“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” ” (Matthew 9:9–13, ESV)
So far, we have seen that Jesus understood His own incarnation in 2 ways. First, He said He came to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, AND, to actually set at liberty those who are oppressed. All of this He summed up as proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor. He came to tell us of, and give us – grace. Secondly, He said He came to preach the good news of the kingdom. God at long last was beginning to dismantle this world system, to install His own Son as its sovereign, and to call all people to reckon with Him accordingly.
In our text today, we hear Jesus give His third reason for coming to earth in the likeness of sinful flesh: “For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Now THAT’S – GOOD NEWS! (read on)
I do not know how I could hear anything greater in all the world, than that Jesus came to call sinners to Himself. For in that one statement, I find out that I am a candidate for salvation. No matter who I am. No matter what I’ve done. No matter how heinous my rebellion against His sweet and holy rule has been thus far – today is the day of grace – and He is calling sinners to Himself.
Beloved this is what makes the Good News of the Gospel, good news. And, it is also the reason why so many still stand outside of His saving grace. For the truth is, we do not want Jesus under these conditions. If being received by Him requires me judging myself as so wicked as to deserve the eternal torments if Hell, I’m not so sure I want to go there. Sure, we’ll all own up to the common reality “no one’s perfect.” But deserving of Hell? Being God’s enemy? Being a sinner with a capital “S”? I do not want to to need to be saved from myself, just from some of the minor flaws I might have. I don’t want to own the depths of my wickedness. I don’t want to need a Savior THAT badly. But He will not have us any other way.
The Pharisees at this point were disgruntled with Jesus being so willing to surround Himself with “sinners”, the ones they would never be caught dead consorting with. They objected. And then He cut their reasoning off at the knees. It was sinners He came to call to Himself, not people who saw some measure of righteousness in themselves – especially in comparison to these, sinners. And the implications were evident. Jesus’ meaning couldn’t be mistaken. Unless the Pharisees too, acknowledged this designation as their own – unless they took the title “sinner” upon themselves so as to make that their leading characteristic, they could not be saved.
How about you reader? Are you a sinner? Do you know your desert of God’s eternal wrath? Then I’ve got good news for you – you are qualified to become one of the Savior’s own. Bring that sin to Him, for you cannot rid yourself of it first. Hear His call to you – and be washed by the blood of the Lamb.