Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 9:12a “But when Jesus heard that, he said unto hem,. . .”
When the Pharisees snarled their snide sneer in the hearing of Jesus’ followers, the disciples did not know what to say in response. They were maybe as perplexed as the Pharisees, for no one yet fathomed the full scope of Messiah’s work.
The disciples had their own preconceived and mistaken paradigms to work through. Jesus’ interaction with sinners was new territory to everybody. Since the disciples knew no explanation, Jesus responded for Himself. He knew the Pharisees were mean spirited, yet nevertheless gave their question a legitimate answer.
Christ’s reply constitutes a profound statement as to why He came to earth. His answer still confounds Pharisees, instructs disciples, and encourages sinners.
Matt. 9:12b “They that be whole need not a physician,. . .”
The Pharisees were wrong about Jesus. In eating with sinners, He was healing, not hobnobbing and carousing. Jesus was there not to share their sickness, but to let them share His health. To condone their sins would have annulled Jesus’ being the Friend of sinners. It is no friendship to sinners to encourage them in their sins. Jesus never leaves anyone the same. We sing “Just as I am, I come” and “Come just as you are,” but unbelievers must come willing to be changed. Jesus welcomes sinners where they are in order to move them to where they ought to be.
Matthew caught what the Pharisees did not grasp. Jesus had no ulterior motive. He genuinely loved sinners, and wanted to heal outcasts, to draw them near to God, to a personal, intimate relationship with Him. Jesus had no selfish agenda.
Unspiritual people cannot understand spiritual motives. Some people are determined to put the worst spin on even the best words and deeds. To the cynics, even the most sacrificial act must have some greedy underlying sinister motive.
As we followers of Jesus seek to help sinners as He did, we too will often be misunderstood and maligned. People will question our motives. They will say we are soft on sin, trying to impress powers that be, trying to gain influence, trying to look holier than thou. Their cynicism must never deter us from the task at hand.
Over the long haul, we will prove our sincerity. By staying faithful for an extended duration, we will answer whatever criticisms others may level against us.
In the meantime, we should have no reason to fear honest investigation from others. We ought to scrutinize our own intents more harshly than our critics do.
Our motives must be pure. Jesus sat among sinners not because He was like them, but because He was unlike them, as a well physician among sick patients. He entered their company as a doctor, as one seeking to improve them without being contaminated Himself. Godliness must define us to our innermost being. Apart from true holiness, our lives are meaningless, and we have nothing to say.
Our motives must be humble. Jesus told the twelve, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (JN 13:13-14). Rather than seek a position of domination and power, we must desire a place of lowly service.
Many prechristians see the North American church as more confrontational than compassionate. I fear their main image of us entails our standing with fists clenched rather than kneeling with hands open to wash feet. We must alter this perception, factual or not, for it renders us ineffective in what we are called to do.
Our job is to earn a hearing for Jesus. If we try to throw our weight around, we will rebuff people, but we can get through any door with the Gospel if we are willing to be the doormat.
The new paradigm for the North American church entails kneeling: before God in prayers of repentance, before others in acts of lowly service. We must kneel low before God, asking Him to keep our motives right and to give us opportunities to kneel low before others, thereby opening the best doors for the Gospel.
In lowly service, the church will gain opportunities to demonstrate and declare to unbelievers the beauty of Her Master. Jesus deserves to be seen as He is.
By life and lip, we must seek to convince people that Jesus is a Great Physician who wants to help them, that they can receive as much help from Him as they seek. The only way sinners will not be helped by Jesus is if they refuse to seek it.
In our text, the word “whole” is to be understood subjectively, that is, from the perspective of each individual’s opinion of their own self. The “whole” are all who depend on themselves for salvation, who sense no need for help from Jesus.
The Pharisees rejected Jesus because they thought they were whole. Jesus in essence said to them, if you are as well as you think you are, you don’t need help from Me. The sad truth was, they were not as well as they thought they were.
In God’s eyes, all people are sick. No one is innately whole, except in self-deceit. Refusing to admit sickness, imagining self to be well, is the worst disease. The most dangerous sin is thinking we have no need of Jesus. This presumption is the noose around the neck, the only sin which separates from God forever.
People do not go to Hell because they lie, steal, murder, commit adultery, etc. These are merely the byproducts of the one sin which sends a person to Hell, the sin of rejecting Jesus, God’s beloved Son. At the end of World War II, Pastor J. Frank Norris advertised a sermon title which stirred much controversy: “Reasons Hitler did not go to Hell.” The first point of the message involved statements like, Hitler did not go to Hell because he started WW II or perpetrated the holocaust. The sermon’s second point was, Hitler went to Hell because he rejected Jesus. Norris was a bit ostentatious in his presentation, but accurate in his premise.
If left unchecked, the sin of rejecting Jesus is everlastingly fatal, but no one ever needs to perish from it. It is foolish to have a fatal disease that is curable and not seek the cure. Healing is available, but only sinners conscious of sin can be cured. To be saved, we must be not only sick with sin, but also sick of sin.
Beware the deadly self-righteousness that deluded the church at Laodicea. They viewed themselves as rich, increased with goods, and in need of nothing, not knowing they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (RV 3:17).
Knowing and admitting we are sick is often half the cure. It at least makes us willing to seek help. Denial is dangerous. It is possible to be in serious jeopardy while feeling little pain. My friend Bill Cracraft one day took a motorcycle for a test ride. He topped a hill, missed a curve, and slammed into a tree. He thought he was okay, but when he started to get up, he suddenly cried out, “Oh, my back” and fell back dead. He should have stayed still, but did not realize his peril.
When my daughter broke her neck in a car wreck, a man, reaching the car just as Rebekah began to rouse up and realizing the potential danger, put his hands through the shattered window and held her still, saying, “Honey, why don’t you stay still till help arrives.” The neurologist told us that angel of mercy saved our daughter from being dead or a quadriplegic. I am grateful someone realized the danger and took time to intervene in her life. My prayer for this message has been that God would allow me to intervene in your life, and awaken you to your danger.
Those who claim to be healthiest are often sickest. The less we sense our need of Jesus, the more we need Him. God keep us far from the sin of Pharisees, the sin of pride which anesthetizes the conscience while eating away at the vitals.