Religious leaders in the Bible often criticize Jesus. It’s understandable. He and his teaching confront the comfortable sacred niche they enjoy in their society. They have a good thing going, and they want to hang on to it. Jesus threatens their status quo, so they attack him.
In one instance they censure Jesus for his choice in dinner companions. It seems quite closed-minded to us today, but to them it is a big deal. Jesus is eating with sinners (aren’t we all) and tax collectors – gasp. While Jesus models acceptance, his detractors advocate moral segregation. (They also insist on ethnic separation.)
Jesus defends his actions, declaring he is there to help the sick, not those who are healthy, not the righteous. Certainly the religious acting Pharisees are the most righteous (morally upright, right living) people around. Is Jesus allowing the Pharisees to remain in the old covenant, the Law of Moses, as the means for their salvation, while offering a different way for everyone else?
It could be, but I don’t think so. I see clarity in the New Living Testament (NLT) in the way it renders this passage, where Jesus says, “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (Mark 2:17, emphasis added).
Jesus comes only to help those people who know they have a need. The self-righteous are not ready for his help; there is nothing Jesus can give them. There’s an old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” The same is true with spiritual matters; we have nothing to give people who don’t feel a need for what we have to offer.
What do you think about how the NLT presents this verse? Do you think Jesus is allowing a different path for Jews?