Devotional: ‘For I Am Not Come to Call the Righteous, But Sinners to Repentance’


Matthew 9:9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. 10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” NKJV

The title ‘Pharisee’ meant “separated ones.” The Pharisees believed that in order to be righteous, you must separate yourself as much as possible from anything or anyone that was sinful. Therefore, because of this, they could not understand why Jesus, who was supposed to be a righteous man, would associate with such sinful people.

I have often thought about what the Lord must have witnessed as He spent time with men like Matthew and his friends. Throughout the gospels we read of ‘tax collectors and sinners’ or ‘tax collectors and harlots’; therefore, an evening in Matthew’s home must have been an eye-opening experience. Though perhaps a change was beginning to happen in Matthew’s life, there is no reason to believe that it had yet affected his friends. They came to the party with the same mindset as usual and sitting in the midst of them was Jesus.

Why did Jesus put Himself in such an awkward situation? Why did He tolerate things that must have displeased Him? He did this because He loved people. In response to the Pharisees’ accusations, Jesus quoted the prophet Hosea, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6 NKJV) The Pharisees were quick to follow the letter of the Law such as offering burnt offerings or making sacrifices, but they were slow to demonstrate the heart of God which was to have mercy on those in need.

Jesus then said to the Pharisees, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” The room where Jesus was sitting was full of sick people. They were not sick physically, but spiritually. Jesus viewed their sinfulness as a spiritual disease for which He had come to cure. One wonders what eventually happened to many of those individuals there that evening. Did they continue in their sinful lifestyles, or did they experience a spiritual healing? We know that Matthew became a disciple and an apostle and eventually was used by God to write a portion of the Bible. Perhaps we will one day meet in heaven many others who were there that day.

Our passage closes with a very important statement: “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Perhaps this could be retranslated to say, “I did not come to call those who think they are righteous, but those who realize that they are sinful and in need of forgiveness.”

Until we meet again, God bless you brethren.

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