Summary: Message explores the dangers of religion without the heart of God toward people. How do we nurture a heart of mercy? Pastor shares four key points in answer to that question.
I want to begin this morning with a man named Matthew. Matthew’s family name was Levi.1 He became an apostle and wrote the gospel that carries his name. But when he met Jesus, he was far from that. He was a tax collector. Tax collectors were hated by their fellow Jews.2 They were considered to be traitors because they collected taxes for the Roman government. It was a very profitable profession; but it was known for its corruption and the Jews despised them.
In Matt. 9:7 Jesus approached Matthew at his tax booth and called him to be a disciple. The Bible says Matthew, “got up, left everything and followed” Jesus (Luke 5:28 NIV). It was a complete break from his sinful life. It was a complete abandonment of his lucrative career. It was an all-out decision to follow Jesus. Later Matthew threw a big party in honor of Jesus. He invited all his old friends to come and meet Jesus. Nothing fuels evangelism like a new convert on fire for the Lord. Matthew wanted his friends to experience the Lord for themselves. So Jesus was there. The disciples were there. And a crowd of Matthew’s sinner friends were there.
When the Pharisees saw that Jesus was feasting with all these sinners, they were appalled. Matt. 9:11, “And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"3 That was the last place they expected to see a man who claimed to represent God. They didn’t have the audacity to confront Jesus directly but they did confront His disciples. When Jesus overheard their conversation, He gave them this answer. "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.’” Notice that the call to sinners is not a call to continue in iniquity; it is a call to repentance. Jesus had a purpose in meeting with these people.
But the thing I want to focus on this morning is Jesus’ quote from Hosea 6:6 “I desire mercy and not sacrifice….” The Pharisees were all about sacrifice. Of course, there were the animal sacrifices at the temple. There was all that religious ceremony. But they also sacrificed meals. They fasted regularly. They tithed down to the penny. They very carefully observed hundreds of religious rules and regulations.4 And in all that, they were careful not to contaminate themselves by the influence of ungodly people. So here is Jesus eating and drinking with all these sinners. From their perspective, Jesus is completely off-base.
Then Jesus said, “You need to learn what God meant when He said in Hosea 6:6, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” And this morning, we want to make sure we know what God meant by that. Why? because we too can get caught up in the rules and regulations of religion and miss the whole point, if we’re not careful. God wants a heart that is tender and merciful toward other people, not just a religious system that keeps certain rules and regulations.