“After this He [Jesus] went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ And leaving everything, he rose and followed Him. And Levi made Him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”‘ (Luke 5:27-32 ESV)
This devotion pairs with this weekend’s Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lutheranhour.org.
Author Tim Townsend, in his book, Mission at Nuremberg, tells how Henry Gerecke, a U.S. Army chaplain at the end of World War II, was sent to minister to the most despised sinners on the planet: the 21 Nazi officials charged with crimes against humanity at the infamous Nuremberg Trials. When Gerecke was notified, his boss told him that it was the most unpopular assignment around, and that he didn’t have to go. And because of his age, Gerecke could have gotten out of the assignment. But after days of prayer, he came to see the situation in a different light. “Slowly,” he said, “those men became to me just lost souls whom I was being asked to help.”
It’s not the calling of a medical doctor to assign blame and punishment, but rather to heal and to help. And it’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. So, Chaplain Gerecke went to do what may have been the most unpopular job on the planet, a job for which he would later be condemned by people who were convinced of their moral superiority.
When Jesus said that it’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick, many of the Jewish people who heard Him that day knew He was the doctor they needed, and that their need was more than just physical. But a group called the Pharisees were skeptical about Jesus. They were convinced of their moral superiority.
If you have walked with Jesus, you know the relief that comes when you surrender your moral superiority, when you stop looking down on other people and sit down at the table with them, as a forgiven sinner no better than the next guy. But even then, you may not be able to shake the skepticism. It’s hard to understand how Jesus can offer forgiveness and healing and friendship to people like them.
Eleven of the Nazi agents tried at Nuremberg were justly sentenced to death for their crimes. And seven of them, before they were executed, through the ministry of Henry Gerecke and the other chaplain assigned, seven confessed their sins and turned to Jesus for forgiveness. I don’t understand how Jesus can do it—through His life and death, through His resurrection and promised return—I don’t understand how He can heal the sickness and consequences of those sins—of all sins. I don’t understand it. But I’m grateful for it. Especially as I see that sickness in me.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner, and heal me and all the world. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved
1. Who is someone you have trouble welcoming into friendship and fellowship with Jesus?
2. If you accept Jesus’ diagnosis that they are “sick,” how does that shift your view of them?
3. How might that same sickness be in you?