Only the Sick Need a Doctor

Sandi, I haven’t for­got­ten about the verse you hap­pened upon on Wednes­day, but I’m going to put it off for at least a day. I let my own fin­gers do the walk­ing, and chance & prov­i­dence have tonight led me to Matthew 9:9–13.

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sit­ting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Fol­low me.” And he rose and fol­lowed him.

10And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax col­lec­tors and sin­ners came and were reclin­ing with Jesus and his dis­ci­ples. 11And when the Phar­isees saw this, they said to his dis­ci­ples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax col­lec­tors and sin­ners?” 12But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physi­cian, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mer­cy, and not sac­ri­fice.’ For I came not to call the right­eous, but sin­ners.” Matthew 9:9–13

Just glanc­ing across the pages of my Bible at this point, it’s very appar­ent that not only had Jesus been very busy, but He has been very pub­lic. Check out some of these headlines:

  • Jesus Cleans­es a Leper
  • Jesus Heals Many
  • Jesus Calms a Storm
  • Jesus Heals Two Demon-Pos­sessed Men
  • Jesus Heals a Paralytic

And just pri­or to all of that, He gave the ser­mon that ought to be the bedrock of our lives, the chap­ter-span­ning, life-alter­ing Ser­mon on the Mount.

At the start of our pas­sage, Jesus calls Matthew, and a short while lat­er He’s kickin’ back around a table with His disciples.

Before long, oth­er peo­ple start­ed to show up… Sin­ners, no less, and tax col­lec­tors.

The Phar­isees were riled. 

“If this man is so great, what’s he doing hang­ing around with those people?”

“Ha! Some teacher he is! Does­n’t he know where she was last night?”

“How could he pos­si­bly eat with such scum! Well, that proves his claims must be false. There’s no way my mes­si­ah would sul­ly his good name like this!”

But Jesus had already touched the lep­er, and the sick­ness depart­ed him. He reached out to the unclean and was unaf­fect­ed, untaint­ed by the disease.

And He’s here doing it again.

This time it isn’t the lep­rous that He’s reach­ing and touch­ing, it’s the sin­ners. It’s the peo­ple that the reli­gious elite were too good to wor­ry about.

Jesus hap­pens to catch wind of what the Phar­isees are say­ing about Him, and with­out miss­ing a beat, He responds.

He tells them that those who are well have no need of a doc­tor, and as He is apt to do, He quotes a pas­sage which these reli­gious lead­ers ought to know well:

For I desire stead­fast love and not sac­ri­fice, the knowl­edge of God rather than burnt offer­ings. Hosea 6:6

The Phar­isees had that sac­ri­fic­ing thing down. When it came to the let­ter of the law, why, they could­n’t be beat.

And if going through the motions was enough, the Phar­isees were on top of the world.

Yet it was­n’t. It nev­er has been.

If you think you are a good per­son, you are wrong. Jesus made it plain when He said, “No one is good except God alone.” ((Mark 10:18.)) I’m not good. You’re not good.

And if you think you’re good, you’re in the same predica­ment as the Pharisees.

You see, Jesus came to save sin­ners, not the right­eous; if you think you are doing all right or that you’re good enough to go to Heav­en, how will you ever turn to Christ as your Savior?

That’s an impor­tant ques­tion when you con­sid­er that no one has access to the Father or to Heav­en except by Jesus Christ; again, he says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ((John 14:6.))

The Phar­isees did not want to be saved for they did not believe them­selves to be sin­ners in the eyes of God.

Many today cast their lots with the Phar­isees in this regard. We live in an age where moral rel­a­tivism has swept across soci­ety, includ­ing into many church­es; in an age where right & wrong are no longer absolute, can any­one be con­sid­ered a sin­ner? ((The answer, of course, is no. Moral rel­a­tivism has no absolutes and thus all actions are ulti­mate­ly meaningless.))

The sad fact of the mat­ter is that we are all sin­ners, and if you real­ize that, then you should instead cast your lots with the sin­ners and tax col­lec­tors which reclined at the table with the Sav­ior. Real­ize your need for sal­va­tion, repent of your sins, and believe in Jesus Christ.

All the good you could ever do will not be enough to mer­it your entrance into Heav­en; it is only through Christ that there is such entrance. Only in Jesus is there for­give­ness of sins, and only in Him is there per­fect righteousness.

Some­thing which has helped me under­stand all of this more deeply is to med­i­tate on Psalm 51. The psalmist pours his heart out to God in this song of belief.

Have mer­cy on me, O God,
accord­ing to your stead­fast love;
accord­ing to your abun­dant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2Wash me thor­ough­ly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

3For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be jus­ti­fied in your words
and blame­less in your judgment.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my moth­er con­ceive me.
6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wis­dom in the secret heart.

7Purge me with hys­sop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have bro­ken rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10Cre­ate in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spir­it with­in me.
11Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spir­it from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a will­ing spirit.

13Then I will teach trans­gres­sors your ways,
and sin­ners will return to you.
14Deliv­er me from blood­guilti­ness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16For you will not delight in sac­ri­fice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17The sac­ri­fices of God are a bro­ken spirit;
a bro­ken and con­trite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
built up the walls of Jerusalem;
19then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offer­ings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar. Psalm 51

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Rick Beckman