Just putting the finishing touches on tonight’s bible study, working through Mark’s gospel, and specifically Jesus as the remedy for sin (Mk. 2:13-17, 7:14-23, & 9:42-47). While look over 2:15-17, something jumps out at me. Here’s the NIV:
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 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.”
Well known passage, but one thing I never noticed until just today- Jesus says “I have not come to call the righteous”, so are there “righteous” folks then who don’t need Jesus or Jesus isn’t calling? In this case, the implication would be Jesus isn’t calling the Pharisees, presumably because they are righteous. Elsewhere, Jesus says, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20). So, the Pharisees have some level of righteousness, but an insufficient one clearly. So why then does Jesus say he comes for some, but not others? If all are sinners (Romans 3:10 & 23) then Jesus comes to call everyone.
So what’s Jesus up to?
Simple answer is that Jesus is using the Pharisees distinction between sinner and righteousness against them. The Pharisees label the “sinner” (notice in earlier verses, Jesus says to Levi “follow me” with no mention at all of sin). Jesus says, fine if you want to separate people like that, I’ll work with these guys, because the have no illusions about their sin.
But is it that simple?