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“As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he arose and followed Him.” (Matthew 9:9)

We know that Jesus did as He saw His Father doing.

“Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.’” (John 5:19)

Whenever Jesus did as He saw His Father doing He was modeling obedience. The day He approached Matthew, a hated tax collector, He obeyed His Father and did as He was shown to do: He told Matthew to follow Him.

When Matthew got up and followed Jesus, he was obeying Jesus.

Imagine that. The VERY first act Matthew performed while in relationship with Jesus was to obey Him.

May that be our lifestyle in Christ.

“Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.” (Matthew 9:10)

The very first disciples of Jesus most likely shared the popular opinion that tax collectors and other “low life” people were to be shunned.

The truth was that when Jesus walked the earth EVERYONE but

Jesus was a sinner.

“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23)

These people sitting with Jesus and His disciples were considered to be “sinners” by those who thought themselves not to be sinners because they had a man-made standard by which they measured themselves and others. Since they each individually built their own standard of measure they conveniently felt good about themselves but, as so many do to this day, looked down on others they considered to be beneath themselves.

Jesus did not care about their ungodly way to evaluate themselves and others. He chose to sit and eat a meal with them anyway and was teaching his very first disciples something about what matters to God.

Even today there are religious people who will question the people of God about what they do in obedience to their Father in heaven.

Some of these will be adherents to accepted religions. Some will consider themselves to be atheists.

They will all be religious “pharisees” nonetheless.

“And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” (Matthew 9:11)

Notice that these self-righteous people did not ask Jesus this question. Why is that?

There are two reasons that seem evident to me:

1) They did not feel confident enough to butt heads with Jesus so they asked His disciples.

2) They were trying to cast doubt in the hearts of the disciples about Jesus and His leadership.

Satan tries to do that to this day. He will ask us questions about Jesus and His direction in our lives that are designed to get us to doubt Him.

Let’s choose to resist that. Let’s be “wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16b) and not fall for that tactic.

Jesus is, as always, listening as the Pharisees ask the disciples this question.

“When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.’” (Matthew 9:12)

The truth is, since “all sin and fall short of the glory of God”, that all humans are sick. However, only those who are humble enough to admit that outside of Jesus they are sick will come to Him for healing, freedom, deliverance, restoration.

Jesus and His disciples were sitting with the outcasts that day because they would receive Him for what they needed from Him.

Then He tells the Pharisees to go do some homework.

“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Matthew 9:13)

By the time Jesus came to walk on the earth the leaders of the Jews had mechanized the relationship the people had with God. To them, it was virtually all about the works of sacrificing to God.

The very first sacrifice of an animal because of man’s sin was done by God Himself.

“Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them. “ (Genesis 3:21)

It cost God something to kill that animal but it was necessary.

Through that shedding of blood God instituted a mindset that associated sacrifice with sin – an association that would culminate with Jesus being that very sacrifice.

All this was meant to display God’s compassion for us.

Yet, over the years between Adam and this day with Jesus sat with sinners to eat a meal that message of compassion was lost in the day to day works of sacrifice in the Tabernacle and then in the Temple in Jerusalem.

When the Pharisees, who were supposed to represent God to the people, displayed such blatant lack of compassion for those who needed God’s mercy Jesus told them to go and learn something.

He did not tell them to “remember” what God desires mercy and not sacrifice meant. He told them to go “learn” what it meant.

This is because they never knew it at all.

The word He used for “learn” is a Greek word that means to

“discover and fully understand.”

When He told them that He was quoting from the prophet Hosea.

“For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)

We aren’t sure that any of the Pharisees ever obeyed Jesus and did that. After all, they were not submitted to Him at all. I suspect they did not go learn what that meant.

Let us who are immersed in a culture, even in the Church, that so often cares about doing things for God (and ourselves) make sure that we understand what Jesus means.

“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Matthew 9:13)

God isn’t nearly as interested in our sacrifices (time, money, works) as we tend to think He is.

What He REALLY cares about is mercy.

That word translated as “mercy” is the Greek word “eleos”. It means “compassion” which is a “sympathetic consciousness of other’s distress together with a desire to alleviate it” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary.)

Our current world is filled with people who see themselves as being loving because they “feel” emotions about the pain of others but never do anything to relieve them of their need, their pain, their loss.

This is not compassion. This is just emotionalism and often if accomplishes nothing but making the emotional person feel good about himself.

Jesus is the embodiment of true compassion.

“Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.” (Luke 7:11-15)

Jesus saw a mother’s pain. He felt sympathy for her. He desired to alleviate her pain. He raised her son from the dead and her pain evaporated.

Jesus had compassion.

Jesus IS compassion.

Jesus felt what that mother felt.

In Mathew 9:13 Jesus told the Pharisees….and is telling us now: “go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’”

As we learn what that means we will join Jesus in His compassion for others. When they hurt….so will He….and so will we.

This is what the Apostle Paul was speaking of when he told us this:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

Some of us have prayed the following prayer, inspired by the writings of Paul:

“I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11 NIV)

Let us seek Jesus and His compassion. Let’s allow Him to teach us about real mercy and compassion.

“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9)

Pastor Mike McInerney

Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.

© May 2, 2016

(for use with permission)

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