed out their need for the healing waters of life. The prophet Hosea faced the same problem when he reminded Israel the Lord desired mercy and not the ritualistic religion of hypocrisy. Jesus tells the Pharisees they are the greatest sinners, but they could not see their own sin.
Everyone is a sinner. There is no one that does not need the mercy and grace of God – even the smug Pharisees. The first thing a sick person must do is admit they are sick. When men deny they are sinners, they will die as sinners. Jesus came to heal sinners and offer a way of escape and hope. Without admitting the need for healing, the grace of God can do nothing. Jesus did not come to call the righteous because there were none. We are all in need of Jesus.