10 Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 “But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The Jewish way of paying homage to God and pleasing Him was through sacrifices. The Old Testament has books written upon the different kinds of sacrifices, their purpose, and when they should be performed. Yet they had lost the point. It wasn’t about the sacrifice, but their love of God and the love of another. The sacrifices were designed for cleansing as propitiation for their sins so they could be close to God, not to make Him happy. What made Him happy was loving Him with all their heart and loving others as much as they love themselves. Have we forgotten this too? In Hosea 6, a book of “The Prophets” which the Pharisees should have known very well, we see what Jesus was referring to:
6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. 7 Like Adam, they have broken the covenant– they were unfaithful to me there.
We continue to think that bodily purification is the answer. We are focused so much on the physical that we neglect the spiritual. Jesus wants our hearts to be purified with the love of God, not our outward appearance to be religious. The Pharisees were ridiculing Him because of the people He was hanging out with but He was there because of His love and compassion towards them. They needed His help and clearly the Pharisees didn’t want His help. They didn’t recognize their spiritual depravity. The tax collectors and sinners had accomplished the first beatitude: recognizing they needed help to be holy. The Pharisees were walking around with parts of their bodies missing but ignored that they needed help.
Which side do we fit in? Are we trying to spend time with Jesus because of our depravity or have we ignored Him because we think we don’t need Him? Our self-righteousness prevents us from growing closer to Him. Our pride gets in the way and instead of recognizing we are just as bad as the sinners, we stand as haughty Pharisees judging not only the sinners but Jesus as well. Who do we think we are? We think we are our own god (whether you can admit it or not). Here’s a secret: the closer we grow to Jesus, the more we will realize we need Him. If you have been distancing yourself from Him, for whatever reason, stop it today and take a step closer. You will be surprised what you learn.