Physician and Saviour of our Souls – Br. James Koester

Matthew 9: 10-17

One question sometimes asked about Jesus, concerns his own self-understanding. How did he understand who he was, and the purpose of his mission? We get a glimpse of his answer today. ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’[1]

It was as physician, healer, restorer, forgiver, saviour that Jesus, at least here in Matthew, saw himself. Such an understanding should not surprise us. In the opening chapter of Matthew’s gospel, the angel tells Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’[2]

It is in that context, Jesus as saviour, that the rest of Matthew’s gospel unfolds.

The thing about a saviour is that, just as we don’t need a doctor if we are unaware of our illness, we don’t need a saviour, if we are unaware of our need for salvation. And that for me is the key, to Scripture; to Lent; even to myself.

Paul reminds us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.[3] This is of course the story of Genesis. The moment Adam and Eve stretched out their hands to the forbidden fruit, they rejected God’s intention for creation, and instead tried become God.[4] It is perhaps this sin of self-reliance that has marred creation from that moment, and which sets ourselves up, not simply in opposition to God, but to one another. Because we believe ourselves to be self-reliant, we understand ourselves to be independent, with no need of assistance, or help.

To offer and receive help, however, is not the sign of weakness so many of us think it is. Rather it is a sign of love, our giving, receiving, and needing love. Our Rule reminds us that there are many conflicts on the way into the experience of divine love. Sinfulness originates in a deep wound to our humanity that hinders us all from accepting love. As the Spirit exposes it to Christ’s healing touch in prayer, we shall often have to struggle with our reluctance to be loved so deeply by God.[5]

If Lent is a time for us to remember that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, through our pride, self-reliance and arrogance in our attempts, not be like God, but to be gods, then it is especially a time to remember our need of God’s healing love and mercy. Remembering our need to be healed, returns us to where we began today, to the healer, restorer, and forgiver of our souls, to the One sent to save, and salve, and heal us, Jesus the physician and saviour of our souls.

[1] Matthew 9: 12 – 13

[2] Matthew 1: 20b – 21

[3] Romans 3: 23

[4] Genesis 3

[5] SSJE, Rule of Life, The Mystery of Prayer, chapter 21, page 43

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  1. Jo Ann on February 27, 2024 at 12:22

    Self reliance as a sin. I cannot shake these words that struck to my core, since reading them last week. Is this a cultural phenomenon, is it unique to these times we are experiencing in this country? I cannot image refugees suffering with this particular type of sin. I could talk about this for the rest of the day but will stop here. Thank you for your wisdom and courage to write the truth.

  2. Reed Saunders on February 22, 2024 at 06:37

    Why are we created with this disposition to illusion of self reliance?

  3. William F. Brown Bill on February 25, 2021 at 16:06

    Freedom from need and independence are illusions. We depend on so many for food, safety, care when the need it and warmth and love. To be reminded of our need for God and others is not weakness but a right appreciation for the many gifts we freely receive and need. Thank you. Bill

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