Who Needs a Doctor?
Luke 5:29 Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. 30 The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; 32 I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Levi is called by Jesus to be a disciple. He is a tax-collector, and they are viewed by many as the scum of society. They were considered religiously ‘unclean’ by the Pharisees because they worked for the Romans and quite literally stole from their fellow Jews by corrupt tax practices. Along with tax collectors, the “others” of the scum included prostitutes and criminals, and probably a few other unsavory characters sprinkled in to add a little spice. Just by associating with these people Jesus was allowing his reputation to be tarnished. But the image is one of the final marriage supper of the lamb, where all who have been saved by grace are welcome at the table. It is a wonder of grace that the Lord reaches out to such scum, and it becomes a lesson in discipleship for Levi. This is the behavior which he is to adopt as he follows after and imitates Christ.
Meanwhile the religious leaders are angry with Jesus’ behavior because they want to believe that they are the chosen and select few who have kept themselves pure for God. The only problem is that their rules for purity actually became a barrier that would not allow them to see the Messiah. Jesus, trying to help them understand his mission uses the metaphor of a medical doctor. The doctor comes to meet the needs of the sick, not to hang out with the healthy. Surely they could understand the importance of this role.
The disciple is to step into the mission of Jesus and accept the role of healer. The only response is to ask, “Who needs a doctor?”
Last evening we had some friends over for dinner. The husband happens to be a medical doctor and she is a nurse. While we were eating he was receiving some texts about a patient who was in need. Finally he had to excuse himself from the table to make a call and care for the needs of the sick individual. One can only imagine how ridiculous it would have been for him to ignore the needs of his patient because he was hanging out with his well friends! All of us would be appalled by that kind of behavior and would probably determine that this person is not really a doctor.
People will question the legitimacy of those who call themselves disciples of Jesus Christ and yet ignore the needs of those who need Jesus’ touch. The blessings of knowing Christ are not for us to hoard for ourselves or to be used only in fellowship with our fellow believers. The sick are in desperate need of a doctor and when we refuse to get up from our comfortable seat and help them we are anything but Christlike! We will suddenly find ourselves hanging out with the Pharisees who were critical of Jesus’ behavior.
The expectation of discipleship is to go out into the world and make more disciples. That means we follow Jesus and fellowship at the table with those that others may refer to as scum. Time to grab our doctor’s bag!
Lord, please help me not to be too comfortable at the table with my friends. Amen.