When Jesus said these words in Luke 5:31-32, the Pharisees were calling him out for eating with tax collectors and sinners, making himself unclean by eating with those who were religiously unclean. Set in the context of a collection of accounts of Jesus calling people to follow Him as disciples, this was Jesus’ final statement to declare the mission He was on. Though receiving constant opposition from the Pharisees for their self-righteous attitudes, Jesus was declaring the brokenness of man, and how much these people needed the Messiah.
Everyone who Jesus had called, and who had gone to Him did so out of a recognition of their sin and helplessness next to a holy God. Just a couple accounts earlier, Peter falls before Jesus on his knees and cries out “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (5:8). These people whom Jesus was calling were greatly broken, which could only be taken care of by a greatly holy Savior.
In each of the accounts leading up to 5:29-32, Jesus was confronted by people who had come to Him with their brokenness, confessing their dire need for a Savior to bring healing and be pardoned from their sin: Simon Peter was exhausted from fishing all night without a catch, and was likely living day to day based upon his catch (5:1-11); the man with leprosy was ridiculed and rejected his whole life due to his disease, shunned from society and without community (5:12-16); the paralytic was so helpless, he couldn’t even go to Jesus for healing if he wanted, his friends had to bring him to Jesus in the most desperate way possible – tearing open the roof (5:17-26); Levi was a tax collector at the border who took taxes for Herod from people entering with goods into Judea, he would’ve been hated by everyone who knew of him, without friends and disliked for his profession (5:27-28).
Each account showed the brokenness of the people Jesus had come to call… but not 5:29-32. Jesus was met face to face with the very people who tried to cover up their brokenness and praise themselves for their near perfection. Though Jesus had responded with an upfront statement, He was not denying their brokenness. By even saying that they were “righteous” by their own standards, He was exposing the most broken of people – those who are just as sick, yet don’t realize they need a physician.
In our world today, especially America brokenness is a weakness. If we show any sign of weary, brokenness, or inability to succeed, it’s automatically looked down upon as a failure. We so often think that we have to hide our own brokenness, mend our own wounds as the Pharisees had just to let others know that we’re fine. Any sign that we need help from others or can’t do it on our own is a cut to our pride and makes us feel inadequate. We want to seem fine to others. We want others to know we can succeed. We want to feel adequate.
But sometimes we just can’t. Sometimes what the world throws at us (rather, what GOD desires to strengthen us with) is too much for us to handle. People fail, friends hurt us, family members are separated and pass away, and life is too chaotic to tidy up the house and sweep the dirt under the rug all at once.
The more I look at this world and see all the things people go through – deaths, diseases, break ups, lay offs, etc. – I’m overwhelmed with how much brokenness there is in our past and present days (and that which awaits us in our future days). But what really breaks my heart is not the brokenness itself, but peoples’ desire to go it alone, to fend for themselves even when they can’t, and the constant battle that people will fight and be frustrated with time and time again as life continues to spew out its obstacles… unless they repent and turn to Christ.
When Jesus spoke those words to the Pharisees, no doubt he was rebuking them for their self-righteous, prideful attitude that they could do it on their own. But i think He was also trying to hit them at the heart of their brokenness – that they really couldn’t do it alone.
To all my friends who are continuously battling with depression, heartache, failure, dissatisfaction, etc., I can’t help but grieve over your brokenness, and the future that awaits you if you continue like this. I love you guys, and Christ’s love is even greater, calling sinners to repentance, out of a life of brokenness, and giving them a life of wholeness.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”