Jesus Pursues Sick People

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

I am glad that Jesus pursues sick people. In Luke 5, Jesus reaches out to a man with leprosy, a paralyzed man, a social outcast who collects taxes for Rome, and even calls some people peripheral to society to be His closest followers. Jesus does not always look for the respectable people. No, what He most often does is to search after those who know they need help. He heals them (the leper), He forgives them (the paralyzed man), He spends time with them (the tax collector), and He commissions them for His purposes (the disciples).

I am glad that Jesus pursues sick people. Although I was familiar with Christianity from my upbringing, I did not really know Christ until my later years of high school. When Jesus truly took hold of my life I was deeply sick. He sought after me and confronted me with His truth. I didn’t know how sick I was until then. It became so obvious that I needed help. When I responded to Him, Jesus saturated me with His grace and filled me with hope. He began to heal my life and transform me. Then He invited me to serve Him and brought purpose and direction to my life. I am sure that you have a story of your own about when and how Jesus pursued you.

But here are some pertinent questions for those of us who follow Jesus today: are we still glad Jesus pursues sick people? Do we let Him seek after the sick and needy through us? Do we let Him take us to risky or uncomfortable places so He can place His hands on the lives of others who need healing and life?

If He has pursued us and reached us, may He also pursue others and reach them through us.

“In Everything”: the comprehensive call to love our neighbor

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

Now, even though it could feel like Jesus’ summary statement in Matthew 7:12 is the sort of thing you would find in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, there is one little phrase that makes that impossible. It’s this phrase: “in everything…” This little phrase, just one word in Greek, captures so much.

Now, think with me about what it would look like for all of our actions to reflect this:

  • what actions would we take in order to love others: our spouses, our colleagues, our children, our parents, total strangers, those in need?
  • what actions would we hold back from in order to truly love and serve others?

Consider what it would look like for all of our words to reflect Jesus’ guidance:

  • what words would we speak in order to truly love and serve others?
  • what words would never cross our lips in order to truly love and serve others?

And then there are our thoughts, our inner meditations. Jesus once said,

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45)

We often talk about having a filter on what we say or do. It is good to have a filter, but what would it look like to let our thoughts and inner, unexpressed desires reflect Jesus’ teaching about treating others the way we would want to be treated. Consider with me:

  • what do our inner thoughts say about how much we truly love others?
  • what do we say in private about others that we would never speak in public? Why is there a difference?

And what about one more category that may seem strange. What about our non-thoughts; the ways we naturally see and evaluate people and situations without even thinking about it? What do our non-thoughts—our prejudices, assumptions, and non-cognitive ways of assessing people—say about our love or lack of love for others? How might our lives and interactions with others be transformed as we let God reach into and transform our non-thoughts?

Jesus tells us:

“In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

From top to bottom, from the inside to the outside,Jesus’ disciples live in God’s love and live with God’s love for others.

Love is Light Shining in the Darkness

The world around us has all sorts of darkness these days. There is the darkness that gathers around us in visible ways: violence, famine, global conflict, racial tension, unemployment, etc. For some of us, that darkness feels close and for others it feels distant.

However, I’d like to sharpen our understanding of darkness by remembering four aspects of Jesus’ life, and putting them into the context of light and darkness.

As the light of the world, first of all, Jesus came to shine God’s light into the world through His incarnation. As it says in Hebrews 1:3, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Or as it says in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus’ incarnation shines the light of God, displaying who God is.

As the light of the world, second of all, Jesus came to shine God’s light into the world through His proclamation and teaching.  After Jesus’ powerful teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, we read, “the crowds were amazed at his teaching,because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28-29). Jesus’ teaching shines the light of God, telling who God is.

As the light of the world, thirdly, Jesus came to shine God’s light into the world through works of service and healing. Peter, one of Jesus’ followers, spoke of Jesus’ wonder-working power in this way: “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him” (Acts 2:22). The works of service and the healing—these signs and wonders—display God’s purposes for humanity. And it is through His service and miracles shining God’s light, that Jesus also displays who God is.

As the light of the world, fourthly, Jesus came to shine God’s light into the world through enter into human suffering and transforming it. We read about Jesus’ transformative suffering on the Cross in the first letter of the Apostle John, chapter 4, verses 9 and 10: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).  Jesus’ crucifixion shines the light of God, displaying who God is and just how far God will go on behalf of humanity.

Jesus was shining God’s light into the gathering darkness. As His followers we also have the opportunity to shine His light into the gathering darkness.

And those four aspects of Jesus’ light-shining life speak to us about shining light as well. We shine God’s light:

  • through living incarnate
  • through proclaiming good news and telling of God’s ways
  • through works of service and even miraculous signs
  • through entering into the suffering of the world through Christ’s transformative sacrifice

And so that we don’t lose sight of just how basic this is, the love for our literal neighbor saves us from abstraction about these things. Because often our ideas about life become abstract.

In her quirky book, How to Do Nothing, artist Jenny Odell talks about how neighborliness keeps us from being abstract. She writes:

My boyfriend and I live in a large apartment complex that’s next to the house of a family of four, and when we’re sitting on our balcony and they’re sitting on their porch, we can easily see each other….But we didn’t learn each other’s names for two years, and we may not have chatted at all if it hadn’t been for the neighborliness of Paul, the dad.

One day Paul invited us over for dinner. Because I hadn’t been in a neighbor’s home since I was a teenager, it was unexpectedly surreal to be inside the house that forms a permanent part of the view from our apartment. The interior of the house went from being an idea to a palpable reality….we probably all saw ourselves from a new angle. For my part, the experience made me realize how similar the life situations of most of my friends are, and how little time I spend in the amazing bizarro world of kids.

When we arrived back to our apartment, it felt different to me­–less like the center of things. Instead the street was full of such “centers,” and each one contained other lives, other rooms, other people turning in for the night and worrying their own worries for the next day. Of course I had already accepted all of this in an abstract sense, but it wasn’t felt.

Jenny Odell, How to Do Nothing (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2019), 134-135.

Shining the light of God is something that is true, but is not intended to be abstract. It is intended to be felt. It is intended to be heard. It is intended to be like flesh and bone moving into the neighborhood.

Loving our literal neighbors – our apartment-mates, those in the condo next door, those in the duplex unit above or below us, those on our dorm floor, those in the retirement community, or those in the house next door – forces us to shine the light of God in ways that are real, practical, and tangible. If we cannot love our literal neighbor, then it is unlikely that we will truly love anyone else in our lives.

What Did Jesus Mean About Not Judging?

When Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” what does he mean by the word “judge”?

The word for “judge” in Greek is κρίνω which has a range of meaning that touches upon the arenas of moral discernment (knowing good from bad), lawsuits, governmental direction, and final damnation by God.[1] This mirrors the range of meaning for the word “judge” in English, which, has the following dictionary definitions:[2]

  • “to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises”
  • “to hold as an opinion”
  • “to form an estimate or evaluation of, especially to form a negative opinion about”

So, knowing the definition of the word is not really enough here. It is incredibly important for this context to know the specific meaning and usage of the word “judge” by Jesus. 

Now we know from the immediate context of the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus is not exhorting His disciples to avoid using moral discernment. Jesus Himself has used such moral discernment throughout the Sermon, just as He does in other places throughout the gospels. Jesus also encourages His disciples to differentiate between what is good and what is bad, and to seek after and live by a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. So, clearly, Jesus does not mean that His disciples should throw out moral judgment or cease to differentiate between good and bad.

It’s also clear Jesus is not referring to lawcourt or governmental settings, even if there are implications for those spheres.

Instead, we see that the focus for Jesus’ instruction here is relational and interpersonal. Because the word “brother” is used later in this teaching, it seems most likely that Jesus is referring to the relationships within the disciple community that He is forming.

And because of that, many scholars and writers have suggested that the best sense of the meaning of “do not judge” is “do not condemn.” Do not condemn. Condemnation is rooted in a skewed view of others, ourselves, and God.

When we condemn people, we reveal a skewed view of others as less than whole people, as somehow irredeemably damaged, or lacking value and worthy of discriminatory treatment.

When we condemn people, we reveal a skewed view of ourselves as somehow better than others, more valuable or good, more intrinsically right in some way.

When we condemn people, we reveal a skewed view of God as either an angry destructive being or less than us and subject to our judgments.

Within all of this are two fatal sins that have been addressed throughout the Sermon on the Mount: pride and anger. Jesus’ disciples cannot live in the way of pride, it is contrary to the way of Christ, which is humility, and blocks us from living the good life with God. Neither can we live in the way of anger, for it too is contrary to the way of Christ, which is love, and also blocks us from encountering the good life.

And this is so easy in our own day, where political divides, media echo chambers, and social media have exacerbated our pride and anger to the point of readily dehumanizing one another. We now ignore injustice and cancel public figures without much more than a thought. We pummel other’s opinions with our opinions, hammer people’s hurts with our own hurt, and make condemnation so much a part of our lives that we’ve ceased to recognize it anymore.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

This is why Jesus’ words in verse two are so important. There He outlines the principle of reciprocity:

  • the way you judge, you will be judged
  • the way you measure, you will be measured

In the Greek the words come across in groups of three with such force that it’s hard to ignore. “If you do this, then that is what will be done to you. If you take this way, then that’s way you’ll receive it yourself,” Jesus says.

That’s reciprocity.

While there’s some debate about whether Jesus is referring to us receiving this back from people or from God, both aspects make sense here.

If we treat people with condemnation and harsh measures, that’s how we should expect them to treat us back.

And if we try to usurp God’s place as the only Judge and measurer of things, then we should beware of facing the final judgment where God will test our hearts, minds, words, and actions.

So, Jesus says: disciples don’t judge or condemn one another. Instead, with discernment and love, they help one another grow.


[1] Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, The Story of God Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 228.

[2] “judge (verb),” Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/judge.

The Dawning of Real Life

After Jesus’ brutal death there is the quiet and stillness of the tomb; Jesus’ dead body was laid in the tomb. We read:

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.” (Matthew 28:1)

But there was also the quiet and stillness of the sabbath. The Jewish followers of Jesus entered into the sabbath, which means to cease. There was no activity to distract them as they waited in their griefs and loss. 

I’m sure that each one of us has at some point been in a season of waiting. We’ve all felt the pressure of waiting in one way or another; waiting for that phone call about the job, that letter of college acceptance, the news from the doctor after the test, the anticipation before the child came home, and so much more. Waiting is a common experience in life.

But seasons of waiting can be difficult, particularly when we cannot see that anything is happening. It’s not easy to wait for your body to improve while undergoing medical treatment or after recovery from a surgery because you cannot always see the difference on the surface.

It can be difficult to wait for that breakthrough in a friendship or marriage relationship when you still feel the tension even after long conversations or counseling.

Waiting is hard.

Here are these women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the honored and favored first arrivals at the tomb.

What they, and the other disciples, don’t know is that while they were waiting, even while they were asking those “where is God?” questions, when the stone was rolled in front of the tomb, God had not abandoned them. In fact, God was working and was already ahead of them.

In our hunger for real life, even for God to break into our seasons of waiting, the promise of the empty tomb is that even when we cannot see it, God’s work has already begun. Even when we are asking, “where are You, God?”, God is already ahead of us…we often just do not see it. Our eyes are closed, or we are looking in the wrong direction. And then…the stone rolled away…an empty tomb…God was there all along.

Real life is dawning.

The resurrection promises us that even in our waiting God is at work. In fact, while the two Mary’s are walking to the tomb in dread and grief, Jesus has already left the tomb.