So this Bible verse keeps popping up in my life. It keeps kinda appearing out of nowhere and it’s steadily becoming one of my favourite verses. I thought I might share it with you and have a little ramble about it.
Luke 5:31-32 reads: “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 to repentance.”
This verse sends shivers down my spine. In a good way of course. It just gets me amped so much – let me explain why.
In Luke 5 we are told that Jesus cruises on up to Levi, a tax collector and says, “Yo, follow me” (My adaptation!). So Levi ups and goes. He leaves everything and follows Jesus. I’m still trying to get my head around that, to be perfectly honest. That’s like the modern day equivalent of Jesus walking into a shop during business hours, telling the dude at the counter, “Mate, you’re done here, come with me,” and the dude just walking out of the shop.
Then Levi goes to all his sketchy mates and says something like, “Sup my homies, this dude just told me to follow him and he’s kinda rad, let’s have a party at mine and we can have a mean chat to him.” (As you can see I’m quoting directly from the old King James Version).
So they all head off to Levi’s crib, and Jesus and all the lads have a mean feed, a good chat, and it’s good times and good vibes - you know?
Then the Pharisees show up. They don’t like what’s going on, so they have a bit of a natter with a few of the disciples. They’re like, “We don’t mind yous fullas too much but we’re not too keen on these tax collecting blokes, why are you hanging around with them?”
And then Jesus blows everyone away with his explanation. “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 to repentance.”
So let’s rewind a second. Basically, in that day, tax collectors were seen by most of Jewish society as the ‘worst of the worst.’ They worked for the Roman empire (who the Jews were enslaved under) and were often corrupt and greedy, taking more tax than what was required so they could keep it for themselves. To be a tax collector was almost considered to be a traitor to your own people.
The Pharisees, of course, were the religious leaders of the time; they always kept the law and held everyone else to it as well. They were well learned and often quite wealthy too. They expected that if someone was sent from God, like Jesus seemed to be, then they would be buddies with him because they were the ‘holiest’ or the most ‘righteous’ due to the fact that they followed literally thousands of laws.
Instead, Jesus goes to a guy who hasn’t even tried to follow these laws, because he knows he can’t. He knows he’s not good enough and so he’s not going to try. Jesus tells this guy to follow him. I think the fact that Levi got up and left what he was doing shows us some stuff about him. I think he could see that his life was not how it was meant to be. Maybe he had tried to defend himself to those around him and justified his job, but deep down he knew that he was living as a scoundrel. He knew that he wasn’t a good person. So when Jesus gave him a chance, he leapt at it. When Jesus offered a new life, he was totally prepared to lay his old one down. He could see that the monetary wealth he had gained through corruption was not worth it. It didn’t satisfy him. It didn’t quench his thirst for true life.
Levi was sick. Not physically, but spiritually. He recognised it and when the chance came for him to be healed, he took it.
The Pharisees were also sick. They were self-righteous and proud, judging others yet sinning themselves. But they were not going to admit it. They fooled themselves into thinking they were healthy by pointing out the sickness in everyone else.
Jesus didn’t tell them that he wasn’t there for them. He told them that he was the doctor, available for those who are sick. He gave them the opportunity to admit their sickness, their failings, and be healed. But because of their pride, they refused. They could not accept that they also were sick and sinful so they let the offer of healing and life pass them by.
I think today there are lots of misconceptions about spiritual health. I would say the primary one is the idea that those in the church are ‘good’ people who aren’t sick.
Let me tell you something right now. I have grown up in the church. I have believed in God my whole life. I made a decision to accept Jesus as my Lord at eight years old. But I am not a good person. I am not at church every Sunday because I live to higher standards. I am not writing this because I have it all together. I am writing this because Jesus came to me, said for me to follow him, and I choose to leave my life and go with him.
I am simply a sick person who’s been given a promise of health. If Jesus said he was only here for those who were good enough, then none of us would make it. But he came to give life to those who know they don’t have it all together.
Those of us in the church are no better than those outside the church. We just live with a hope. Because of that hope, we try to live the way Jesus meant us to - this means avoiding sin. It doesn’t mean that we are actually very successful at avoiding sin. It just means that we constantly come before Jesus and ask him to heal us. It does say in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that we are being “transformed... from one degree of glory to another” as we grow in our relationship with Jesus and as we let him take the reins in our life. But in this life, we will never be perfect. We will always be in need of a doctor.
Jesus did not come for the healthy. Christianity is not for the healthy. I had the privilege of interviewing Mike Pilavachi earlier this year, and one thing he told me was that he would rather be in the mess of a hospital with sick people being healed and new life being born, than the neatness and tidiness of a graveyard where everything is dead. What good is a church if it’s neat, tidy and dead? What good are we as people if we say the right things and look good on the outside but are spiritually dead? Come to Jesus as you are - in your filth - and let him give you new life.
It may be a bit of a messy experience, but that’s how new life begins in the first place, isn’t it?
Story: Caleb Slaney
Caleb is a student at AUT, studying Communications and attends Titirangi Baptist Church. You can check out his blog here.
Photo Credit: Prixel Creative/Lightstock.com
Scripture: Unless otherwise specified, Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.