Let me start off by giving you some context to this passage. Mark 2:13-17 is the story of how Jesus calls Levi to become one of his beloved disciples. Levi was a dreaded tax collector. They were a hated people in Jesus’s day. Tax collectors were known for collecting more money than necessary from the people and pocketing it. You can read more about this in Luke 19:1-10, which is when Jesus meets another tax collector named Zacchaeus. The people at that time had a negative picture of the Roman government. This also contributed to much public displeasure. Something you may not know is that tax collectors were Jewish. They were seen as betraying their own people to side with the Roman government.
After Jesus calls Levi, he then spends time eating and interacting with the tax collectors and those from sinful lifestyles who were following him. The scribes of the Pharisees see this and are confused. I wonder if they were thinking “why doesn’t Jesus invite us to recline with him too?” They ask, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus responds in Mark 2:17, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but only those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but the sinners”. Luke 5:32 is the same account and says, “I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Jesus poignantly points out that the scribes, who thought they were “righteous” and therefore did not see their need, were not the ones he came for. It’s those who admit that they are spiritually sick that need a doctor.
Jesus calls us as sinners to come and follow Him. He doesn’t call perfect people who think they have it all together. When Jesus called me, my life was a mess. I had almost lost my license because of speeding, I was fired from my job, and the boy I thought was “the one” broke up with me. If you are a follower of Jesus, I encourage you to take some time to think about and journal what your life looked like before you said yes to Jesus. Think about the things that were going on in your life that lead you to Christ and pause to say thank you to the Great Physician that came to heal sinners.