Desiring Mercy, not Sacrifice

Matthew 9:1

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

It’s interesting to me that Jesus associates faith with forgiveness. Jesus “saw their faith” and declared that his sins were forgiven.

I think it’s key to see here that forgiveness of sins happens through faith. It happens when we believe, not when we do something or obey certain rules. It happens through faith.

Matthew 9:10

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.

I love this picture of Jesus. Surrounded by him were sinners. Think about it for a moment–what was it about Jesus that drew these sinful people to him? They were obviously filled with shame and guilt for their sins. Maybe even some of them were hardened in their hearts because of sin. Yet, they constantly wanted to be around him. They were drawn to him. Why?

I believe sinners were drawn to Christ because of his grace. He exuded grace. It flavored everything he did and said. There was no shame in his eyes, in his body language, in his words. He just loved people for who they were, caring for them deeply. He knew sin was destructive, but he knew they were wounded, broken, shamed people who needed an answer that “religion” was not giving them. So, people were drawn to him. Sinners wanted to be around him. They longed for those days that Jesus would come to their city and spend time with them.

This is my challenge to myself–do sinners enjoy hanging out with me? Do I speak shame with my body language, with my eyes, with my actions or with my words? I hope not. I want to love sinners as Christ loved them. And not just those superficial “Christian sins” like watching rated R movies and eating too much. I want to love sinners, those people crippled and bound by sin.

Matthew 9:11-13

And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

When the religious people complained that he was hanging out with sinners, their religion couldn’t be silent. They had to complain, “Why does your teacher eat with sinners?” Funny how religion does that.

I love the irony of Jesus’ words, “Those how are well have no need of a physician…” If anyone needed Christ, it was the religious people. They were sicker than the sinners because of their expectations and condemnation of others. They could not receive grace. They had to do stuff to please God.

Jesus told them to go learn what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice”. That word mercy can also be translated compassion. Jesus did not call the people to sacrifice. Sacrifice is doing things as required by the law, for your relationship with God. But mercy and compassion are about people, for your relationship with others.

Religion often focuses on what we can do for God, and mercy focuses on what we can do for people. A church that rejects a homosexual from attending is more focused on ‘sacrifice’ than ‘mercy’. A church that excommunicates a member who is getting a divorce is more focused on ‘sacrifice’ than ‘compassion’. And, even if ‘sinners’ are allowed in church, they are often rejected by the attitude of its members. It’s really sad. God has called us to love people, and we should love them as God loves us.

Matthew 9:16-17

No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.

I’ve heard commentators say that this scripture is comparing the old covenant (old garment and wineskins) with the new (unshrunk cloth and new wineskins). I can see where they get that, but it seems odd being right in the middle of a comment on fasting. Maybe the comparison is with the bridegroom, and trying to compare this presence with the presence of the religious people around him.

One Response to “Desiring Mercy, not Sacrifice”

  1. Mitsui44 January 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

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