As Jesus moved on from there, he saw a man named Matthew at his seat in the custom-house, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew got up and followed him. Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and other sinners joined Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this they said to his disciples, “Why is it that your master eats with those sinners and tax collectors?”
When Jesus heard this he said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go and find out what this means: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
When Jesus is criticized by the Pharisees for consorting with publicans, those enemies of the nation, those traitors and collaborators of the detested Romans, Jesus does not defend them. No, on the contrary, he fully concurs with the Pharisees that the tax collectors are sinners in need of redemption. However, he insists, that is all the more reason for him to consort with them. If they are spiritually sick, as the Pharisees rightly maintain, then they need a spiritual doctor, and he is the spiritual doctor they need. Jesus concludes with the implicit question: Can you reproach a doctor for keeping company with the sick?
No, as Jesus states quite clearly: “I have come to call, not the self-righteous, but sinners.” Some Christians think their sins are what can keep Jesus away from them. The opposite is true. The greater the sinner, the more Jesus as doctor of the soul will keep pursuing them in order to save them. Let us never be afraid to approach Jesus, whatever our sins might be. His greatest joy is to forgive us and restore us to health. He’s a doctor; he loves to heal.
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