Read: Matthew 9
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)
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)
The Pharisees did not understand why Jesus had come. He was going about as a rabbi, calling people to be his disciples with the words, “Follow me” (9:9). Yet this Jesus was not selective, not discriminating in his choice of disciples as other rabbis must have been. Jesus called Matthew, a tax collector – a greedy Roman collaborator, the Pharisees probably thought – to follow him. The crowds who heard Jesus preach and saw him heal were filled with awe (9:7). If Jesus was setting himself up as a Rabbi among rabbis, why was he choosing a tax collector to be his disciple, then eating with Matthew’s notorious, deplorable associates?
The answer lay in Jesus’ mission. Jesus was there to help, so he met with those needing his help.
In response to the criticism of the Pharisees, Jesus quoted Hosea, who prophesied to an unrepentant people, to show that God values mercy (help for the helpless) above religious artifice. But Jesus’ rebuke was even more pointed than the obvious point that the Pharisees were unmerciful and unrepentant and in need of his help. He told the Pharisees to go and study this passage from Hosea.
If the Pharisees had gone to the writings of Hosea, they would learn that the passage called God’s people to acknowledge him:
“Let us acknowledge the LORD;
Let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains.” (Hosea 6:3)
The LORD had appeared, he had come to them: like winter rain for a parched land, like a doctor to the desperately ill, like a rabbi to the untaught rabble. The LORD had come to offer mercy and the Pharisees were too self-righteous, too enmeshed in their interpretation of the Law to acknowledge the God who fulfilled that Law.
I go to the Scriptures to learn to acknowledge God.
LORD God Almighty,
I acknowledge you. You are God. Father, Son and Spirit. You are the LORD, the I AM, Yahweh.
I acknowledge Jesus Christ. I accept he exists and admit he is true.
I also acknowledge that I am a sinner in need of Jesus to justify me.
Thank you that Jesus called Matthew to be his disciple. Thank you for calling me to be Jesus’ disciple also.
May I follow Jesus as I read, reflect on and respond to the words Matthew wrote about his rabbi. May I learn, as Matthew learned, to acknowledge my God, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, my Saviour.
May I, like Matthew, open my house with hospitality so that others may come and meet Jesus and learn to acknowledge him as God.