“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.”

Still in Capernaum, Jesus encounters the tax collector Matthew and invites him to follow Him (Mt 9:9-13).  Matthew does so immediately.  The next scene is a dinner at Matthew’s house with Jesus and “many tax collectors and sinners” (v. 10).  The Pharisees disapprove, but Jesus, overhearing them, responds with the line at top.  He goes on to tell them that they should learn what “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” means (from Hos 6:6) and that He “did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (v. 13). It is true that a medical doctor is most needed by those who are ill, ailing, or with disease.  But who are the “sick” in the spiritual realm?  Those who sin.  And that is everyone.  Who are the righteous (i.e., the just)?  “There is no one just, not one” (Rm 3:10).  So we are all in need of Christ and His saving power.  And the sicker we are with sin and vice the more He desires to give us His grace if we will only desire to reject these evil ways and accept His gift.  Understanding Jesus’ attitude toward sinners is not difficult at all.  If we have a sick loved one we pour out even more love to that person, desiring to take away some — or maybe all — of his pain.  Jesus is the same way, only perfectly.  We also know that sometimes getting to a physical cure involves bitter medicine, painful treatments, or major surgery with a long recovery time.  The same is true with our soul.  God knows that only if we are humbled will we be exalted (cf. Mt 23:12).  Cutting away the dross is painful, but what remains afterward much more closely resembles our true image (cf. Gn 1:27).  Looking at life this way, we can “consider it all joy” when trials, tribulations, suffering, and heartache come our way (Jas 1:2).

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