Next Sunday, we’ll be studying Matthew 9:9-13. I’m not scheduled to teach, but I’m continuing to study along in case God teaches me something that would transform my own life and perhaps that he would want me to share with others in order to build them up toward maturity in Christ. Here is the passage:
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13 ESV)
The quotation, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice”, is from Hosea 6:
What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. For I desire steadfast love [mercy] and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me. (Hosea 6:4-7 ESV)
For the children of Israel during Hosea’s time and for the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, following God meant offering sacrifices and attending religious festivals as well as living according to the law. But for all their sacrifices and attendance and law keeping, Jesus (and God through the prophet Hosea) says that they were actually “transgressing the covenant”. They had forgotten about mercy.
In Matthew 9:9-13, Jesus is eating with Matthew and some of his tax collecting friends. The Pharisees were appalled that Jesus would eat with that kind of low life scum. Everyone knew that tax collectors were cheaters and traitors – sinners. That is why the Pharisees would have nothing to do with them.
Jesus knew the deplorable nature of the tax collectors also. That is why Jesus spent time with them. Thus, Jesus turns the world upside down. The righteous one spends his time with the unrighteous, because it is more important for God’s people to offer mercy to others than to offer sacrifices to God (without mercy). The sacrifices and offerings and feasts and rituals meant nothing to God if the people were not also dealing mercifully with others.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were always getting mad at Jesus for hanging out with people like tax collectors and prostitutes and drunkards and lepers and others of an unsavory sort. He spent so much time with them, that the religious leaders started saying the Jesus was a glutton and a drunkard. But, Jesus knew that these were the people who most needed the love and mercy of God. These were the people who needed a true demonstration of God’s grace.
Today, there are many, many people who need a true demonstrate of God’s grace. They need to know the love and mercy of God. And, God’s children are the only ones who can demonstrate God’s grace, mercy, and love to them.
God desires for us to demonstrate his mercy more than we care about our religious gatherings and exercises. Which do we care more about?