Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.
Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”
When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
— Mark 2:13–17 NLT
God the Son, Jesus Christ, stepped down from heaven, temporarily set aside his divine powers, clothed himself in corruptible human flesh and suffered temptation, persecution and ultimately, execution — all so he could call who? Not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.
He said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Righteous people don’t need a savior, sinners do. Jesus came to call those who knew they were sick, those who knew they were sinners, those who knew they needed a savior.
If Jesus came to call those who knew they were sinners in need of a savior, and we are his disciples, then we are to be doing the same thing: calling those who know they are sinners in need of a savior.
Where are we most likely to find people who know they are sinners in need of a savior? Where do we go to find these people? We should probably start by looking for people who are deep in sin, slaves to an addiction, whose sin has destroyed their lives. Those whose sin has caused them to lose their jobs, their marriage, their children, their money, their health. Those whose sin has cut them off from the rest of the world and caused them to become the outcasts of society. That’s a good place to start. I’m pretty sure those people don’t have to be told they are sinners in need of a savior. They are surely free of any delusion that they are acceptable to God. These are the type of people Jesus was drawn to. These are the people Jesus came to call.
Have you ever had the following thought? If the New Testament tells us everything we need to know about Jesus and how to be saved, then do we really even need the Old Testament? What is the purpose of the Old Testament, anyway?
If you have, let me answer that question for you. Just as a doctor uses diagnostic tests to diagnose a disease, the Old Testament law (summarized in the Ten Commandments) is used as a diagnostic tool. A doctor must first run tests on you before he can diagnose you with a disease. Likewise, God uses the Ten Commandments in order to diagnose you as a sinner.
No good doctor would offer you a cure without first diagnosing your disease. If a doctor walked up to you on the street and told you he had sold everything he owned in order to buy a bottle of pills for you, and he wanted you to take them right then, you would probably think he was crazy. Well, if God came to you and told you that he gave his son over to die in order to save you from your sins, and you had never even heard of this thing called sin and had no knowledge of having any yourself, then you may think God himself was crazy, letting his son die for something you had never even heard of.
The grace revealed in the New Testament is the cure for the disease diagnosed in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, God diagnoses you as a sinner, and in the New Testament, God offers you a cure in his son Jesus Christ.
Jesus came to offer a cure to those who believed in their hearts that they were sick. And the more a person is displaying the symptoms of a disease, the more aware they are of the fact that they need a cure. If you want to find those who are looking for a cure, just look for those displaying the most symptoms. Look for people who are alcoholics, who are drug addicts, who are promiscuous, who are prostitutes, who are homeless. Look for the outcasts of society. Find these sick people and offer them a cure. Tell them about the Great Physician, the Bondage Breaker, the Deliverer, the Restorer. Tell them about the one that can cleanse them entirely of their disease and make them a new creation.
God recently opened a door for me to take part in beginning church services in a neighborhood in Hunt County. Eighty percent of the residents in this neighborhood are addicted to meth. The first Saturday, we had about 15 people show up. It’s possible that every one of them were meth addicts. One man’s jeans and jacket were covered in black soot from smoking meth. But let me tell you something: it is a beautiful thing to be there among people who have no delusions of being acceptable to God. It is refreshing to minister to people who know just how broken they are and make no attempts to hide it. They are the people Jesus came to call. And if we are his disciples, that means they are the people that he is sending us to call.
Follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Find the sick and offer them a cure.