Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Calling the Righteous to Repentance?

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:27-32)


I had another of my off-the-wall ideas about this passage. I have always thought (when I thought about it at all) that when Jesus said that he had not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, what he meant was that he had not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. But now I've been thinking ;). I don't think that's the case at all. Because it seems to me that it leads to rather a possible contradiction within Scripture.

After all, Jesus would have known more than anyone that "There is no one righteous, not even one..." (Romans 3:10b, Psalm 14:3b,Eccl 7:20). Or was he under the mistaken illusion that there might actually be someone righteous somewhere? Of couerse not. So if Jesus knew no one was righteous, why did he say what he said?

Well, Jesus wasn't talking to us. Or to his followers. He was not talking to those who realized their need. He was talking to the Pharisees, who obviously thought of themselves as righteous. They had a holier-than-thou attitude towards the tax collector and 'sinners' with whom Jesus was associating. And so I think Jesus here was speaking with a healthy dose of sarcasm towards those who arrogantly thought themselves so good that God Himself must be impressed with them.

He said that it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but could just as easily have added, to paraphrase the very Scriptures (of which he was the author), "There is no one healthy, not even one..." But the Pharisees wouldn't have believed him, even thought they had the same Scriptures to enlighten them. They saw themselves as needing no spiritual help at all. And so I think he said, in a sense, loaded with sarcasm, "You guys obviously don't need my help, so I'm ministering to those who realize they do."

Just my thoughts,
Take Care

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