“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” Matthew 9:12
Jesus calls a tax collector Matthew to join Him in the Kingdom life. As a tax collector Matthew would have been ostracised. He was Jewish but collected money for the hated Roman Empire. And tax collectors were typically seen as corrupt, often extorting much more than was due and keeping the excess for themselves. So those who became tax collectors found themselves on the outside of society, shunned by their own people, not accepted by the Roman regime that they worked for and considered unclean by the religious elite. Yet Jesus invites Matthew into the Kingdom with the words “Follow me” Matthew 9:10, demonstrating the radical grace of the Kingdom invitation that is open to all, regardless of our past.
And in an example of the ripple effect of the Kingdom Matthew can’t keep it to himself. He has to throw a party and share this with his friends. He invites them all to come and meet with Jesus too. Because changed Kingdom people want to change people and make more Kingdom people. And so his house is filled with “many tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 9:10) who get to meet with Jesus and hear the invitation for themselves to join the Kingdom. So it should be with us. The Kingdom isn’t just for us. It is for our friends, family, neighbours, colleagues and enemies too. We can’t keep this to ourselves. We have to share it with all we can. We have to provide opportunities for them to encounter Jesus and enter the Kingdom.
The religious elite see Jesus at this meal and they are indignant. They ask why he would eat with tax collectors and sinners, or as the NLT translations puts it ‘“Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” they asked his disciples.’ Matthew 9:11
When Jesus hears this he delivers an epic response that reveals the central focus of the Kingdom in the now and not yet era. He says to them “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” Matthew 9:12. The healthy don’t need a doctor, the sick do. Our focus as Kingdom citizens should be those sick with the terminal disease of sin. Jesus is the only physician capable of healing the sin disease, for He paid our debt in full.
We are surrounded, like Jesus, by lost people – sinners in need of salvation. Lost souls needing pointed to Jesus as the way to the Kingdom. It makes total sense for Jesus to spend His time on earth surrounded by “such scum” for sinners and tax collectors were the ones who most needed to hear His message of grace and forgiveness to all who place their faith in Him. Our focus, like Jesus, should be on those who are not yet part of the Kingdom. The church should not be a cruiseship for the healthy but rather a lifeboat on a rescue mission to those who are drowning, for before we became Kingdom citizens we too were drowning under the weight of sin.
Drowning people don’t need to know the latin word that our modern English word drowning is derived from. They don’t need a Hebrew lesson to explain what the words Jesus used where in the original text. They don’t need a medical lecture on the physiological pathway of drowning is. They need a life-preserver, a flotation device. And so it is with those who are lost. What they need is for our focus to be on pointing them to Jesus, the one who can provide them with forgiveness, acceptance and welcome into the Kingdom.
In a lot of church activity the focus is not on the unwell, but on the healthy. Like the Pharisees we can be guilty of neglecting the lost, the sinners, the scum and focus on those who already are part of the Kingdom. We have our self-contained Christian culture with music, books, websites and TV channels. We fill our weeknights with Bible studies and prayer groups. We meet together for coffee in trendy hipster cafes and talk about our feelings and journal it all down in notebooks with a cross on the cover. All good activities, but things that shouldn’t be our primary focus. As Kingdom citizens our primary focus should be sharing Jesus with those who are not yet part of the Kingdom – the sinners and tax collectors all around us. Which requires spending time with them just like Jesus did.
It may mean less time spent in the comfort church holy huddles of the already healthy. It may mean the local coffee shop noticing a dip in our latté consumption. But it will also mean many more of those who are sick encountering the physician who heals and saves for all eternity as they receive forgiveness and become Kingdom citizens.
“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6
- What is the primary focus in your life?
- What is the focus of your church – does it reach out to the lost or is it more of a holy huddle? Why?
- What could you do to be more intentional about helping the sick find the physician Jesus who can cure their sin disease?