Was Jesus close friends with sinners and tax collectors? We know He associated with them, but a closer inspection reveals He wanted to be their Physician.
After Jesus called Levi (Matthew) to follow Him, Luke 5:29-32 records…
Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus answered and said to 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.”
Jesus knew people were desperately sick and in need healing, and He is a Physician for sinners.
- Other physicians heal physical sickness, but Jesus heals spiritual sickness.
- Other physicians work on the body, but Jesus works on the soul.
Before Jesus physically healed the paralytic, He first healed him spiritually: “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5:17-26). Despite how terrible the man looked physically, He looked even worse spiritually. Jesus dealt with the man’s greatest need.
A physician desires to see healing take place.
Thinking about the relationship between physicians and patients reveals why Jesus’ analogy is perfect. A physician doesn’t walk in to a patient’s room, give the patient a hug, or chitchat for a few hours. Instead:
- A physician investigates. He comes in with a clipboard. He asks questions. He takes notes. He finds out what’s wrong. He diagnoses the problem.
- A physician will get close to his patients, but he makes every effort to ensure he isn’t infected by them. He puts on gloves and possibly a mask.
- A physician has a very specific purpose and desire: to help. He wants to see healing take place.
Likewise, patients don’t say, “I’m going to call my physician and see if he wants to catch a football game.” Instead, the sick say, “I need to see a physician. I want him to tell me what’s wrong and provide me with a prescription.”
What is the prescription for sinners? Jesus mentioned that in His response to the religious leaders: “I have come to call sinners to repentance.”
Repentance is becoming an ugly word in the church today, but in Scripture it’s the cure for sinners.
A Physician who seeks the sick
1 Timothy 1:15 Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
This was Jesus’ purpose. The religious leaders criticized Him for being with tax collectors and sinners, but considering who He was and what He wanted to do, any other behavior wouldn’t have made sense:
- Pediatricians help children.
- Veterinarians help animals.
- Physicians help sick people.
If Jesus would’ve stayed away from sinners like the religious leaders wanted, He would’ve looked like a pediatrician staying away from children or a veterinarian staying away from animals.
The religious leaders couldn’t be more different than Jesus. They tried to stay as far away from sinners as possible. The sad irony is if they were as righteous – or spiritually healthy – as they thought they were, they should’ve been the most concerned with the sick. They’re the ones who should’ve been with sinners and tax collectors, trying to help them. Imagine doctors that avoid sick people because they think they’re too healthy for them.
One reason Jesus might have chosen Matthew (Levi) is he was a tax collector. This made Jesus look sensitive to sinners. When people saw Jesus with him, they knew He wouldn’t turn them away.
Jesus was going to die for sinners, and He manifested His love for them by seeking them out. But He sought them out not to be close friends with them. Instead, He desired to be their Physician and see them spiritually healed.
Do you see other examples of this behavior from Jesus or the disciples? What application does this have for us? Share any thoughts below!
You can listen to the sermon this is drawn from here.