And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Matthew 9:11-13 NKJV
Today’s verse is very popular. I’m sure you’ve probably heard it before, although you probably heard Mark’s or Luke’s account instead.
Mark 2:16-18 NKJV “When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.””
Luke 5:30-32 NKJV “Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.””
We’re looking at Matthew’s verse because it adds another dimension to this message. The over arching message of these verses is that God calls sinners to repentance, that much is very clear. Matthew documents more. Jesus told the Pharisees, who should have known why God calls sinners to repentance, “go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’.”
The Pharisees were content in their ability to follow the rules to prove they were righteous before man. They lived by regulations that elevated themselves in the eyes of the common people. Their outward appearance would be such the average person when gazing upon the Pharisee would say “There goes a holy man.”
Jesus is pointing out something the Pharisees missed in all their study of God’s Word. The most precious aspect of God – mercy. There’s a footnote on this verse in my Bible referencing Hosea 6:6 NKJV, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” The New Living Translations provides more contemporary understanding: “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.” Can’t you just hear God’s longing for us to know and to love Him?
God’s not interested in us following a set of rules for the sake of saying we kept the commandments. He’s more concerned with our understanding Him. With understanding comes love. With love comes obedience. With obedience comes freedom from sin.
Beth Moore mentioned in her Breaking Free video “We are challenged to adjust our life based on the truth we learned.” We don’t just read God’s Word. We need to internalize it and allow God to change the way we think (Romans 12:2).
Where are you today? Are you challenged by this truth? Are you like the Pharisees busy keeping a set of rules, making sure you like “appear” more righteous before people? Are you showing love and being merciful towards others?
Lord God above, You are worthy of all love. Thank You for making it possible for us sinners to come directly to Your throne by dying for us.Thank You for Your Holy Spirit living in us to give us a desire to know You. Enable us to receive Your Word and live it out in our lives. In Jesus’ name Amen.