Mark 2:15-17 ESV – And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The Pharisees ask an interesting question. I think it exposes the hypocrisy in their collective heart. They ask, “Why does Jesus eat with sinners?” Jesus’ response: I came for sinners. Sinners need help, not righteous people. The conversation ends with Jesus’ answer, and we don’t get to see the Pharisees response, but I think if you read the Gospels you can infer that they didn’t understand that Jesus was including them in His answer. He came to call them, too.
The Pharisees prided themselves on being the most conservative of Jews in regard to the Law as well as scripture. They thought by upholding the external law of the Bible they would be made righteous in God’s eyes. This shows their failure to understand some simple truths in the Bible. Psalm 14 explicitly states,
There are many other implicit passages in the Old Testament proving that all are sinners. Jesus came for all men, but the Pharisees were only concerned with appearances.
Jesus sat and ate (which in that culture was a symbol of close connection) with people who society said were sinners. They were the explicit sinners, the ones whose sin was obvious. He joined Himself with them so that the world would see a picture that He came for sinners. The truth is that all of us are sinners. Jesus came for all of us – including the Pharisees.
We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God. Only Jesus can make us acceptable. The good news is that He came to call us, sinners. We needed a physician, and Jesus performed an operation. Do we care more about our appearances, or more about who we’re joined with?
If we can accept the fact that we’re sinners, we can also accept the fact that we are exactly who Jesus came to save.