“Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, ‘How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’” Mark 2:15-17.
Mark chapter 2 begins with the healing of the paralytic who was let down through the roof of a house. After leaving the house, Jesus then taught the multitude by the sea. As He passed by, He saw Levi (Matthew) sitting at the tax office, and He said “Follow Me” and Levi did so, Mark 2:14.
Our opening narrative picks up from there at Levi’s home where he has given a banquet for the Lord.
As an aside, the book of Mark portrays Jesus as a servant, and moves along very quickly. For instance, the nation of Israel does not reject Jesus as Messiah until Matthew chapter 12 when the scribes and Pharisees accuse Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebub the ruler of the demons.
However, it is in Mark chapter 3 that this same incident occurs. You will find that in both books the Lord speaks to the multitudes in parables after their rejection of Him. The reason for this is given in Matthew 13:10-17. Remember this though; Jesus would always explain things to those with honest questions.
Having said this, let us continue: When the scribes and Pharisees saw Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners, they asked the disciples why Jesus would associate with such sinful people; His reply was this.
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Mark 2:17.
The scribes and the Pharisees were so self-righteous in their thinking that they thought they could go to heaven on the basis of keeping the law and the many rules that their predecessors had made up.
This gave them a sense of self-righteousness. Jesus could do nothing for someone who was righteous in his own eyes, only those who recognized that they were sinners.
“…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” Galatians 2:16.
The scribes and the Pharisees knew their Old Testament Scriptures and they should have realized that they were spiritually sick and in need of a physician.
“For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6.
Had the scribes and the Pharisees paid more attention to the Scriptures (like the above) than they did to the traditions of men, they would have realized that God wanted their hearts, not ritual.
“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:6-8.
The self-righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees not only damaged themselves, it caused them to become aloof from what they considered the rabble of sinful people around them.
“Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them ‘Why have you not brought Him [Jesus]?’ The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man!’ Then the Pharisees answered them, ‘Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.’” John 7:45-49.
It was the job of the Pharisees to teach the law to their fellow Jews, yet they call them accursed for not knowing the things they should have taught them.
The chief priests were also present at this meeting. They had failed to do their job as well.
“For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins.” Hebrews 5:1-3.
All three groups are represented as rejecting Christ in John 7:45-49 quoted earlier. The chief priests, the Pharisees, and the rulers of the people. As representatives of the nation of Israel, the whole nation has rejected Christ to rule over them.
It is not these who were convicted of their sins; they were righteous in their own sight. Oddly it is the tax collectors and sinners who saw their need for Christ.
Does it not seem strange that it is always the religious leaders who sit about smug, self-satisfied with their own righteousness while everyone from quiet housewives to the dregs of society flock to the cross for salvation from their sins?
Often it is the religious leaders and intellectuals who bring error into the church, not just because they consider themselves smarter than God, but there are many who enjoy gutting sheep and taking their money while basking in their misplaced adulation.
“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things.” Philippians 3:18-19.
Did you know that wolves have been known to kill a whole flock of sheep, not because they were hungry, but just for the sheer pleasure of hearing their screams? How much more, men who are truly evil?
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” Matthew 7:15-20.
The only way to truly know the difference between good fruit and bad fruit is to know your Scriptures.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples [Christians] after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” Acts 20:29-31.
These wolves are not a New Testament phenomena. It was wolves who butchered the Old Testament law and weighed down the children of Israel with heavy burdens, teaching the traditions of men as being equal with Scripture.
“Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, ‘Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?’ He answered and said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men – the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.’ He said to them, ‘All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.’” Mark 7:5-9.
The illusion of self-righteousness comes much easier when the traditions of men are substituted for the word of God. Real righteousness comes only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross.
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” Mark 2:17b.
This is perfect language for another class of person which I would like to mention before continuing. There are those who say I will come to Christ when I clean up my act, I need to stop smoking first, give up alcohol or drugs, or cussing.
This is like saying, I need to get well before I see the physician. We go to the physician because we are sick. For those who think like this please reconsider, go to Jesus with all of your baggage. You will find that Christ can give you peace and help you with these things better than you can do yourself.
As for other men, consider the following.
Folks who are righteous in their own eyes will not come to Jesus. It is not until they realize their sinful state that they are likely to come to Him for answers.
Jesus will not turn away an honest heart who seeks Him, even if they are still somewhat skeptical. An honest question, “Jesus are You real, if so show me?” will bring an honest answer.
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” John 6:44-45.
The emphasis here is that a person has to hear, truly listen, and learn from the things they hear. This opens their heart to the things of God. God then points the hearer to Christ.
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son [Jesus] and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:37-40.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” John 10:27-30.
Self-Righteous taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 5-27-16 updated on 8-27-19.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.