In our previous discourses in Mark, we have witnessed the power of the Son of God. He came to this world as the long-awaited Messiah; he called to himself dedicated followers; he displayed his authority over nature and over spiritual darkness by healing people and casting out demons. In just a chapter and a half, the power of Christ is evident. Yet, as we noted in the last message, his power and authority are not distant.
Often, Jesus provides his lessons with his actions first and then an explanation; at least this is the case in Mark. In our previous message, we saw that Jesus does not only display his power with great fanfare; rather, he shows his personal care by healing Peter’s mother-in-law and touching the outcast, the leper. The humility and compassion of Jesus are manifest side by side with his power.
In our text, Mark 2:13-17, once again these two aspects of Christ are on display together. He is authoritatively powerful as he was teaching (v13), calling Levi to come follow him (v14), and leading another following of people (v15). He is also compassionately near as he was breaking bread with tax collectors and sinners (v16).
The scribes couldn’t bear this paradox. They questioned how this powerful miracle worker would bother with the outcasts of society. Jesus then gives the verbal message about his visible display by stating, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Here, Mark unveils a significant aspect of Jesus’ ministry: he came to call sinners. Notice, he doesn’t merely include sinners alongside the righteous, but limits his purpose to sinners only. After all, if one is in good health, he doesn’t need a doctor; likewise, if one is righteous, he doesn’t need a Savior.
Once again we find that forgiveness of sins takes priority over all other aspects of Jesus’ ministry. There is, of course, no paradox here; just as much as we display a gamut of emotions, the Lord Jesus perfectly embodies both authority and compassion, both power and mercy. He is the Almighty, yet he is near. The only irony on display in this text, then, is that the scribes of the Pharisees fail to realize that they placed themselves outside of the radar of Christ’s ministry because they failed to see themselves as desperate sinners like the ones they ostracized. May you and I avoid such hypocrisy and run to the Savior who welcomes sinners into his fold.