In the accounts of Jesus’ life, there’s a curious exchange he has with the religious leaders. Although he has many such interactions, this is perhaps the most perplexing.

He tells them healthy people don’t need a doctor. True. Then he makes a parallel assertion that his purpose isn’t to help good people (the “righteous”) but bad people (the “sinners”).

What does this mean?

1. Is he implying the religious leaders are healthy and in no need of his help, that they’re doing fine by adhering to their traditions? While it’s true that following their laws could be sufficient, they would need to do so perfectly. This is humanly impossible.

2. This could be a sarcastic statement, calling them good (righteous) when everyone — including themselves — knew it wasn’t true, that they fell short of God’s standard as well.

3. Jesus could have meant, that since the religious leaders considered themselves to be healthy, there was nothing he could do for them. Although they were really sick, he couldn’t be their doctor until they admitted they were ill.

We all need a doctor, but are we willing to admit it?

[Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31-32]

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