9 And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Note the difference between the Pharisees and Jesus.The Pharisees were close enough to hurl insults and to criticize but never close enough to help.That's what happens when we are all about religion and not about relationship. We find fault. We want the sin problem healed, but we want nothing to do with the healing. Sacrifice, according to Strong's Concordance, has both "sacrifice" and "victim" as its definition. Religion requires a victim, and to the religious, that victim is the very one needing mercy. Therefore, the Pharisees, who considered themselves DOCTORS of the law, refused to treat the sickness of sin. Why? Because they themselves were sin-sick. (Romans 3:10 "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.") Religion alone maintains sin-disease. Its rituals and obligations have no life, no regenerating power. But Jesus came that we might have life (John 10:10). Consequently, relationship calls us to mercy, which according to Strong's Concordance is "kindness and goodness toward the miserable with the desire to help." The life Jesus has given us begins with mercy. As a result, relationship that grows from mercy extends mercy. Mercy did not require Jesus to become a sinner or a tax collector. It motivated him to be available and to touch sinners and tax collectors, offering something more than what they had. First, He called Matthew from collecting taxes to a new place of spiritual revelation.Then, it is likely that Matthew's testimony drew the crowd--a crowd who were like Matthew had been; a crowd who knew that Matthew was no longer what he had been; a crowd who were expecting change. It was among these that Jesus SAT DOWN. He didn't go harassing the people, He simply made Himself available to those who wanted to approach Him, available for those who wanted to know more. (Unlike the Pharisees who STOOD, hovering and pecking like vultures, just waiting for death.) Relationship with Jesus replicates Jesus. It declares, "Feel free to come close and see." It offers healing to those sick of sin, just like Jesus did to us. It sits down, invites to come close; it communes, partaking of the same table of mercy; it offers help, the sharing of the LIFE we have within. It says, "What Jesus did for me, He will do for you."
Tip/Tidbit: Do you remember where Jesus found you and bid you to follow Him? Do you treasure that moment and want to share the forgiveness and life you have in Him, or do you prefer to guard your "righteousness" thereby withholding healing from others? How might you encourage someone to come close and to experience the mercy Jesus extends to us all?