Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 9:13b “. . .I will have mercy, and not sacrifice:. . .”
Jesus here quotes Hosea 6:6, where God indicates He prefers mercy over sacrifice. Mercy entails compassion seeking to lift those who have fallen into misery. Sacrifice, the main part of ceremonial law, signified literal adherence to religious rituals. God is more concerned to see mercy shown than sacrifices offered.
The Pharisees were fanatics about religious ritual and ceremony. Jesus sought to convince them their own Scriptures indicated love outweighs ritualism.
This does not mean we should do away with all rituals. Jesus ordered us to baptize (MT 28:19) and to observe the Lord’s Supper (LK 22:19). The New Testament also tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (HB 10:25).
We need religious rituals, but Our Master here taught us they have meaning only if they spring from proper inner feelings. Mechanical formalism is useless.
Apart from a merciful heart, no ritual ever pleases God. No religious ceremony known to man can compensate for a lack of loving deeds. False religion always substitutes ceremony for compassion, and emphasizes ritual above mercy.
Without loving deeds for people, religious liturgy for God is dead ritualism. Christianity without kindness is worthless. God wants our faith to direct itself not only toward Him, but also toward people, the creatures He loves above all others.
Religious rituals, rightly performed, do please God, but mercy imitates Him, and imitation is the highest compliment our service can offer Him. God is love, and we are never more like Him than when we do loving deeds for others. Ritual helps me, one individual, but mercy extended from me helps multiplied many.
The Pharisees had a false notion of what pleased God. Jesus was telling them to get past the letter of the law in order to learn what the heart of God is like.
They thought they knew the Bible, but in reality did not understand the God revealed in their own writings. It is possible to know the word of God without knowing the God of the word. Let us beware this error. How is it with us and God? Is friendship flowing, is intimacy growing, is the love stronger than ever?
Matt. 9:13c “. . .for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to
Having answered the Pharisees with logic and Scripture, Jesus now pulled out His God-given job description. Why does He help sinners? Because His Father loves sinners and commissioned the Son to nurse them to spiritual health.
Jesus existed before He was conceived in the virgin’s womb. In eternity past, before time began, each Person of the Trinity accepted an assigned task with regard to our race, to creatures not yet created. The never created, everlasting, only begotten Son of God knew His mission was the redemption of sinners. Once He reached earth, He kept to His orders and acted according to His official capacity.
Jesus knew His God-given role and stayed within its limits. There is power in knowing our role in life and doing the God-given responsibilities assigned to it.
Moses weathered forty years of stormy leadership over a rebellious, wandering people. He stayed to the task assigned him at the burning bush–lead Israel to Canaan. Moses did his duty and thus became the Old Testament’s brightest star.
John the Baptist stayed to his task. He was not Messiah, but a voice to herald the coming of One whose sandals John felt unworthy to loose. John knew his place and stayed in it. Jesus therefore declared him history’s second greatest man.
Do we know the God-given parameters for our roles? Husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, employer, employee–success comes from staying within the God-given responsibilities for each of these roles. Learn what the Bible teaches about them. Know your liberties, know your limits. Otherwise, you will fail.
In our role as a Christian, power comes from fulfilling our Bible-prescribed threefold assignment: to God, holiness; to the church, exercising a spiritual gift; to the lost, fulfilling the Great Commission. How is our holiness? Don’t make the common mistake of spending more time in praying about where to live than about how to live. How is our spiritual gift? Some spend more time honing their job skills than in practicing and perfecting their spiritual gift. Many Christians do not know what their spiritual gift is. Unwilling to invest time in taking on tasks at church, they exclude themselves from the trial and error method required to find their niche. How are we with the Great Commission? Some are more concerned about where they should work than about witnessing to everyone they work with.
Spiritual success comes from knowing these three roles and fulfilling them with exact precision. To do otherwise is a prescription for mediocrity or disaster.
Many Christians spend more time praying about secondary matters, things not spelled out in Scripture and thus left to our own discretion, than about these three primary matters which the Bible obviously reveals are God’s will for us. Why should God reveal more of His will to us when we are lackadaisical about the will He has already revealed to us? Do pray about details of which we are uncertain, but even while we place these before God, let’s spend most of our prayer time seeking His anointing power to do those duties prescribed for certain in Scripture.
Jesus succeeded because He knew what He was about. Paul rightly interpreted Christ’s mission, “Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 TM 1:15). To win, Jesus stayed on target. He kept the main thing (sinners) the main thing.
Jesus could not help the self-righteous. They placed themselves outside His prescribed mission. Christ still cannot help the self-righteous, people who “will sooner be sick of their Savior, than sick of their sins” (Henry). Most sinners love their sins more than they love Jesus. They pay Him lip-service as having been a good role model and great teacher, but scoff at the notion they need a Savior.
The self-righteous believe they are good enough to earn Heaven. They plan to spend eternity crowing about their own goodness, but there will be no roosters in Heaven. All who enter Heaven will go there knowing their robe is white because Jesus’ is red (RV 19:13-14). His blood purchased our pardon. Jesus is not our best hope of going to Heaven, He is our only hope. He not only opened Heaven’s door, He is the door (JN 10:9). He is not one way to Heaven, He is the only way. He clearly stated, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (JN 14:6).
The self-righteous are left out, but sinners conscious of their sin find Jesus a friend indeed. Our text comforts burdened souls. We never want this sentence removed from the Bible. It’s a bright star of hope in the dark sky of fallen humanity.
Trumpet the note of good cheer. Jesus loves sinners. I fear we haven’t done well on this theme in recent years. Pharisees saw Jesus as a friend of sinners. Sinners now see Jesus as a friend of Pharisees. We must undo this false perception.
Tell it loud and clear, the more sensitive we are to our sins, the more welcome we are to Christ, and the more precious He becomes to us. Jesus is the Great Physician, and His greatest healing is conscious, perceived, felt forgiveness of sin.
Everyone likes to go where they are wanted, to be with folks who like them. Sinner, Jesus wants you to come to Him. He desires to forgive and receive you.
Jesus, too, wants to go where He is welcome, to be with people who want Him. Are you one of these? Do you want Him? Will you make Him welcome?