As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13
I’m reading this as I prepare to spend the morning in worship, gathered with my family of Jesus followers. It reminds me of how many friends I’ll see today. And so I begin to think, how many friends do I have who are not counted among those following Jesus?
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
I’m not saying I shouldn’t be going to spend the morning in fellowship and worship; that I shouldn’t be among the “healthy” today. I should—for so many reasons. Primary among those is the fact that God calls us to be in community and relationship with the Body of Christ.
What I am thinking about is the fact that Jesus, while spending lots of time with his disciples, also intentionally pursued the sick. He went after and spent time with the sinners. And he didn’t go with agendas or speeches or guilt trips. He went to build relationships—to make friends—and share life with them. He went to have dinner.
Why as Christians do we depend so much on programs and “events” to reach the sick and dying—the lost of the world—when Jesus simply did it with food? He just made friends, and then lived life with them. He never pretended to be other than who he was, and he never backed down from the truth. He just loved the sinners, genuinely loved them.
Jesus says he has not come to call the righteous, but sinners. That means those he is calling will be a mess (just like us). They won’t have it together and make us more comfortable. They will be needy and carry baggage. They will take time to come around and need us to be humble, to be interested in them as people.
It can’t be about us, these relationships with the sick. But it can’t be about them either. It will be about Jesus. Us loving them with Jesus love. Us sharing a meal or an evening, or a cup of coffee, so that they might see Jesus in us (even if they don’t know that’s who they are seeing).
We need the healthy to surround us, to encourage us, to spur us on. But we need the sick around us too. Because they need to hear Jesus calling them; to feel Jesus being merciful to them. And all they have is us.