“Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” —Matthew 9:13
What a seemingly simple and clear command the Lord gave to the disapproving Pharisees: “go and learn.” Jesus had just called Matthew the tax collector to follow Him, which he did immediately. Then the next thing Matthew did was to throw a party for his friends to meet his new friend Jesus. This not only demonstrated his love for Jesus but also his love for his friends.
Jesus quoted a well-known Scripture in reply to the Pharisees who wondered why He would associate with those that they deemed the lowest and most sinful, especially compared to themselves. He told them that those who are sick need a doctor. He then said that they should learn what Hosea 6:6 means, what God truly wants from us: "For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."
As in those days, many today do not realize that God wants our hearts and lives to demonstrate true faith in Him by showing love and mercy to others. Genuine believers in Christ will act as He did by caring for people. This is what God intends for His children—not empty rituals that only feed the sins of pride and self-centeredness. Numerous times Jesus confronted the religious leaders, accusing them of hypocrisy and of neglecting important things like justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23). They didn’t realize that they, too, were sick and sinful, in need of the great Physician and Savior.
That’s why Jesus came: to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:5). He saved a judgmental, self-righteous Pharisee named Saul who later admitted he was the worst sinner. God used this former Pharisee (also called Paul) to proclaim this great message of salvation not only by words he preached but also by the letters he wrote that are now part of the Bible. Jesus also saved a slave ship captain, John Newton, who became a pastor, hymn writer, and composer of Amazing Grace. He is remembered for saying, “I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior.”
May we see our own hypocritical, sinful nature and recognize our need for this great Savior. May we trust His provision, His perfect sacrifice on the cross to pay for our sin, rather than trusting in our self-righteousness or religious rituals, which cannot save. We are all sinners in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23, 6:23). May we humbly acknowledge our own insufficiencies and trust Christ alone for salvation.
Lord, help us to truly learn this crucial lesson for the sake of our souls and the souls of others (Luke 15:7). Help us to understand what You desire from us, and be doers of it (James 1:22). May our faith be heartfelt and genuine (Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27), not just for ego-building or the approval of others. In addition, may our lives display the saving power of Christ in us as we show this love to others (Mark 12:31, James 1:26-27, Romans 12:9-18).
Have I recognized my own need for the Savior?
Do I genuinely love God from the heart? Does that love for God lead to showing mercy and caring for the needs of others?
What practical ways can I demonstrate love and mercy to others this week?