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 5:29-32
These short verses from the gospel of Luke reveal much about the three parties in this story: the tax collectors, the Pharisees, and Jesus. It reveals to us the truths and attitudes revolving around this whole concept of repentance. It informs us not just about what went on in this story, but the way in which we should each be approaching repentance, approaching our sin, and approaching Christ.
The “tax collectors and others” who were eating with Jesus clearly had a desire to be with Him. There was a sense of recognizing their own broken nature, and seeing redemption in the person of Jesus. Jesus, unlike the laws of the Pharisees, was a welcome presence at their table. If they were not self-aware in seeing these things, they would not have been with Jesus in the first place. As Jesus’ response tells us, there was a recognition that in their human nature, they were sick, and they were sinners. As sick patients, they chose to seek out the great healer. To admit that they were in need of healing required them to be humble before Christ.
On the other hand, the Pharisees were quite the opposite. They were frustrated with Jesus for spending time around sinful people. They chose to perceive this as a sign that Jesus Himself was a sinner. Yet, Jesus interprets their intentions, their thoughts, and their spiritual posture. He clearly labels the Pharisees as the “righteous”, clearly saying that He has not come to call them. For the Pharisees, there is no recognition of their broken condition, and because of this, there is no humbling of themselves before Christ. If they do not admit they are sick, they will avoid the great healer, allowing their sickness to slowly kill them.
Finally, we see in Jesus the joy of finding those who have humbled themselves before Him, admitting their broken condition. Jesus seeks out those who have come to a place of recognizing their sinful humanity, calling them to healing, and calling them to repentance. Jesus desires this for each of us as well. Jesus, as the great healer, desires deeply to heal us of our sin and brokenness. If we do not humble ourselves, admitting the sin that exists in our lives, there is no room for desiring the healing touch of Jesus. Yet, if we humble ourselves before the foot of the throne of God, repenting of our sin, we know that He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, cleansing us and healing us from all unrighteousness.