Summary: Today, let us be reminded by the words of Jesus, "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." (Matthew 9:13 NKJV)
Mercy Not Sacrifice, Matthew 9:9-13
There is the story of the man who came down from the North Carolina Mountains. He was all dressed up and carrying his Bible. A friend saw him and asked, "Joe, what’s happening? Where are you going all dressed up like that?" Joe said, "I’ve been hearing about New Orleans.
I hear that there is a lot of free-runninï¿½ liquor and a lot of gamblinï¿½ and a lot of real good naughty shows.ï¿½ The friend looked him over and said, ï¿½But Joe, why are you carrying your Bible under your arm?ï¿½ And Joe replied, ï¿½Well, if itï¿½s as good as they say it is, I might stay over until Sunday.ï¿½
Our Scripture reading this morning focuses on the calling of Mathew the tax collector as a disciple of Jesus. In this text we see clearly illustrated the heart of the Pharisees who watched and judged and the heart of Jesus who called and loved.
This morning we will focus our attention on the contrast between the heart of the Pharisee and the heart of Jesus as we examine Christ teaching that God desires mercy and not sacrifice.
We will take a look at the difference between obedience to the letter of the law and heartfelt love for the law giver; the difference between bringing a Bible along for the Sunday service after the weekend of sin and the placing of Godï¿½s word inside of the heart and living for Christ not out of obligation but of godly affection.
Mathew was a tax collector and to get at why the Pharisees were so critical on Jesus having called Mathew to be a disciple we need a little background on the development of New Testament era Jewish life and the role of the tax collector.
By the time of Jesus earthly ministry the Jewish people had been under Roman occupation for nearly 100 years and had known foreign occupation in one form another for more than 600 years!
In fact it was only from 164 B.C. to 63 B.C., a grand period in Jewish history knows as the Maccabean period, that the Nation of Israel was a sovereign people. The Nation of Israel had been conquered by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. when Jerusalem was captured and they were exiled from their homeland.
The Babylonians had a practice of deporting captives of conquered lands. When they would capture a land they would deport the majority of the citizens into other nearby lands. Some have suggested that this was in an effort to assimilate them into their culture. It seems more likely though, that the Babylonian policy of deporting captives was intended to break up the sense of oneness of a people and in destroying their unity, make it far less likely that they would rebel.
King Cyrus of Persia conquered the Babylonians and he allowed the Israelites to return to their homeland under the rule of the Persians. Then Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world then died at only 33 years old.
His generals fought for control of the lands he had conquered and eventually the Jewish people found themselves right in the middle of the trade routes of four kingdoms in what had been Alexanderï¿½s empire. Alexanderï¿½s generals and their descendants would spend the next century and a half fighting over control of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas.
It was during this time that Rome was becoming a world power and threatening the control that Alexanderï¿½s generals had on the region. The Jews were caught between all of these warring generals largely because of geography. The Promised Land is right in the middle of the trade routes between Rome, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Far East. The Nation of Israel suffered great atrocities at the hands of many of their occupiers.
In 168 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanes, a descendant of one of Alexanderï¿½s generals occupied Jerusalem, entered the Holy of Holies, desecrated the sanctuary by offering unclean animals upon the alter of burnt offerings, polluted the whole building by sprinkling it with water in which flesh had been boiled, and then dedicated the Temple to Zeus and plundering the temple treasures.
This prompted the Maccabean revolt which led to 100 years of self rule by the Jewish people. Three years after this abomination, and after a successful revolt, the temple was cleansed and rededicated for worship. This event is celebrated right up to this very day each December as Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights.
After 100 years of self rule the Jews came under the rule of the Roman Empire by way of local procurators (governors) and regional kings ï¿½ the Herod mentioned in the Gospel accounts ï¿½ it was into this conquered land that we find Jesus conducting his earthly ministry.