Many of us have an improper view—an unbiblical view—of our own sinfulness, and in light of that, Jesus is going to show us that we have to have a proper view of our own sinfulness in order for us to really come to Him and be saved.
Some of us are deeply aware of our own sinfulness. But another group knows they’re a sinner, and at the end of the day, they just don’t think they’re that bad. And as a result of that, grace just simply isn’t that amazing to you.
In Mark 2:14 Jesus sees Matthew sitting in the tax collector booth and says to him, “Follow Me!” (hcsb). And Matthew gets up and follows Him. The Pharisees see that Jesus is eating with the sinners and tax collectors and they say to His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:16 hcsb).
And then Jesus makes one of the most difficult statements in the whole Bible: “And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17 ESV).
Matthew was literally in the act of living a sinful life. Think about that. He was right smack dab in the middle of his sin, and Jesus walks right up to him and says, “I want you to follow Me.” The Bible says nothing about this guy having a crisis of conscience. Jesus didn’t ask him to clean up his act before commanding Matthew to follow Him.
The picture the Bible is painting is a picture of God in the flesh walking on the earth, pursuing us and loving us and calling us into fellowship with Him and calling us to serve Him right in the midst of our sin. Make no mistake, Jesus calls the guy out of the tax booth. Jesus calls the guy out of the sin, but Jesus loves him, pursues him, and wants him right in the middle of his sin. You do not have to clean yourself up before you come to Jesus. You come to Jesus, and He will clean you up.
Here’s the message to the other group of people: obedience is a good thing, but make sure in your obedience that you realize you still need a Savior. If you’re saved today, you were the tax collector, and Jesus didn’t save you because He looked at you and said that you have your act together.
Let me show you what I’m talking about. Romans 5:8 says, “But God shows us His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (esv).
You were a sinner, you were an enemy of God, and the wrath of God was coming your way. But Jesus saved you while you were still a sinner.