I was reading a story this morning of a man named Matthew. Matthew has an unplanned (on his part) encounter with a man who enters a situation that some people thought may not be appropriate. Some interesting things take place in what happens next.
In the story, this man, Jesus, tells Matthew to “follow me” and Matthew does so (seemingly without hesitation).
We’ve seen this command and action be repeated at certain moments in the larger story we take this excerpt from. Some people follow, and some have other things to take care of first which usually seems to mean that they missed the bigger point of the words “follow me”. Matthew seemed to be tuned in.
We are then taken to Matthew’s house and there is a crowd having dinner together. This gathering is composed of ‘tax collectors and sinners’ and somehow the religious establishment has also made its way to Matthew’s house (not sure if they were invited or not). The religious establishment seeing what is happening puts out this challenge to Jesus…
Why does (this man) eat with tax collectors and sinners?
This is an interesting position to take by the religious establishment as their question seems to asked from a far. Why from a far? They don’t seem to be able to engage with dinner party because of their ighteousness. However, the man they seek to question appears to be completely at rest in this situation.
Jesus hears of their question and responds with an analogy of a doctor coming to heal the sick and not the righteous, and then He says this…
“Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’
Mercy is defined as leniency and compassion shown towards offenders. It is a disposition to be kind and forgiving. It is a feeling that motivates compassion.
Sacrifice is the act of losing or surrendering something as a penalty for a mistake or fault. It is the act of killing an animal in order to propitiate a god.
These are two very different postures.
Why is it that Jesus does not then explain the difference at this point? He actually does the opposite and say and “go and learn.” Why is this?
Is it because..
…maybe mercy is an outward movement and sacrifice is an inward movement?
…maybe mercy is learned by doing and sacrifice is done because of something I’ve done or not done.
…maybe where mercy exists, the need for sacrifice on my part diminishes?
…maybe mercy is more important that sacrifice?
…maybe once the sacrifice has been offered, if we aren’t moved to mercy we may have missed something?