This is one of a series of studies from the gospel of Luke. These are intended to reveal the glory of the Lord Jesus and to show how we must respond to Him.
Luke 5:29-32. Jesus has just called Levi the tax-collector from his life of greed and thievery into a life where he will walk with the Son of God as one of the Lord’s apostles. Levi is so excited about knowing the Lord and about being called to follow Him that he throws a party for Jesus in his house. Since most of the people that Levi knew were other tax-collectors and people of low repute, it is only natural that those are the ones who are present. But the Pharisees (Who invited them, anyway? Or did they just sort of show up because they needed to harass the invited guests?) begin to grumble at Jesus’ disciples and say, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax-collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call righteous men, but sinners to repentance.”
Why do the disciples of the Lord and the Lord Himself eat and drink with sinners? It is because here the Lord delights to eat with those for whom He is going to die and now today He still delights to fellowship with those who love Him (John 5:24). The Lord delights to eat with those who delight to eat with Him. The Pharisees see these people as tax-collectors and sinners, but Jesus sees them as those He has cleansed and made into saints. The unrighteous deeds of these “sinners” brought them to a place of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus, whereas the religious works of these Pharisees brought them to a place of self-righteousness where they rejected the Son of God and despised His righteousness.
If you think that you are well, then you don’t need the Great Physician. The sick person must first see that they have a fatal disease, before they will seek a cure. Then once they realize that they are condemned for their sin, they must flee to Jesus for His rescue. The patient must come to the doctor. Just so, the condemned sinner must come to Jesus for deliverance and healing, for only Jesus can cure the fatal disease of sin.
If you believe you are already righteous (consider Phil. 3:9; consider “the works of the Law” in Romans and in Galatians; consider Paul’s pedigree of righteousness in Phil. 3:5-6, etc.) and are already in God’s favor (Luke 3:8 “We have Abraham for our father.”) because of who you are or all the good works that you have done, then you will never repent and bow before the Lord Jesus and receive His true righteousness. The filthy rags of your own works of righteousness (Isaiah 64:6) will remain wrapped around you and you will never be wrapped in His glorious robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). Those who are convinced of and content with their own righteousness will never come to Jesus. “My righteousness is good enough.” And so they will perish in the judgment.
Application: Here Jesus puts His finger directly on two huge dangers for people today both inside and outside the church. Outside the church we have many people who have never been told that they have a fatal disease called sin and that, if they are not cured of this disease, they will spend eternity in hell. Believers must tell the world of the sickness and tell of Jesus Christ, the cure. As believers we must deliver the diagnosis and propose the cure to a lost world.
But there is also a potential danger that is most prevalent inside the visible church. This is the danger that, while I have been exposed to the cure and have been told of the disease, I have never actually taken the cure. Maybe a person goes to church for many years and serves in all kinds of roles in church and even gives their tithe regularly. Those might be considered doctor’s visits, but that is not the radical heart surgery required for the cure. The heart of stone must be taken out and the heart of flesh put in (Ezekiel 36:24). You must come humbled and broken to Jesus Christ and call out to Him for healing and forgiveness. Any other approach has the grave danger of falling short of true repentance. Is Jesus the Lord of your life and the one who is in control? Do you trust in Him fully? Is Christ your life?
We are sick and need Jesus, the Great Physician; and we are unrighteous and need His glorious robe. sdg