Sandi, I haven’t forgotten about the verse you happened upon on Wednesday, but I’m going to put it off for at least a day. I let my own fingers do the walking, and chance & providence have tonight led me to Matthew 9:9–13.
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
10And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:9–13
Just glancing across the pages of my Bible at this point, it’s very apparent that not only had Jesus been very busy, but He has been very public. Check out some of these headlines:
- Jesus Cleanses a Leper
- Jesus Heals Many
- Jesus Calms a Storm
- Jesus Heals Two Demon-Possessed Men
- Jesus Heals a Paralytic
And just prior to all of that, He gave the sermon that ought to be the bedrock of our lives, the chapter-spanning, life-altering Sermon on the Mount.
At the start of our passage, Jesus calls Matthew, and a short while later He’s kickin’ back around a table with His disciples.
Before long, other people started to show up… Sinners, no less, and tax collectors.
The Pharisees were riled.
“If this man is so great, what’s he doing hanging around with those people?”
“Ha! Some teacher he is! Doesn’t he know where she was last night?”
“How could he possibly eat with such scum! Well, that proves his claims must be false. There’s no way my messiah would sully his good name like this!”
But Jesus had already touched the leper, and the sickness departed him. He reached out to the unclean and was unaffected, untainted by the disease.
And He’s here doing it again.
This time it isn’t the leprous that He’s reaching and touching, it’s the sinners. It’s the people that the religious elite were too good to worry about.
Jesus happens to catch wind of what the Pharisees are saying about Him, and without missing a beat, He responds.
He tells them that those who are well have no need of a doctor, and as He is apt to do, He quotes a passage which these religious leaders ought to know well:
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6
The Pharisees had that sacrificing thing down. When it came to the letter of the law, why, they couldn’t be beat.
And if going through the motions was enough, the Pharisees were on top of the world.
Yet it wasn’t. It never has been.
If you think you are a good person, you are wrong. Jesus made it plain when He said, “No one is good except God alone.” ((Mark 10:18.)) I’m not good. You’re not good.
And if you think you’re good, you’re in the same predicament as the Pharisees.
You see, Jesus came to save sinners, not the righteous; if you think you are doing all right or that you’re good enough to go to Heaven, how will you ever turn to Christ as your Savior?
That’s an important question when you consider that no one has access to the Father or to Heaven except by Jesus Christ; again, he says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ((John 14:6.))
The Pharisees did not want to be saved for they did not believe themselves to be sinners in the eyes of God.
Many today cast their lots with the Pharisees in this regard. We live in an age where moral relativism has swept across society, including into many churches; in an age where right & wrong are no longer absolute, can anyone be considered a sinner? ((The answer, of course, is no. Moral relativism has no absolutes and thus all actions are ultimately meaningless.))
The sad fact of the matter is that we are all sinners, and if you realize that, then you should instead cast your lots with the sinners and tax collectors which reclined at the table with the Savior. Realize your need for salvation, repent of your sins, and believe in Jesus Christ.
All the good you could ever do will not be enough to merit your entrance into Heaven; it is only through Christ that there is such entrance. Only in Jesus is there forgiveness of sins, and only in Him is there perfect righteousness.
Something which has helped me understand all of this more deeply is to meditate on Psalm 51. The psalmist pours his heart out to God in this song of belief.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
built up the walls of Jerusalem;
19then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar. Psalm 51