“As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes and Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’” (Mk 2: 14-17)
So the scribes and Pharisees ask “Why?” This is not a well-meaning, earnest question. Hence the scribes and Pharisees are not posing it directly to Jesus, but rather to third parties, saying, Why does “he” eat with tax collectors and sinners? The question is not really seeking an answer. It is supposed to remain, firmly planted, in the minds of third parties. The scribes and Pharisees busy themselves with this kind of judgmental superficiality, while our Lord goes directly into the trenches, eating and drinking with those of us who really need Him.
Today I am so grateful for these liberating words, “I have come to call not the righteous”! Today, when in my church-world there is so much judgment “by association,” so much judgment of one another, according to where and with whom one “was seen,” according to external alliances, be they political, church-political, denominational, personal, or otherwise. As if Christ were merely an external alliance. No, He is the Physician of those who need one. And I remind myself today that I come to Him, and belong to Him, not as one who is “well,” but as one not well, as one of “those who are sick.” Today He says to me, “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” Today let me have the ears to hear His call, amidst the chatter of those who “have no need of a physician.”