City health workers in San Francisco are taking medical care to the streets to supply the homeless who are suffering from opioid addiction with medicine to treat their addiction. The program began in response to the rising number of homeless who are injecting. Customarily, doctors wait for patients to come to a clinic. By taking medical care to the afflicted instead, patients don’t have to overcome the challenges of transportation or needing to remember the appointment.
The health workers’ willingness to go to those in need of care reminds me of the way Jesus has come to us in our need. In His ministry, Jesus sought out those who the religious elite were quick to ignore: He ate with “sinners and tax collectors” (Mark 2:16). When asked why He would do that, Jesus replied, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (v. 17). He went on to say that His intention was to call sinners, not the righteous, into relationship with Him.
When we realize that we’re all “sick” and in need of a doctor (Romans 3:10), we can better appreciate Jesus’s willingness to eat with the “sinners and tax collectors”—us. In turn, like the health care workers in San Francisco, Jesus appointed us as His “street team” to take His saving message to others in need.
How did Jesus seek you out? To whom can you take the medicine of Jesus?
Tax collectors were despised and hated by the Jews because they were regarded as mercenaries and traitors who worked for the hated Roman conquerors who subjugated them. They also collected more than what was legally mandated, pocketing the excess and dishonestly enriching themselves at the expense of their own people (Luke 3:13–14). The term “sinners” was used to describe the notoriously wicked—reprobates who rejected God’s law. The Pharisees also used “sinners” to include anyone who didn’t meticulously maintain ceremonial purity or follow their rigid standards. Tax collectors were deliberately lumped together with sinners to show how degenerate and wicked the tax collectors were. Jesus was invited to dine with all sorts of people, even with the Pharisees (Luke 7:36; 11:37; 14:1). But He ate so often with social and religious outcasts—considered to be the scum of society—that He earned the reputation of being “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19).