Mark 2:17 (AV)
When Jesus heard¹ it²,
he saith unto them,
They that are whole³
have no need of the physician,
but they that are⁴ sick⁵:
I came not to call the righteous⁶,
but sinners⁷ to repentance⁸.
¹) Perceived the sense of what was said.
²) Added for readability.
³) Who are strong in body, who are robust, who are in sound health.
⁴) Literally to have, or to hold.
⁵) Miserable, to be ill.
⁶) In a wide sense, upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of God (innocent, faultless, guiltless) approved of or acceptable of God. It is used of him whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God, and who therefore needs no rectification in the heart or life. In reality, only the Christ is truly righteous.
⁷) All those who are not free from sin.
⁸) A change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done. Turning around and now going in the other direction.
From other translations:
And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, Those who are strong and well have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick; I came not to call the righteous ones to repentance, but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin). [AMP] And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." [ESV] Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I'm here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually-fit." [MSB] When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. [KJV] On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." [NIV] When Jesus heard this, he told them, "Healthy people don't need a doctor--sick people do. I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough." [NLT] 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." [NKJV]
Now let us see what this verse is telling us.
I came not to call the righteous
Therefore if these were righteous I should not call them.
But now, since they are not righteous, they are the very persons I came to save.
Jesus for the sake of argument accepts the claim of the Pharisees to be righteous, though, as a matter of fact, they fell very far short of it.
Elsewhere ( Matthew 23:1 ff.) Jesus shows that the Pharisees were extortionate and devoured widows’ houses and wore a cloak of pride and hypocritical respectability.
The words “unto repentance” are not genuine in Mark, but are in Luke 5:32.
Jesus called men to new spiritual life and away from sin and so to repentance.
But this claim stopped their mouths against what Jesus was doing.
The well or the strong are not those who need the physician in an epidemic.
Although the Jewish leaders have criticized the disciples (Mark 2:16), Jesus himself hears it too.
He takes the floor and gives a clear answer to the question they have asked.
▪︎ First the Lord Jesus says in imagery that not the healthy, but the sick need a doctor (cf. Mark 2:9; Exodus 15:26).
▪︎ Then He immediately explains this image Himself. He came to the world as Messiah (cf. Mark 1:24,38), to call certain people to the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:15). This does not concern the ‘righteous’, that is, the self-righteous, those who have justified themselves, and by their own righteousness think they are right before God.
This is a hint to the Jewish leaders.
The Lord Jesus has just come to call sinners, ‘the spiritually sick’, and those ‘to repentance’ (cf. Luke 5:32), to full communion with Him and with the Lord God (Mark 1:15, cf. John 3:17). This “calling to repentance” also implies that these people acknowledge for themselves that they are sinners and that they repent (cf. Acts 3:19). After all, this applied to the tax collectors and sinners with whom Jesus ate (see Mark 2:15).
By nature many are annoyed by this word of the Lord Jesus. After all, many believe that He came for those who consider themselves good and righteous, who are far better than the tax collectors and sinners the Savior engages with.
You may even feel that you are not doing so bad since you were converted, but don’t fool yourself!
When I have a glass of cool clear water on a warm day, you would like to drink it when you are thirsty, but when I put just one drop of deadly poison in it, it suddenly becomes a completely different matter. Even though the water still appears clear, you will not drink it because of that single drop. Even if it is little, it is deadly.
Even though you may sin less now than before, that little you still do, makes you unfit to enter the Kingdom of God. Unless the poison of sin is taken away first.
But when we examine ourselves by the light of the Holy Ghost, we soon discover how miserable we really are. When we see how corrupt our hearts and our lives are, we will also see how immense the miracle is that the Lord Jesus seeks sinners.
For when we must condemn ourselves for all our sins and transgressions, when we must confess that we have rightfully deserved the judgment of God, how great the miracle becomes that we may then hear His call to repent, and that we can respond to this with great gratitude and thanksgiving.
Despite all our filth and all our evil, we may still take refuge in Him with all our sins and debts, and that we may then experience:
“As far as the west is removed from the east, so far He takes away from us our guilt and sin, to comfort our souls”
What a wonderful gospel message.
The Lord Jesus wants to gather tax collectors and sinners to His church. Yes He sought even a wretch like me.
When do we go to the doctor? I think we go to the doctor when we’re not feeling well. A doctor would be surprised if a person in perfect health visits him. The latter will therefore not happen.
Yet I sometimes meet people who do feel a thing or two, but who do not dare to go to the doctor. They are afraid that they have a serious illness. That is of course not wise, because maybe a doctor can help them somewhat.
Now, in some sense, we are all suffering from a very serious ailment, what do I say? A very deadly disease I mean! That disease is called sin. It’s an incurable ailment. From our perspective, nothing can be done about this ailment. Either way, it drags us to eternal death.
We have also earned that eternal death because of our deep fall into Adam.
How is it now?
Must we all die forever now?
We will indeed..! Unless… we take refuge in Him Who took all sicknesses upon Himself. Who also, yes, precisely for this deadly disease of sin, gave His life on the cross.
Only with Jesus there is salvation!
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