The Pharisees saw asked the disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (Matthew 9: 11-12)
Remember, we’ve just learned that Matthew the tax collector has left his tax booth to follow Jesus, and apparently, like Zacchaeus, another repentant tax collector who decided to follow Jesus (Luke 19:1-10), has decided to throw a party to celebrate. Zacchaeus, we are told, “received [Jesus] joyfully,” and in Luke’s telling of the story at hand, our tax collector “made a great feast” for Jesus.
But the religious leaders are aghast, and complain to and about the disciples that Jesus shouldn’t be keeping such company. (Are they not brave enough to approach Jesus directly?) Jesus’s reply is clear: he’s come to help, and to help those who need it, and who recognize their need. He’ll spend his time with them, not with those who feel no need of him.
Joseph Hart’s famous text is based in part on the idea of Jesus as a great physician for the soul:
Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.
I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.
Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.
Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.
I’m left with a bit of a question: who do I know who “feel their need of him,” and yet have not yet found him? Who would rejoice like Matthew and Zacchaeus and find the “ten thousand charms” of Jesus’s healing pity, love and power?