THIS WEEK’S FOCUSED SCRIPTURE
Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:15 (NLT)
THOUGHTS FROM STEVEN
This beautiful depiction of Jesus sitting among these sinners can just as easily be reimagined present day. Imagine your coworker and buddy, Matthew, invites you to a little after-work party to tell you and your other co-workers that he’s leaving the company, selling everything he has, and is traveling with a guy named Jesus. He tells you all about this “Jesus” and why he believes so strongly in His teachings. I can imagine his excitement, “He’ll be there tonight! You’ve got to meet him!”
So all of these friends, coworkers, and other acquaintances show up that night for Matthew’s farewell party. It’s a “who’s-who” of sinners and social outcasts. The “scum of the earth” as the Pharisees saw it. But right in the thick of all of them is Jesus.
As the Pharisees walked by, looked at this loud group of guys, laughing, with empty beer bottles and cigarette butts everywhere (not really, but we’re imagining this today, right?) – there sat Jesus in the middle of them all. It was obvious that He was the friend of these men. He was not lecturing them. He was sitting among them and eating and drinking with them. The scribes were simply appalled at this and called the disciples aside. “Why does He do things like that? Doesn’t He know who these people are?”
Jesus’ answer is pretty revealing. He actually agreed with what they’d asked. He says, in effect, “You’re right. These are sick, hurting, troubled men. Their style of life has damaged them deeply. They don’t see life rightly; they are covering up many evils; they are false in many ways. You’re right…these are sick men. But where else would a doctor be?”
Then He turns it back toward them saying, “I came to call not the righteous, but sinners.” That is, those who think they are righteous, as these Pharisees did, are actually needier than those they regard as social outcasts. These Pharisees were actually more deeply disturbed than the tax collectors and sinners, but they did not know it. But Jesus was saying to them, “To those who think they’re righteous, I have absolutely nothing to say. But to these who know they’re sick and are open for help, I am fully available as a minister to their souls.”
He made two things very clear. First, that when we think we have no need of help from God, we are in no position to be helped. And second, that prejudices are preconceived notions formed before we have sufficient knowledge, usually mistaken or distorted ideas with which we have grown up. When prejudices are in opposition to the needs of people, they are to be swept aside without any hesitation. We as Christ-followers must learn to treat people like this — regardless of what their outward appearance may be. That is the way Jesus approached people everywhere.