Matthew 9:12-13. “But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.“
At this point in His earthly ministry, Jesus took every opportunity to shake up the status quo. He didn’t rant and rave. He didn’t need teleprompters and half a dozen speech writers to know what to say. Usually, He made His point using very few words. That’s exactly what happened here.
Jesus heard the Pharisees asking some of His followers why He was eating with sinners. He replied promptly, before His disciples could be put on the spot. He said that, like a physician who comes to heal the sick and not the healthy, He had come to call sinners to repentance, not those who were already righteous.
I have thought about those words quite a bit during the last couple of days. What do we discuss when we get together for fellowship with others who already share our faith? Ideally, we talk about the things of the Lord, right? But how often does our conversation degenerate to discussing how awful the unsaved are? How godless, how immoral our society has become? It is even worse when we start down the path of excoriating other believers who, perhaps, do things differently than we do. What I’m really wondering, though, is how much time we spend discussing how to reach the lost? How much time in praying for the efforts of our missionaries? How much for the church calling program, if such a thing still exists anywhere? There are churches who run what they like to call “outreach” activities. They hold carnivals, bake sales, spaghetti dinners; they show movies and offer free widgets and all other sorts of things to draw people into the church. Lots of money can be spent on these outreach efforts, and lots of people give lots of time to making these efforts successful.
Would these same people be willing to pass out tracts somewhere? To witness personally, face-to-face with someone they’ve never met? Even to spend time each week going to the homes of people who have visited their church, and getting to know them? Inviting them into their own homes? Offering them Jesus Christ? Or is it easier to have dunk tanks and hot dogs?
Okay. That’s my rant for today.
After Jesus made His first statement, He said something truly shocking. He said to the Pharisees, of ALL people, that they needed to go and learn what He meant when He said “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” He was referencing at least two OldTestament scriptures: Hosea 6:6 and I Samuel 15:22. From these two passages, it is clear that what He meant was this:
I desire acts of mercy on your part rather than showy sacrifices. If your religion makes you feel and look exalted and self-righteous, and you consider yourself to be defiled by associating with sinners, then your sacrifices are just so much sound and fury. To obey is better than to sacrifice. You need to read Micah 6:8, which teaches you that I have required only that you do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with Me.
Please note that I did not type the previous words in red, because they are not Jesus’ words. They are my version of what I believe He was saying to the Pharisees. Also, He was not saying that they shouldn’t make sacrifices. He was saying that He would prefer that they be merciful to those they considered beneath them than that they should make sacrifices publicly that proclaimed how devout they were.
Jesus never said anything that was frivolous or meaningless. There is such wealth to be mined from His every word.
2 thoughts on “Mercy, not Sacrifice”
Linda, Thank you for this deeply spiritual insight about these particular verses. I deal with people from ‘both’ sides of this spectrum, and am strengthened by your spiritual wisdom.
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Thank you, Dan. I am honored to be helpful.