A Hard Saying of Jesus We too Often Overlook

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.

29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

33 And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” 36 He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” Luke 5:27-39 [ESV]

Intrepid Wildflower | Puerto Rico | February 2022

How do you feel about cutting off your hand so that you are able to get into heaven? What about losing an eye? Or getting accused of murder just because you call someone a fool? These are jus a few hard sayings of Jesus. Most often we pass them off by saying that they’re hyperbole, symbolic, or applicable to someone else. 

But there’s one here in these verses that is easily dismissed because we miss it, and don’t recognize it as a hard saying of Jesus. 

Hard sayings of Jesus are those teachings that are difficult to understand, or believe. They call for extraordinary faith and action. But they’re pretty obvious. Camels don’t fit through something as small as the eye of a needle. And while it is better to enter heaven with only one hand, few think Jesus was teaching us to cut off our hands to get to heaven.

What of this one, however? “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” The dedicated Jesus-follower recognizes his sinfulness, and need for God’s grace. But I wonder how many people sit in the church pews not really believing that they are in desperate need of Jesus’ healing, forgiveness, and grace. I wonder if it’s really much easier than we think to believe that the really sick and sinful people aren’t actually the proper focus of the church’s ministry. 

It seems to me that this is one of those concept verses reality issues. We may believe in the concept of grace but desire only certain people to populate our pews on Sunday morning. We might believe conceptually that we ought to be reaching out to people who are in need of God, but we are much more comfortable reaching out to people who are not that kind of people.

Thankfully Jesus meant what he said. He came for sinners. He was seeking the lost, the sick, the hopeless. Sometimes we recognize we are the ones he is seeking. We must always recognize others as objects of is loving search as well. He is saying, in effect:

Come every beating heart that longs to find its worth
Come every aching soul in need of something more
Come with your questions
Come with your doubts
Bring them to the Lord

Come all you castaways, left out of every crowd
Come all you outsiders, unwanted until now
You are a people
You have a place
Waiting with the Lord

Troubled and restless, hungry and helpless

Sing for joy, the King is calling
Strong in justice, rich in mercy
Sing for joy, the King is calling
And His love is never-ending

Come all you servants, with no candle left to burn
Come every broken body, tired from years of work
Lay down your tools
Lift up your hands
Lift them to the Lord

Lift up a shout
Our King is full of grace
Lift up a shout
He’s worthy of our praise

The King is Calling – Kip Fox



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