Matins Devotion: April 20, 2023
Yesterday we saw that when Jesus calls men to follow him he calls sinners. Even Peter himself recognizes his own unworthiness to be in Jesus’s presence. “Depart from me, Lord” he says. “I am a sinful man.” But Jesus speaks a word of peace to Peter and calls him and his fishing partners James and John as his first disciples. As those who he wants to walk in his footsteps.
Today, we see Jesus call another sinner to be his disciple. And while there may be some debate among the people about the apparent virtues of the fishermen that now follow Jesus—there was no debate about Levi and his ilk. They were tax collectors. They were fellow Jews who had agreed to help the Romans exact taxation from the Jewish people in exchange for a percentage of the take. Which means that they were regarded as worse than Romans in the eyes of the people.
But no sin and no stigma can scare Jesus off. This is why he’s come. As he says at the banquet where the Pharisees and the scribes grumble at the quality of men he’s chosen as his disciples. They ask him, “Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners?” In other words, why do you surround yourself with such obviously unrighteous people? Jesus tells them plainly: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Now I don’t think it’s an accident that in between the call of Peter, James, and John and the call of Levi that Luke gives us this story about the paralytic. Rather, I think Luke is being extremely intentional. Because the question that the Pharisees ask Jesus—while perhaps coming from bad motives—is not a bad question. How can Jesus as the righteous one of God stand for one second to be in the company of men like these fishermen and tax collectors?
But what the story about the paralytic reveals is that Jesus isn’t surrounding himself with sinners because he wants to showcase God’s tolerance for sinners, but because Jesus wants to show that God forgives sinners. His healing of the paralytic is done to demonstrate that he not only has the authority and power from God to heal diseases, but to cleanse the human heart. Jesus is not only a physician of the body, but he is the Great Physician who has come to give life and salvation to the soul.
Today, you and I stand in that line of sinners made whole by the Great Physician. We stand in the company of Peter, James, John, Levi, the paralytic, and every other sinner who has heard the words of absolution and felt the healing touch of our Lord’s mercy. We were sick and Jesus made us well. We were sinners, and Jesus made us saints. We were lost, and Jesus said to us, “Come. Follow me.”