Go and Learn What This Means

We are probably all familiar with Matthew 9. The pharisees in all their blind pharisee-ness asked why Jesus was eating with sinners. We can all roll our eyes here, but Jesus didn’t. He wouldn’t even roll His eyes at us if (when) we said it today. Instead, His answer blows me away still.

Jesus told the pharisees that He had come for the sick, not the healthy, in verse 12. But then the part that gets me is verse 13, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” He wants us to show love and kindness instead of proving how holy and perfect we sometimes think we are.

There was an assignment given to Jesus’ listeners and us today: “Go and learn what this means.” He knew we wouldn’t get this right and that it would take a lifetime of trial and error. He knew then, like He knows now, that we are slow learners. We try to do the right thing and be an example of virtue. We get caught up in trying so hard that we lose sight of helping those who need us. We essentially tell them, “Hold on, Imma going to get to your problem as soon as I show God and all you people how great I am.” Sometimes we deny ourselves thinking it makes us more holy when what would have more impact would be to reach out.

The best part of this is that it is never too late to start doing good. Even if we got off on the wrong track and only worked on getting our own house in order, we still have time to eat with “sinners.” Even if we ignored everyone’s needs around us because those vacations weren’t going to deny themselves, God is patient with us. There is plenty of room for living a good life AND bringing food to a hurting neighbor.

I’ll be honest. If I were Jesus, I probably would have blasted us off the earth by now. I’d rip off my sunglasses and throw them across the room. (Not sure why I picture myself needing sunglasses, but I do. So they’re in the scenario.) I would pick up my nearest Bible and thumb through all the verses and passages that spell out what is asked of people. I’d mumble to myself how I just want them to love me and love each other. I requested for people to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with me. I would want them to not judge others’ sins as worse than their own and instead tell those people what I have done in their lives. I would want them to invite people who are different than them over to their houses so they could find all the ways they are the same. But no, Jesus keeps giving us chances to catch on.

So, we are here another day. Why? To keep learning what Jesus meant when He said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” He would rather compassion than a pretty life. He wants us to step into someone else’s shoes and not shine our own. When we mess this up, the important thing is to try again. And again. Never stop trying to get love right.

Linking with Holley Gerth

11 thoughts on “Go and Learn What This Means

  1. That is a curious statement he makes, isn’t it? I agree with you, that we’re continually learning how he wants us to live and that he gives us a new start with each new day. So thankful for his mercy towards me.

  2. Isn’t it interesting — and challenging! — that it’s our heart that matters more to Jesus than our actions. How great are His mercy and grace in this area, too!

  3. I’ve never really thought about that phrase “go and learn what this means” before but it’s a great reminder to be intentional. We can always get better at showing love and mercy.

  4. Sarah, I’m truly grateful that God gives us grace to learn and to grow to be more like Jesus. As I read, I thought about Romans 8:29 which talks about how God is conforming us into the image of Jesus. The sooner we begin to look beyond ourselves and begin looking to and showing mercy to those around us, the more clearly we will reflect God and His love for His creation.

    Great post!

  5. Sarah,
    The ways of God are so mysterious, aren’t they? We can’t quite grasp why he loves us and extends grace to us even though we don’t deserve it, but he does . . . and we have to emulate Jesus’ example to others. It’s a lifetime of pondering passages like these and still not completely understand the depth and breadth of his love! xo

  6. Thank you for this reminder today. These words of Jesus have been challenging me. I am actually using Matthew 9:9-13 as the focus of my dissertation, in an attempt to rediscover Jesus’ call for the Church and challenge myself and others to fall in love with people outside the church walls. I saved this blog as a reference.

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