There is an interesting episode which is recorded in Matthew 8.10-12, in the context of Jesus calling Matthew to follow Him:
And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when He heard it, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”
Perhaps you have heard the expression, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” I have a few quibbles with that saying, but I think it does highlight the truth that the church is not a place for people who have everything figured out, but rather, is the place for people who realize that they absolutely cannot figure everything out on their own.
The Pharisees who feuded so frequently with Jesus were definitely people who thought they had everything figured out on their own. They thought they had cornered the market on truth and personal holiness, and had rigid codes about who they would and would not associate with. For them, it was unthinkable that a genuinely holy teacher would willingly choose to associate with those who were spiritually sick, and they made every effort to keep their distance from the sinners who were so different than they were.
The Pharisees were correct in that there was a difference between them and the “tax collectors and sinners”, but it wasn’t the difference they assumed. You see, like the sinners they avoided, the Pharisees were sick too, because all people sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3.23). The crucial difference was that unlike the tax collectors and sinners, who recognized their spiritual sickness and craved the healing presence of the Great Physician, the Pharisees deceived themselves into thinking they were well and thus, had no need of Jesus.
To return to an earlier metaphor, hospitals can help a lot of people who are ill, but they can’t help anyone who refuses admission to the hospital because they deny they are sick! Put in another way, all of us are sick, but those who consider themselves to be well have no use for Jesus. And that is the really tragic thing: Jesus can help anyone who can admit that they need help! It is those who stubbornly maintain that there is no problem that He can do nothing for.
So the question we all must ask ourselves is, “Do I (mistakenly) believe I am healthy, or do I realize that I am sick?”
When I look at a person who is lost and in bondage to sin, there is a difference between that person and myself. The difference is not that they are spiritually sick and that I am immune from such a sickness; the difference is that I have been to see the Doctor! The Great Physician has diagnosed my illness and given me a prescription of His blood!
May we always be mindful of our own inherent sickness, humble enough to accept Christ’s cure, and caring enough to share that cure with others.
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