15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The Pharisees walked excitedly down the street.
Tonight they were going to a dinner party. They’d dress up in their most religious robes; tighten their prayer tassels around their waste; comb their beard into symmetrical theological style; and walk stoically down the street for all to see.
But this wasn’t like any other night.
Tonight they were going to eat with Jesus. The Jesus. The Jesus that the whole city was buzzing about. He had incredible teachings. He was a dynamic speaker. He had made the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the incurably sick to be well.
Besides that, Jesus was quite possibly the only person in town who was holier than the Pharisees. He seemed to have a special connection with God. He had an incredible knowledge of the Scriptures. He followed local temple rules – and he did so with a smile on his face. Holy was effortless for him.
The Pharisees couldn’t wait to sit next to him. They couldn’t wait to rub shoulders with him. They couldn’t wait to talk about the sinful problems of “the other” people in the city and discuss the best angle of posturing for making prayers most acceptable to God. Most of all: They couldn’t wait for peasants and lower class people in the city to see that they were worthy of eating at the same dinner table as Jesus.
I. WRONG ATTITUDE: Jesus is for “Righteous” People like Me.
In the fading light of the evening sunset, they made out the address of the dinner location. With their fingers, they smoothed out their beards and unwrinkled their robes. Then, they knocked on the door ready for a night of righteous, upper class, religiously noble company.
A tax collector answered the door.
Let me say that again: A no good, deceptive, money grubbing, no problem stealing, friends with the despicable Roman government, no time for church, worshipping the almighty dollar, tax collector answered the door.
Were they at the wrong address?
“Come in my friends, I am Levi. And I am thrilled to have you join us tonight. Jesus is in the other room. He’s excited to spend time with you tonight.”
The Pharisees cautiously walked in. Maybe – this Levi was just the hired help. Perhaps the others like them were just beyond the door.
They turned the corner of the home and were shocked to see the company that had gathered there.
Immediately they noticed a few other men with fine jewelry and the Roman insignia on their clothing. They must have been Levi’s friends -- other tax collectors. A whole group of men who must have been discussing how to steal from their own people and gain more money from themselves.
Seated near them were a few women wearing clothing of a different variety. Their dresses were a bit short --- showing off a bit more than a godly woman should show. Their fine jewelry identified them as prostitutes – women who would sell their bodies for money – women who these Pharisees had avoided even making eye contact with.
Then there was Malachi – the drunkard. He looked as disheveled as always and though he wasn’t currently holding a drink – the unmistakable cologne of liquor that had been permanently etched into his breath pungently hit their nostrils.
Sitting next to him was a man with a very effeminate look to him. The Pharisees knew who he was right away – they had disowned him as a heathen shortly after he had completed Hebrew school and began dating other men. He was a homosexual!
There was even Joshua – he had been a bright student in the synagogue, but he left the Jewish culture to join the Roman world. He didn’t believe in God. He didn’t believe in Judaism. He didn’t believe in religion at all.
In the middle of this collection of societal scum, was Jesus. He wasn’t sad. He didn’t seem uncomfortable. He was calm. He was talking about theology and God in the exact same way that he had talked to them.
The Pharisees were in shock. They motioned for a few of Jesus’ disciples – filthy fishermen, sure, but perhaps the holiest of this rag tag group.
“Why does your master eat with sinners” The implication? “Jesus should only be for “righteous” people like me.”
Have you ever said that? Maybe not those exact words, but be careful. This sinful attitude works its way into our actions in more ways than one:
“That person just posted a rainbow picture on their profile – Time to unfriend them on Facebook.”
“Let’s see – I invited my nicely dressed friend to church. But my other friend dressed like a stripper. Church isn’t for her.”
“Pastor, I do know some people who aren’t Christians, but they play loud music and are into drugs. They wouldn’t fit in here.”
“That person looks like a visitor over there – except – phew I can smell the alcohol. I’ll go talk to that nice looking, nice smelling visitor over there.”
Don’t these phrases and actions essentially agree with the Pharisees? Are they saying: Jesus is only for righteous people like me. Therefore, Jesus isn’t for homosexuals, porn stars, drug dealers, drunkards, greasy insurance lawyers, transgender activists, and bloggers on AtheistsAreTheBest.com.
II. Jesus is for “Sinful” People like Me
Listen to how Jesus responds to the Pharisees’ comments. He says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Here’s something I’ve learned from Precious Lambs. Kids loves band aids. Does this ever happen to you? Your preschooler comes running up to you with tears in her eyes screaming at the top of her lungs. “I need a band aid.” You say, “Ok, where.” They point. “Here.” And you look. You look some more. You get out your magnifying glass and look even more closely. The wound is nowhere in sight. They don’t need a band aid.They just want a fashionable Dora the Explorer accessory.
But if that same child came toward you with blood starting to come out of their finger, you quickly run to your First Aid kit.
It isn’t the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
The same is true spiritually. It isn’t the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.
That’s precisely why Jesus was where he was. It’s why Jesus was eating with the tax collectors, prostitutes, drunkards, and other “sinners.” They needed help and he could provide it. They needed healing and he could provide it. They needed his forgiveness and he came to earth to win it!
But here’s the thing. I can almost guarantee you that many of the Pharisees heard Jesus’ comments and thoughts, “I guess that makes sense. Jesus, I’m gonna head out then. You’re working. You need to help these people now. I’ll leave so you can attend to those who need you.”
As if Jesus was telling the Pharisees, "I’m helping them because they need it. You don't’. So…we’re cool."
But if that’s the case, then why did Jesus continue to convict the Pharisees of sin? Open up Matthew 23. There you find a whole chapter where Jesus repeatedly calls out, “Woe to you Pharisees! Woe to you Pharisees! You are in trouble.”
Essentially Jesus is like the cancer doctor leaving message after message on your answering machine – “Hi, just calling again to tell you that I am a professional and I did see cancer on your MRI. Trust me; you need help! Don’t ignore me.”
Jesus was saying the same thing, “It isn’t the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. That’s why I came for these prostitutes. That’s why I came for these tax collectors. That’s why I came for this drunk. It’s also why I came for you – Pharisees.”
It’s also why Jesus came for you – 21st century short time, long time, any time in between church goer. Jesus came for you, because you are sick – sick with sin!
How do I know? Hold up two fingers. Put them on your neck. Do you feel that? That’s a pulse. If you’ve got a pulse, you are sick with sin. You need Jesus’ help. Scripture says this, “All have sinned.” Romans 3:23 You don’t get to divorce yourself from the "all."
In fact, if you are trying to be just like the Pharisees were, that’s a symptom of the sickness. The disease of sinfulness causes denial. It causes pride. It causes, “I’m just fine, I don’t need any help.”
Knocking on doors and inviting people to church last week, I encountered a man who spoke just like that. He said, “That church stuff isn’t for me. I’m fine. My life has improved. I raise good children. I’m good enough on my own. Jesus is fine if you feel like you need him, but I don’t.”
How foolish! Jesus is the Great Physician. He sees into the heart and sees what’s wrong. He sees that you are sinful. He’s screaming at you today to listen to his plea – because sin is deadly. Eternally so.
But Jesus isn’t like WebMD.com. He doesn’t just diagnose without providing any help. Jesus knew the solution and provided it. It isn’t a pill. It isn’t a diet. It isn’t more exercise. It isn’t less Doritos.
Jesus knew the only solution to the disease of sin – is a full soul transplant.
That’s exactly what he came to earth to do. He exchanged his fully healthy and fully free from sin spirit. Like some kind of medical gauze, he soaked up every last viral bit of sin – He took all the lust out of your eyes – he took the greed out of your brain– he took all the overindulgence out of your stomach – and He took all the pride deep within your heart and He placed it on himself. He reached through the annals of time and eternity to place your sinfulness on himself thousands of years before it even happen!
Then, He took his now sinful specimen to the cross. His goal? Kill the disease. Kill the sin. That’s what happened. His body was crucified. He was killed. And your sin was eradicated.
So he says, “put your faith in me.” Because through faith in Jesus, you are healed. Whether your sin is greed – lust – overindulgence – one of the ‘filthy in the eyes of the world’ sins – or ‘Pharisaical pride,' the cure is the same. Trust in Jesus for complete healing!
My dear friends, fellow sinners – and fellow Redeemed. Please take on an attitude change with me.
Instead of thinking, “Jesus is only for the righteous like me.” Recognize that for the sinful, diseased, lie that it is. Instead, listen to the words of the Great Physician. Adopt a new attitude: “Jesus is for sinners like me.”
Now suddenly – you’re the same. You’re the same as your cousin struggling with homosexuality. You’re the same as your neighbor struggling against drugs. You’re the same as your friend struggling with alcohol abuse. You’re the same as your husband struggling with pornography. You’re the same as your wife who struggles with depression.
You’re a sinner. They’re a sinner.
They need help just like you. They need Jesus just like you.
My back has been hurting recently. I was telling some people that and do you know what they did? They gave me the number of a good chiropractor. They told me about a helpful analgesic. They recommended exercises that they did when they have the same problem.
Wont you don’t the same thing for those who need spiritual help? Won’t you give him The Great Physicians’ number? Won’t you introduce them to Jesus?