10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13
Matthew is one of those selected by the Spirit of God to write about the events surrounding the life of Jesus Christ. His account of the actions and teachings of our Lord is filled with lessons we can learn and make application to us whose lives are 2,000 years later.
In the story from the middle part of Matthew 9, Jesus sees Matthew, the local tax collector, sitting at his desk, busily doing what tax collectors do. But something different was about to interrupt Matthew's tax collecting. Jesus spoke to him and said, "Follow me." The next thing we know Matthew walks away from his tax collecting duties and follows Jesus.
Look closely at verse 10 as the scene moves to Matthew's house and Jesus is also there having dinner. Not only that, but there were many tax collector and other sinners stopping by to eat. Then the Pharisees took notice and started questioning Jesus' disciples about his new association with the despised tax collectors and sinners.
Jesus hears the questions and makes an interesting answer. Read verses 12 and 13 again. "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Go learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
The first part which Jesus answered is easy to understand. We can know how foolish it would be for healthy people to seek a doctor. On the other hand, sick people need doctoring. But the second part of his answer might need some deeper thinking. I think we can assume the Pharisees didn't bother with going to learn the meaning of Jesus' statement. Mercy? Sacrifice? Nor could they fully
comprehend the closing statement, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
The Pharisees were the self-appointed police of truth, but Jesus has thrown them a curve with his answers. They knew the law had plenty to say about sacrifices. Jesus is actually trying to get them to see, even greater than their sacrifices, is something called mercy.
So Jesus wants us to know, too, that his mission is not directed to those who consider themselves spiritually healthy, like the Pharisees, but to those who suffer in spiritual sickness. Also, we can learn that no matter how much we feel we sacrifice for God, he desires us to show mercy. He didn't come to call those whose self-righteousness seemed sufficient, but sinners.
I suffer from spiritual weakness but I am glad he calls me to spiritual power. And yes, I am a sinner and I am glad Jesus doesn't call the righteous, but sinners.