On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 9 : 12 – 13
This is the continuation of yesterday’s narrative, where Jesus is at Matthew’s house, and is challenged by the Pharisees as to why he chooses to eat with tax collectors and sinners.
Jesus’ different encounters with the Pharisees throughout the New Testament can leave the reader in no doubt as to their opinion of him and his opinion of them. To the Pharisees, Jesus was breaking religious rules which they held dear, whilst, to Jesus, the Pharisees had abused the Law and were blind to mercy, kindness and truth.
This short passage is another example of Jesus using very few words to bring home his point. He illustrates it with a visual image, drawing on a timeless experience that everyone can relate to – that of sickness and health – only here Jesus isn’t talking about physical health but rather about spiritual wholeness.
But he also challenges the Pharisees to return to the scriptures to understand the full meaning of what he is saying. He quotes from Hosea (6:6) – ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’. I wonder how this implied ignorance of the scriptures went down amongst the learned Pharisees!
Jesus spent his whole life reaching out to people on the margins. No matter where their past life had taken them, Jesus demonstrated that what they needed was love, mercy and forgiveness – a “way back” – rather than judgement and condemnation.
In a society that loves to bring people down (just look at the papers and social media), how can we ensure that we view people as Jesus would have done rather than as the Pharisees might have done.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you set the bar for our behaviour high! We ask you to teach us how to show kindness and mercy, even to those who are difficult to love. Help us to look always to your example and to ask for your help at times when we’re finding it tough. Amen.
Action: Find out more about the restorative justice programme.
“Restorative justice gives victims the chance to meet or communicate with their offender to explain the real impact of the crime – it empowers victims by giving them a voice. It also holds offenders to account for what they have done and helps them to take responsibility and make amends.”