The parable we are going to look at today is found in the Bible just before the one we studied last time. You can find it in Matthew 9:10-13, Mark 2:13-17, and Luke 5:29-32. It reads:
And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:29-32 NASB)
While this parable is fairly simple to understand even in today’s world, here is what it might look like in modern day language:
You do not go to the doctor when you are well, you go when you are sick. I did not come to invite those who are already righteous to repent of their sins, but those who are sinners. No need to be “preaching to the choir”.
This parable was spoken in the same context as the last one: Levi was giving a banquet. Jesus and his disciples were eating with other tax collectors and “sinners”. The Pharisees were appalled that Jesus would even think about doing this. “The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” (Luke 5:30 NASB). To understand why, you need to understand the relationships between these people.
Tax collectors were often considered some of the lowest of the low. Not only were many of them dishonest (taking more than required so they could fill their own pockets), but many Jews felt they were traitors for siding with and working for the Roman empire. The Jews, and especially rabbis and teachers of the Law, such as Jesus, would avoid their company as if the tax collectors’ (and other sinners’) “uncleanliness” would somehow rub off on them (this is not completely off-base since they had been taught in the old covenant to avoid all sinful people). Incidentally, the Greek word for “sinner” also means “detestable”.
Jesus came to change all that. He came to change how people viewed each other. He taught that God loves all people regardless of life station or personal struggles. He came to give all people a chance to be saved (even the “sick” sinful people), not just the chosen “healthy” Jews. The Jews would have (and continue to have) a very hard time accepting this concept (which leads into the parable we discussed in the last post).
Jesus describes Himself as a physician in this parable, a healer. Though Jesus healed many different physical ailments (Matt. 4:23), He came to heal our souls’ diseases, as well. What a great healer He is! He came for the sick-at-heart, the weary, the lost, the ones looked down upon, the struggling, the sinful. He came for all. “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b NASB). Isn’t it comforting to know that He offers to heal, to save even the worst of us?
I hope you have enjoyed today’s study and you will return for the next post. God bless!