The Ambitions of Jesus (3): Calling Sinners

The entrance of God’s Son into human history was described as “The true light, which gives light to everyone . . . coming into the world” (John 1:9 ESV).

The Ambitions of Jesus (3): Calling Sinners

God’s Creation gives light about God, revealing Him to be a God of infinite power and wisdom. God’s Commandments also give light. They show that God is righteous, morally perfect, the definition of good. However, Christ, the Son of God, is the “true light”. He is the fullest revelation of God to man; He is the “radiance of the glory of God” (Hebrews 1:3 ESV). As we consider Jesus’ ambitions we must see in them God’s attitude revealed.

 He came to Call Sinners

I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13; Mark 2:17). 

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the call of Levi. Levi was a Jew who had become a tax collector for the hated Roman invaders. He worked in a tax office taking money from his own people and passing that money on to his people’s enemies. He was, in the eyes of the Jewish religious establishment, a moral leper, a stain on society, a traitor against his own nation.  

Jesus called him and he left his tax office and “followed Him” (Matthew 9:9). Then, in his sizeable home, he had a meal which was attended by many tax collectors and, along with them, people described as “sinners”. These were moral deviants whose behaviour led Jewish religious leaders to view them as beyond the pale and without hope of redemption.

However, in the same home, at the same meal, were Jesus and His disciples. This great moral teacher was rubbing shoulders with immoral degenerates. Not only so but He was encouraging His disciples to do the same! The Pharisees were not impressed and challenged the disciples: “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (v.11). They believed that the Lord’s close proximity to such “sinners” was a bad reflection on His moral character.

Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (v.12). The illustration is simple and effective. A doctor does not spend time with patients because he is contaminated with their sickness. A doctor comes close to sick people to cure them.

So, the Lord continued, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (v.13). The Son of God did not come into this world to benefit righteous people. This is just as well because the Bible clearly teaches that “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). If Jesus’ ambition had been to bless righteous people He would have gone back to heaven disappointed, having found none to bless. Thankfully, He came to “call sinners to repentance”. 

The Pharisees described those who did not reach their standard as “sinners”. However, God’s standard is much higher, and He calls all those who do not reach His standard “sinners”. This takes in Pharisee and tax-collector, moralist and hedonist, all of humanity.

We are all sinners; it is for us that Jesus came. As a doctor draws near to administer a cure, so the Lord Jesus has come to this world to cure us from sin. The remedy for our condition was procured at infinite cost. At the cross Jesus paid for our salvation with His precious blood: “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

A doctor can only cure those who acknowledge their problem and come to him for healing. Similarly, the Lord only saves those who acknowledge their sinfulness and come to Him for salvation. This is “repentance”.

Some refuse to admit they are sinners. They assume that presenting themselves to God as righteous, good, religious people, will obtain His blessing. However, presenting yourself to God as righteous is a sure way to avoid His blessing. The Lord Jesus did not come for the “righteous” but only to “call . . . sinners to repentance”. Admit your sinfulness to God and then you can accept the salvation offered to sinners by Jesus Christ. You are the reason He came.