As A Doctor Must Go Among The Sick, So A Wise Man Must Mix With Fools.

"As a doctor must go among the sick, so a wise man must mix with fools."  Dio Chrysostom, Orat. 8.5

It would be ridiculous for a doctor to refuse to meet with sick patients or for a teacher to not meet with his students!  Furthermore, it is ridiculous to think of Jesus, our savior, not calling and dining with sinners.  It is also ridiculous to consider a Gospel that is not for sinners.   

In Mark 2:17 Jesus says, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."  It is pretty clear from this passage that Jesus was intent on calling sinner but does this text mean that Jesus came only for sinners and that he has no compassion, concern or empathy for the righteous?  Because in all seriousness, those that believe they are righteous by their own accomplishments and works are truly the weaker brother aren't they?

The expression of Jesus in Mark 2:17 as well as the expression in Hosea 6:6 are, "properly interpreted as expressions of priority rather than of exclusion." (H.Kruse, VT 4 (1954), 385-400)  By showing the priority of the sinners over top of those that perceived themselves to be righteous, Jesus was contrasting the two groups.

I am reminded by a quote from the book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, that has evolved into my pastoral jargon over the years.  "When the unadulterated Gospel of Grace is proclaimed; the religious will get angry and the wounded will get healed."  I have also recently heard it said that, "the deceived hate the Gospel and the desperate need it."  It was no different for Jesus in his ministry.  E.P. Sanders in his book, Jesus, rightly offers up the idea that no one objected to the repentance of sinners from Jesus' ministry.  However, what was so offensive for the religious elite of the 1st century was that Jesus proclaimed the pure good news of forgiveness where it was needed and essentially created a new community of the forgiven that did not conform to the status quo and the acceptable religious climate of the day.

More specifically what was and is so offensive about the Gospel is two fold:
1) The Gospel is for sinners only.  The Good News is forgiveness for sins.  What makes the Gospel really good news for so many people is... that they know  the bad news of their sin problem is forgiven for Christ's sake.  So, in a way, the personal application of the Gospel to the individual presupposes that one knows their sin problem.  Can there be good news when there is no such thing as bad news?    
2) The Gospel makes an unconditional declaration of forgiveness.  The Good News of the Gospel tells sinners that for Christ's sake that they are forgiven.  No working, no huffing and puffing, no pulling one's boot straps and no spiritual ladders to climb!  Jesus, with a period not a comma.  
This kind of Gospel poses a problem for those that perceive themselves as righteous.  The righteous want the Gospel but don't want to admit sin.  Admitting sin would put a major kink into their righteous resume.  Thus they inadvertently and many times intentionally redefine the Gospel as God's favor for mankind's good workings.  They condition the Gospel and put the Gospel in debt to their actions, whatever those actions might be.  This restricts the Gospel for righteous circles only and eliminates sinners from the equation, unless they step it up morally speaking.  As a result, a spiritual Gospel monopoly develops.  Furthermore, the unconditional, free gift of the Gospel is scandalous to the ear of the person striving for righteousness.  It exposes the foolishness of works righteousness!  The picture of a sinner saved by Grace alone for Christ's sake alone can indirectly and subtly communicate to the religious person, "Why are you so foolish working and huffing for righteousness when it is a free gift?"  Thus, the Gospel undercuts the franchise of acquiring righteousness before God by works.  As a result the righteous person will scoff at, undercut and oppose the unconditional Gospel.  "It is too easy.  It is scandalous, nothing is that free!"  They will also persecute those that promote it because the unconditional Gospel undercuts the religious person's spiritual empire of works, it destroys the religious pecking order.  

As a result, the Gospel in the church can many times not be extended to the sick.  The Gospel which is for sinners turns into the Gospel for the righteous.  Instead of the doctor going to the sick, he ends up going to the healthy.  Rationally, things become inverted and simply just wrong.  

Jesus, explicitly states that he came not for the healthy but for the sick.  He came not to call the righteous but the sinner.  His statement was to stress the priority of the Gospel for sinners!   This was consistent with the pursuing nature of Jesus.  He came not to be served but to serve.  He dined with the tax collectors and sinners.  He ate at Zacchaeus' house.  He touched lepers.  He sought lost sheep.  He embraced children.  He raised a dead girl.  He called a tax collector as a disciple.  He was crucified with criminals.

Aurelius Ambrose once said, "Because I always sin, I always need to take the medicine."  We always do sin and we certainly do need the medicine!  The good news for us today is that we have a savior of sinners, His name is Jesus Christ.  He is a friend of sinners, who came for you and me.  The Great Physician is in, He is here for you.  Jesus is for you, He is all about the forgiveness of your sins!


Anonymous said…
Thanks, Matt, for the continual reminder of the gospel. Like Ambrose said, we need to take the medicine. I think a daily dose is what we all need lest we forget our true condition.