by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

April, 2009
Recently I overheard a couple of local university students talking. At first it sounded as if one of the young men was saying he and his sister “got saved.” I was about to congratulate him when he continued talking and I realized that he was really saying “got sick.” It seemed he and his sister had been drinking too much. I certainly wasn’t going to congratulate him for that!

As a non-drinker, I have a hard time understanding why anyone would continue to do something that made him or her sick. Is it that enjoyable at the time? During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the people, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matt. 5:29 ESV). It seems as if the same advice would apply.

In Jesus’ time, the people brought their sick to him to be healed. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus went “. . . throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” (Matt. 4:23b ESV). After the Sermon on the Mount, he cleansed a leper (Matt. 8:1-4) and healed the servant of a centurion (Matt. 8:5-13). Later, he healed Peter’s mother-in-law (Matt. 8:14-15). When the crowds heard about it, they brought their sick to Peter’s house and Jesus healed them (Matt. 8:16).

After Jesus called him, Levi (or Matthew) the tax collector prepared a feast for Jesus in his house (Luke 5:29). And of course many of the guests were tax collectors, just as many guests in Peter’s house would have been fishermen. While they were eating the Pharisees and their scribes criticized Jesus, asking, “‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’” (Luke 5:30b ESV). As far as the Pharisees were concerned, just about anyone who wasn’t a Pharisee was a “sinner.” But Jesus replied, “‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.’” (Luke 5:31b ESV). Jesus went where there were “sinners.” He could have gone anywhere because we’re all sinners. He could have gone to the home of any of the Pharisees. Today, he could go to your house or mine. But he chose to go to the people who would admit they were “sinners.”

We are sick. All of us are sick (Rom. 3:23). The illness is “sin” and it is fatal (Rom. 6:23a). But there’s good news. The good news is that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17b ESV). All we have to do is acknowledge our need for salvation. During his Earthly ministry, Jesus “. . . had compassion on [the crowds] and healed their sick.” (Matt. 14:14b ESV). In the same way, he has compassion on us today.

We are called to show the same compassion that Jesus showed and to tell of his compassion. He commanded his disciples to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.” (Matt. 10:8a ESV). Their commission is our commission as well. We are commanded to proclaim healing those who are sick from sin, new life for those who are dead in sin, cleansing to spiritual lepers, and release to those in the grasp of demons of despair, addiction, or hopelessness.

If someone you or I knew was dying and we had access to the cure for whatever was wrong with him or her, we would give it to them without hesitation. If we had a cure for AIDS, cancer, heart disease, or some other life-threatening illness, we would share it with anyone who needed it. And yet, we have the cure for every spiritual disease at our fingertips and we can’t bring ourselves to share it. If we truly believe that sin is a spiritual sickness, that it has consequences, and that God sent Jesus Christ to provide the remedy, then we must act as if we believed it. Our commission remains. The need remains. The only thing missing is action.

“And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’” (Mark 2:15-17 ESV.)

Copyright © 2009 by David Phelps