While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus Came to Call Sinners
The Pharisees did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. They didn’t accept him as the one God had promised to rescue them from sin’s curse and deliver them from their enemy Satan. As proof of their position, they pointed to Jesus’ activity of dining with people of ill-reputation (tax collectors) and eating with those whose lifestyle opposed God’s law (“sinners”). Their logic was that if Jesus is God, he would know what kind of people he was associating with and avoid them.
Jesus responded to his unbelieving critics, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” The Pharisees considered themselves spiritually healthy because they strived to live good and obedient lives before God. They didn’t think they needed Jesus for spiritual healing to save them. So Jesus told them that he couldn’t help them because they wouldn’t admit that they were sick with sin. However, Jesus made it clear that he was glad to minister to those who admit their guilt and look to him as their only hope for salvation.
Jesus quotes God’s word recorded in Hosea’s prophecy, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Salvation from the condemnation we deserve as sinners doesn’t come by sacrifices that we make—by good things that we strive to do and wrong things we seek to avoid. Not at all! Rather, rescue from the curse of sin comes only by everything Jesus has done for us. The “mercy” that God desires is to sincerely admit that we are sinners and trust Jesus alone for full forgiveness of sins and free salvation from eternal death.
Jesus came to call sinners. That’s me. That’s you. He is our Savior!
Help me realize, dear Jesus, that I am sick with sin. Open my eyes to see you as my Savior and my heart to put my complete trust in you for salvation. Then open up my mouth to speak your praises for all your great goodness. Amen.
This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.