Verse of the Day Devotion Matthew 9:13 

“But go and learn what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Matthew 9:13 

This verse is part of the story where Matthew was called by Jesus to be one of His disciples.  “And as Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man, called Matthew, sitting in the tax office; and He said to him, “Follow Me! And he rose and followed Him.” Matthew 9:9. There appears to have been no hesitation from Matthew in making this decision for it says he got right up and followed.  In fact, Luke tells us that Matthew left everything behind to follow Him. “And he left everything behind and rose and began to follow Him.” Luke 5:28.

After Jesus called him, Matthew invited Jesus and His disciples to his home for dinner. The length of time between Matthew’s call and the dinner mentioned here is not specified in the text, but it was likely a short time span. And more people showed up to attend. “And it happened that as He was reclining at the table in the house, behold many tax-gatherers and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples.” Matthew 9:10. These were probably friends and colleagues of Matthew who were also invited to the dinner. Tax collectors would likely be unacceptable to the Pharisees due not only to their deserved reputation for extortion but also to their frequent associations with Gentiles. The term ‘sinners’ designates those whose behavior was egregiously ungodly, but from the Pharisaic perspective it may also include those who did not observe the traditional interpretations of the scriptures on such matters as ritual purity, food laws, and Sabbath observance.

Now, the Pharisees thought this to be unacceptable, so they questioned it. “And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax-gatherers and sinners?” Matthew 9:11. The attitude of the Pharisees was one of disgust. In essence, their attitude was such that their intended question was probably, “Why is your Teacher eating with such scum?” Now, when Jesus heard this, He immediately answers them with an analogy, even though the question was not addressed directly to Him. “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” Matthew 9:12. Jesus is associating sin with  disease. Metaphorically and proverbially speaking, the sinners with whom he associated with were “ill” and needed help. Jesus takes a humble illustration from ordinary life, where it is the sick, not the well, who need medical help.

Next, we come to our focus verse. “But go and learn what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:13. First, he tells the Pharisees to look at Hosea so they can truly understand what it means. He is not telling them to go away, but to think about what He means.  Then He proceeds to quote the prophet Hosea from the Old Testament.  “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6. This is what He was saying they did not understand.  Jesus used the word ‘compassion’ rather than loyalty, but when looking at the Hebrew for this word, it can mean ‘goodness’ and ‘kindness’, which is basically compassion. The Pharisees would have understood this. But then He goes further to say, “for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:13b.

The Pharisees presumed they were good enough because they believed they kept the letter of the law.  That they followed all the rituals and deeds that they believed God required of them, and this was adequate to attain eternal life. The prophets did not want to abolish the sacrificial system but to reform it by stressing inner purity over ritual purity. Jesus’ final words apply the metaphorical language to the reality of his mission—the ‘healthy’ are those who think they are righteous, like the Pharisees, and the ‘sick’ are those who realize that they need Jesus’ ‘medicine.’ It is to this second group that Jesus was sent, and he called them to repentance. And this is what we are called to do. “And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15. There should be no one we consider  unworthy of hearing the truth and having the opportunity to repent and receive salvation. The Pharisees believed they were just fine. The tax collectors and sinners did not, and therefore Jesus spent His time with them.  We must always be ready to present the gospel, no matter who it is.  If we speak to them the truth of the gospel, we have done what He desires us to do.  But if we choose not to because we do not want to associate with them, then we are not. We must be humble and go to all with the medicine of the gospel. Let’s make doing our best to reach the lost our goal in this life.  iz

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries. 

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