INTRODUCTION to the topic and contextual background Since the start of the book of Matthew, He gives the message of God’s forgiveness of repentant sinners. Forgiveness, is the heart and soul of the Gospel message and one of the theme of Mathew’s Gospel. Last time we learned that the section we just read, is the different responses to the teaching and miracles of Jesus Christ. We learned first about the positive response , where Mathew a small mokhes, the worst of all sinners responded positively to the call of Jesus Christ. Upon submitting to Jesus, Mathew invites his friends to a banquet. In the next verses we will see another response.
II – The NEGATIVE response“When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eatingwith the tax-gatherers and sinners?” (9:11)”The response of the Pharisees was quite differentfrom Matthew’s. They were outraged that Jesus whoclaimed to uphold standards of righteousness evenhigher than their own would willingly sit down and eatwith such a sinful group. No doubt they were alsoresentful and humiliated that Jesus had never shownthem such favor. If He were really a man of God, whydid he not eat with them ? The Pharisees did notconfront Jesus head-on but instead cornered Hisdisciples. The words Why is your Teacher eatingwith the tax-gatherers and sinners? were more arebuke than a question. They not only resented thefact that Jesus constantly rebuked their system ofreligion, what really irritated them that Jesus dinedwith sinners instead of them, considering that eatingwith somebody in Bible times means identifyingyourself with that person.
II – The ARGUMENTSBut when He heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician,but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and notsacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (9:12-13)When Jesus heard this accusatory question, He answered it for the disciples. He gavethree arguments in defense of His gospel of forgiveness and reconciliationA.) The argument from human logicThe analogy is simple. Just as a physician is expected to go among people who are sick,a forgiver should be expected to go among those who are sinful. Jesus was givingHimself to those who recognized their deepest need. What sort of doctor would spend allhis time with healthy people and refuse to associate with those who are sick? “Are youdoctors,” He implied to the Pharisees, “who diagnose but have no desire to cure? Willyou tell a person what his disease is and then refuse to give him medicine for it?” He istelling them, If you are indeed spiritually healthy, you do not need a spiritual physician.On the other hand, these tax-gatherers and sinners—who you declare, and theythemselves admit, are spiritually sick—are the self-confessing sinners who need God’sway of salvation presented to them.
B.) The argument from Scriptures Jesus’ second argument was directly from Scripture. “Go and learn,” He said,“what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice.’“ The phrase go andlearn was commonly used in rabbinic writings to rebuke those who did not know whatthey should have known. Jesus used the Pharisees’ own most honored authorities torebuke them. Jesus here quotes the prophet Hosea, through whom God said, “I delightin loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings”(Hos. 6:6). Jesus was saying it is God’s word that you should be concerned about notthe words of men and His Word calls you to be merciful and forgiving, not judgmentaland condemning. It is interesting also that Jesus quotes from the prophet Hosea. The story ofGomer’s unfaithfulness to her husband Hosea was a living illustration of Israel’s ownunfaithfulness to God; and Hosea’s continuing love and forgiveness of Gomer was apicture of the continuing love and forgiveness God offered Israel. God had instituted thesacrificial system, and when offerings were made to Him in a spirit of humility, penitence,and reverence, they were pleasing to Him. But when offered insincerely and in a spirit ofself-righteousness and self-satisfaction, they became an abomination. God is neverpleased with religious routine and activity that does not come from sincere love ofHim and of other people. (Amos 5:21 to 24)
C.) The argument from his own authorityJesus defended His work on the basis of His own authority:I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Hegladly associated and identified sinners, because they arethe ones who needed Him. The person who is sinful butthinks he is righteous shuts himself out from God’s mercy,because he refuses to acknowledge his need of it.Kale (to call) was often used of inviting a guest to one’shome for food and lodging. The inference here is clear.Jesus did not come to call the self-righteous to salvation forthe same reason He did not call the Pharisees to reclinewith Him at the dinner in Matthew’s house because theythink they are too righteous. The kingdom of God is forthe spiritually sick who want to be healed, thespiritually corrupt who want to be cleansed, thespiritually poor who want to be rich, the spirituallyhungry who want to be fed, the spiritually dead whowant to be made alive. It is for ungodly outcasts wholong to become God’s own beloved children.