Just What the Doctor Ordered 


When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mark 2:17)

15345027839_68a3d74802_wThe New Testament makes a most amazing claim – Jesus didn’t come into the world because of or for the righteous, believers or the spiritually perfect. Rather, Christ the Good Shepherd came into the world to seek sinners, those who had gone spiritually astray and the sick (see also Luke 4:18-19 in which Christ’s mission is not aimed at the righteous but the needy).  This may grate on some Christians today just as it did the righteous Jews of Christ’s own day, who then decided to kill Him. The righteous want Christ to come for them not for unbelievers and sinners (they want to be rewarded for their efforts), but that is not why Christ came into the world. The Word of God becomes incarnate – becomes a human – so that unbelievers, the lost and sinners might be reconciled to God. This is just as true for Christ at His birth as at His crucifixion.  Orthodox biblical scholar Veselin Kesich writes:

With the words from Luke 23: 34, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,’ which may be taken as the first word spoken on the cross, Jesus reveals the mystery of the cross. Christ is the one who brings heaven and earth together. The cross is the source and the foundation of the gospel of forgiveness. With these words Christ was praying both for the Jews and for the gentiles, who actively participated in and bore responsibility for his death sentence. They could not claim ignorance – they needed forgiveness. Enough had been revealed to enable them to see that Jesus was innocent, and yet they unjustly condemned him. In return, he asks that they may experience the mercy of the father. Before the crucifixion his persecutors had the power to release or condemn him, and they decided to condemn him.


With this final act their power and authority was itself condemned, and the power of forgiveness was released. The words of Christ are also the acts of Christ, and these words are fully congruous with his forgiveness of sinners during his public ministry. Christ on the cross does not wait for the repentance of his executioners; he does not expect them to be moved by his suffering. Instead, he offers them forgiveness while they still remain in their sins. In this Jesus goes beyond the attitude of the Pharisees, who would approach and accept only a repentant sinner.  . . .  The first fruit of the forgiveness from the cross was the repentance of one of the two criminals who were crucified with Christ, one on his left side and one on his right. (THE FIRST DAY OF THE NEW CREATION, pp 53-54)


Christ brings heaven and earth together – Christ unites God’s heaven with the world of the Fall. He came into the world to save sinners. Christ’s death on the cross unleashes God’s power on the world: namely, God’s forgiveness on sinners, which is the means by which God unites earth to heaven. (See also my post Father, Forgive Them)

46619148951_99b6757574_wThe Wise Thief is the first to experience Christ’s forgiveness and to enter into the Kingdom. He humbly seeks the Lord’s mercy, it was too late for him to change his life (or repent). He was, however, able to recognize his need for Christ’s love and by faithfully embracing Christ, he was promised eternal life. Note that the wise thief doesn’t confess his sins or even repent (it was too late for that, he was dying). He does though express a faith in Christ and recognizes his own sinfulness and need for God’s mercy (Luke 23:39-43). In turning to Christ, he seeks the Physician of his soul, showing himself to be one of the very people Christ came into the world to seek and save.

[Some may ask, well if Christ came to save sinners, then isn’t it better to be a sinner than to be righteous? This is an argument St Paul refutes in Romans 6 – we don’t sin so that grace can abound, this is blasphemy. Interesting also that St Isaac of Nineveh makes a similar argument in refuting the idea that Christ came into the world because of sin. If that were true, Isaac reasons, then we should bless Adam and Eve and all sinners for causing the incarnation to happen. He argues that the incarnation was God’s plan but also the hidden mystery. Adam and Eve’s sin didn’t cause the incarnation but actually made it more complicated because God still planned to become incarnate and deify humanity (God creates humans in the image of His Son so that we might grow into Christ – Ephesians 4:15), but sin meant God had to deal with the evil in us to make it possible to unite humanity to holiness.]


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