On first glance the second half of our text tonight doesn’t seem to have much to do with the first story, but I think there is. Jesus moves from a house in the city to a beach, people keep following Him, and He keeps teaching them, He calls Levi, who’s better known to you and me as Matthew, a tax collector, and Levi follows Him. Now we might not see anything very shocking in that, but to the Jewish leaders of the time, tax collectors were really one of the worst sorts of people. The tax collectors were seen as national traitors who had sided with Rome instead of Israel to make a few bucks. These tax collectors essentially stole from their own people to live a good lifestyle. The scribes and Pharisees would have been outraged to see Jesus calling men like Levi to Him.
But the story gets worse for the religious guys in 15 and 16 and it came to pass that as Jesus sat at meat in his house many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and His disciples, for there were many, and they followed Him, and when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with publicans and sinners they said unto His disciples; ‘how is it that He eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners.’ I picture this like a bad hip hop video. People are drinking and partying, people are not wearing enough clothes to have decently left the house, there’s a dude wearing a white suit lying on some pillowa.. From that background we can see why the scribes and Pharisees, the religious temple guys, would have questioned Jesus once more. Maybe they’ve heard His teaching and found Him interesting, or even have some respect for what He’s saying, but they do not have a category for a man like Jesus who hangs out with tax collectors, publicans and sinners. They may not be impressed, they are certainly confused. Jesus answers them with words that we need to listen to, with words that should scare us and make us look at ourselves hard.
Verse 17 says when Jesus heard it He saith unto them, ‘they that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’ Jesus came to call sinners to repentance. Sinners. Not people who reckon they’re ok because their grades are up and they’ve opened the Bible on their own for ten minutes this week. Sinners. Not the religious types from Israel, but the sinners from Israel. The lowest of the low. We see it in our passage this evening, Jesus heals a man with the palsy, calls a tax collector and eats with sinners and publicans. All the time the religious crowd is standing on the fringes questioning and criticizing.
In our passage tonight Jesus treats a sick man by forgiving His sins, and treats sinners like a doctor. That’s why He closes in verse 17 by saying them that are whole have no need of a physician, but them that are sick. There is a greater sickness in the world than physical sickness. Being seriously ill is an awful thing and when Jesus returns all sickness will gone forever. But there is something worse. Jesus leaves us here by calling attention to our bigger need, our deeper need. The need to have our sins forgiven. He comes not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. So if we, like the religious leaders of the time here think we are righteous, think that we are doing ok, think that we don’t need any help, we need to be careful, we need to be worried, because what we’re saying is we don’t really need Jesus. But here’s the wonderful news. If you woke up this morning, or any morning feeling awful because of your sin, feeling that there is no way out for you because of what you’ve said, and thought and done. If you’re feeling right now that you’ll never, ever be as good as these church folks, then you are in exactly the right place. Then Jesus came for you. He came for you, the sick sinner, if we come to Him in repentance we have nothing to fear.
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