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All you need is need.
Your cry for help is all that is necessary for the heavenly attorney to make your defense.
This article was originally written for 1517.
Jesus’s words in Mark 2:17 remain some of the most formative in all of Scripture, showing us precisely what Jesus knew to be his mission — namely, the healing of those who are sick. “It is not those who are well who need a doctor,” Jesus declares, “but those who are sick. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Here Christ identifies and crystallizes the divine errand for which he came enfleshed in the skin of his creation as particularly to tend to the wounds and faults of that selfsame creation. Within Jesus’s communication of his assignment is also the lone condition by which we, too, can be made benefactors of Jesus’s task. Alexander Maclaren delineates this for us:
The self-righteous man cannot receive the righteousness of Christ. The man who has little or no consciousness of sin is not capable of receiving pardon. God cannot put His fulness into our emptiness if we conceit ourselves to be filled and in need of nothing. We must know ourselves to be poor and naked and blind and miserable ere He can make us rich and enlighten our eyes, and clothe us, and flood our souls with His own gladness . . . for all the best blessings of His providence and of His love, the first steps towards receiving them are the knowledge that we need them and the desire that we should possess them. (60)
In that way, then, we are reminded of some of the best news in the good news, that is, so long as we admit our need, we qualify for Jesus’s representation. Before God’s bar, every one of us stands guilty, already condemned (John 3:17–18). The holy law of the Father has incriminated all of us for falling woefully short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). Confronted with the rigidness of the law’s demands, we are exposed as the law’s vilest offenders. We are found out. But like in those crime shows you watch on television, where the criminal shouts, “I need a lawyer,” while he’s being interrogated by the detectives, we, too, are afforded the right to cry, “I need a Lawyer.”
Such is what the gospel of God announces to us — namely, that when we say, “I need a Representative” or “I need an Advocate,” Jesus himself takes our case (1 John 2:1–2). He stands to plead for our acquittal. The good news proclaims that we have a God who not only “considers” our affliction but takes it on himself as his own (Isa. 53:3–4). We have a better, stronger, wiser Attorney who is ready to “fervently champion our cause” (Jer. 50:34). His defense of us and for us secures our exoneration. He leaves no charge unanswered. No sin unaccounted for. “Awakened sinner!” Charles Bridges exclaims, “let not then a sense of unworthiness paralyze your faith. As a guilty sinner, you are invited. As a willing sinner, you are welcome. As a believing sinner, you are assured” (442).
Indeed, everyone can qualify for Jesus’s representation. Your cry for help is all that is necessary for this Barrister to make your defense. Unlike any mortal legal representative, our divine Attorney does not perform an inquiry to ensure our case is worth taking. He secures no retainer from us prior to advocating for our vindication. Instead, all that is required for Christ to take your case is your desperation. In fact, he is predisposed to stand with and for the desperate (Ps. 34:18). “Your warrant,” writes Scottish divine Thomas Guthrie, “lies in your very wants; your plea for mercy in his merits; your plea for an interest in his merits in your own demerit” (130). There are no other stipulations, then. The only qualification for divine aid is “need.” So long as you plead for the Lord’s advocacy, your justification is secure. So long as you know you’re sick, the Healer has words to make you whole.
Charles Bridges, Psalm 119: An Exposition (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2002).
Thomas Guthrie, The Gospel in Ezekiel: Illustrated in a Series of Discourses (Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black, 1856).
Alexander Maclaren, The God of the Amen: And Other Sermons (London: Alexander & Shepheard, 1891).