Main point summary
Jesus saves sinners --those who know they are spiritually needy.
[Context: the scribes of the Pharisees were asking Jesus's disciples why he eats with the sinners and tax collectors]
καὶ ἀκούσας ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτοῖς [ὅτι]
And when he heard [this], Jesus said to them,
οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν οἱ ἰσχύοντες ἰατροῦ
The healthy [ones] have no need of a physician,
ἀλλʼ οἱ κακῶς ἔχοντες•
but the sick [do].
οὐκ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους
I came not to call the righteous,
but [I came to call] the sinners.
Idiom: lit. "the ones having badly"
The purpose of Christ's ministry is to call the spiritually needy. Situation: The scribes of the Pharisees were asking Jesus's disciples why he was eating with sinners. Jesus's Response: When Jesus catches wind of the Pharisees's questioning, he responds with a common proverb (see Strauss, Mark , 132). Proverb: "Healthy people don't need a doctor" was a common Jewish proverb. But Jesus utilizes it to explain the purpose of his ministry. Explanation: The parallel construction is simple: the "healthy" are the "righteous," and the "sick" are the "sinners." Although we can infer that the healthy are not truly so, because they are not truly righteous; rather, they are self-righteous.
Romans 3:21-26 ESV
The Righteousness of God Through Faith 21 But now a the righteousness of God b has been manifested apart from the law, although c the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God d through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. e For there is no distinction: 23 for f all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 g and are justified h by his grace as a gift, i through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God j put forward as k a propitiation l by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in m his divine forbearance he had passed over n former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Explanation (cont.): The Pharisees self-righteously looked past the Messiah and to the law, in whom the righteousness of God was manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bore witness to him. They failed to see their own need of him--hence, Jesus says in Matt 5:20,"For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." And, failing to sense that they are just as sick as the "sinners and the tax collectors" keeps them from going to the doctor! Application: There are several levels of application here. (1) Who is Jesus? Jesus is our Physician by whose stripes we are healed--praise him! (2) Who are you? There are two kinds of people in the world--people who know they need the Physician and people who don't. Do you go to your Physician with your ailments, confessing your sins, your needs, your weakness, your requests, your desires, your praises? (3) Christian ministry? Let's share the good news! There is a cure to the cancer of sin at the root of our souls! And we have every reason to commend our Physician to our families, to our neighbors, and to the world. Do you commend Him with your life and with your lips? Strauss: "[Believers] are to carry the message of grace and transformation into the world. Doctors do no good for the sick if they hide in clinics behind locked doors" (133). May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.