Healthy People Don’t Need a Doctor
I was recently sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room. As I looked around, I had an unsettling feeling in my gut that I did not belong in this doctor’s office. It wasn’t the meeting with the doctor or the reason for the visit that caused this feeling, though. The reason for my uneasiness was in the location of this doctor’s office: the middle of a cancer center.
So here I am, a fairly healthy male in my mid-twenties, in a waiting room with several people getting treated for cancer. I couldn’t help but feel like I was out of place.
“I feel healthy, why am I here?”
To a degree, that reaction from me is fair. But the truth is, I was there with an underlying health issue that needed to be addressed. I was there because I needed a doctor.
Luke tells the story of how Levi, the tax collector, was called by Jesus. After being called, Levi hosted a banquet in his home in honor of Jesus, inviting a lot of his tax collector friends. Some Pharisees came and, in classic form, disrupted the banquet. They asked Jesus and his disciples “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus answered 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 and need to repent.”
Luke 5:31-32 NLT
I believe there are two important takeaways to pull out of this story.
First, Jesus is here for the spiritually sick. Just like a doctor’s purpose in their practice is to heal physical maladies, Jesus came to heal us of the sickness that is sin. And He fulfilled that mission by taking the sin upon Himself on the Cross.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”
Isaiah 1:18 NLT
Just as Isaiah the prophet predicted hundreds of years prior, Jesus came and made our sins white as snow. The scarlet color of our sins was replaced by the blood of Jesus shed on the Cross as He made a way for us to return to the Father free of our sickness.
Second, we are all sick. Jesus saw the self-righteous attitude of the Pharisees. The Pharisees prided themselves in following the letter of the law as written out in the Torah. Including the Ten Commandments, there were 613 laws in total that the Pharisees based their lives on. They believed that they were righteous because they followed the law and hounded on others who did not. They were blind to their own pride and self-interest (see John 9:39-41).
The truth is, there isn’t a single person on this Earth who can be called righteous on their own. The disease of sin goes back generations all the way back to the garden. And this disease is handed down generationally with a near 100% success rate (Jesus being the only exception).
Jesus made his purpose clear when speaking with the Pharisees in Levi’s house: he came to call the people who knew they were sick. Levi fit the bill perfectly. Someone who spurned the teachings of his people and instead joined the Romans, collecting taxes from his own people. When he encountered Jesus, he knew he was sick, and turned to Jesus for healing. The Pharisees, meanwhile, fit in the first category Jesus mentioned: those who think they are righteous.
If you are sick but refuse to acknowledge it, there is nothing that can be done to help you. In my situation, though I felt healthy, there were signs of something that could have become a large issue down the line if we did not address it now. So, I swallowed my pride and went to the doctor.
In the same way, we need to realize that we simply cannot win this battle against sin on our own, but through the work of Jesus, the Great Physician, we can be healed.
Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!
John 5:1-3, 5-9 NLT