When you get really sick, besides your mother, who comes to mind? … The Doctor! Doctors are identified with sick people and no one chooses a Doctor who is visibly uncomfortable around sick people. I was a pre-Med. major for about six months in college until I realized that the sight of blood made me nauseous and feint so I moved on to a different career path. I would not have been a good doctor because I am not completely comfortable being around sick, contagious people.
After being criticized by the Serious Religious Insiders of His day for eating and drinking with sinners, the Lord gives them a tongue-in-cheek response, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Although today insurance companies categorize the pre-scheduled doctor visits of babies as “well visits,” it is quite rare for someone to go to the doctor when she is feeling well. The sick need a doctor, the healthy don’t. Even when I truly am sick, I go to the doctor as a last resort. There’s something humiliating about having to admit that you’re not fit and being forced to identify yourself with all of those “really sick” people in the waiting room. But we shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus, The Great Physician, should bring His home remedy of the gospel to those who are sick as sinners.
Jesus ironically refers to the Serious Religious Insiders in the scene,”the Well.” Of course this is how they considered themselves. They were, as one commentator calls them, “Disgustingly Healthy,” perhaps with the fitness of an anorexic. These people were offended by the sick and the sinners because they claimed a wellness and righteousness for themselves. From their perspective, they’ve never been sick nor do they see their need for the remedy that Jesus offers. Their false sense of spiritual health caused them to despise the sick and be repulsed by the sight of them but a doctor ought to be affected differently by the presence of the sick.
Jesus came not to call the righteous, the self-diagnosed healthy, but sinners, those who will confess their incurable sickness. We find Jesus in the gospels gathering from the worst of the religious outsiders to build His Kingdom. Jesus method gives His followers a freedom from separatism and segregation. The Self-diagnosed Healthy Religious Insiders way was “Salvation by Separation from Sinners” but Jesus’ way is “Salvation by identification with Sinners.” The Gospel reminds us that We are the unhealthy, we are sinners, we are not so healthy, we are not so good. It reminds us that we ARE WRONG PEOPLE who met Jesus and He is Making us right. After Jesus meets a sinner, that sinner enters into a lifelong process that turns that sinner’s life RIGHTSIDE UP. Because we are sinners we can lead a life that welcomes other sinners. This is a calling to an openness and comfort around sinners like a doctor has around sick people.