Everyone knows somebody that refuses to go to the doctor. They could be coughing up blood, and they would say, “I’m fine. I’m fine. A little blood never hurt anyone.” In their mind, they are well; therefore they see no need to go to a doctor. They believe they have nothing to be cured of.
This was the problem with the Pharisees. They believed they were “good” people. For those who are unfamiliar with the Pharisees, they are similar to the modern day person on the street who when asked if they are going to heaven say, “Yes, I think I am a good person; at least good enough to get into Heaven.”
Here is the problem; Jesus himself said there is no one good except God (Mark 10:18). Romans 3:12 tells us the same, “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” The Pharisees didn’t understand this reality. They wrongly believed they were spiritually healthy; and therefore had no need for Christ to cure them.
This is what Jesus was getting at in Mathew 9:12. He knew that the Pharisees were sick, just like all of mankind is, but the difference between the Pharisees and the tax collectors (in this case Matthew), is that when the symptom of a sinful heart was seen, the tax collectors had eyes to see that they needed a new heart. For the Pharisees, they were blind to this reality.
For people to see the reality of their sickness there must be an outside influence that causes them to see their condition. This influence is the Word of God and the Spirit of God.
One of the most amazing sermons in the New Testament is the Sermon on the Mount. In that sermon, Jesus raises the bar for righteousness. He takes the law and makes it impossible for anyone to achieve. In fact, Jesus says in Matthew 5:48, “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
After hearing the words of Jesus, everyone should have been wondering, then who can be saved? And this is exactly where Jesus wants us. He wants us to recognize our desperate condition. He wants us to recognize the sinfulness of our hearts, and hopelessness of our state. He wants us to look in the mirror of God’s Word and see a corpse staring back at us, one that has no capacity of curing itself.
This is the place where Christ, our Physician, meets us, in the place of our humility. For it is this place where we see that the cure for our sickness is the Gospel of Jesus Christ….”for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16).