Author: Ron Graham

Listen to Jesus

In Need of a Physician
—Matthew 9:9-13

When Matthew, a new disciple of Jesus, put on a dinner for the Master, he invited his friends who were all tax gatherers and sinners. The religious leaders of Jesus’s day criticised Jesus for associating with these sinners. Jesus answered that sinners need compassion and a physician (Matthew 9:9-13 cf Luke 5:27-32).

Jesus considered sin to be a sickness. Of course he did not mean that sin is only a physical illness like one that affects the brain, liver, foot, skin, or some other member of the body. Sin is an illness seated not just in one’s body, but also in the spirit and it can kill both body and soul. Jesus is the only doctor who has the remedy for sin.

1 A Physician For the Sick

There are some cases where illness can be cured by a close relative giving blood or bone marrow or some other organ of the body to help the sick loved one recover. This sacrifice is made because of love and a deep desire to come to the aid of the loved one. Some people would even give up their very lives to this cause, if the law allowed.

Even knowing this, it still comes as a great surprise to hear Jesus say, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). The death of Jesus, God’s Son, is a dark and ugly fact. But when we understand it as a loving sacrifice, made as a remedy for our sins, and followed by his resurrection from the dead —then, despite all the suffering involved, it becomes good news.

This becomes more wonderful when we realise that Jesus our Physician did not ask for someone else to make a sacrifice for us: he made it himself.

Jesus uses another analogy or parable to press this point: "I am the good shepherd... I lay down my life for the sheep... For this reason my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again" (John 10:14-18).

2 Compassion For the Sinner

Behind the sacrifice that Jesus made for us is his compassion. While he was busy in his ministry, preaching the gospel and healing the sick, "seeing the multitudes, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:35-36, NASB).

In the parable about the wayward son, Jesus describes the son’s return to his father and his home: "While he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and hugged him, and kissed him" (Luke 15:20). Jesus is picturing here our repentance and return to God and the love and compassion of God which never has failed though we have failed him.

When we understand the compassion of our great Physician, Shepherd, and Saviour, Jesus Christ, our hearts are changed in two ways: first we want to return to him and be restored; second we feel compassion for fellow sinners and want them also to return and be restored.

If you are a sinner and your soul is sick, come to the Physician who loves you and has compassion for you; who can heal you and forgive you all your sins. If you have already done this, then have compassion on other sinners and let this compassion move you to help them do as you have done and be cured.

3 Repentance For the Remedy

We all understand that before we can be cured of an illness we must desire to be cured. Oddly, some sick people don't want to be cured and almost seem to cherish their illnesses or what is causing them. An alchoholic who won't give up the grog, or a lung cancer sufferer who won't stop smoking, or a person going deaf who won't wear ear protection, or a person going blind who won't use the eyedrops, or someone with high blood pressure who won't take walks, or an obese person who won't make dietary changes.

Some people, likewise, won't seek the cure for their sins, and this is very sad. We have to humbly and helplessly turn to Jesus, who alone has the remedy for sin. I hope you have done this, or will do it. The Physician himself has given us the prescription to follow...

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