By Taft Ayers
In Matthew 9:13, Christ quotes from both Matthew 12:7 and Hosea 6:6. He is calling Matthew to true discipleship here and he has just spoken about the fact that the people who are whole do not need a physician, but the sick need Him, the Great Physician. One can read the words of Christ in Matthew 9:13 and think, as I have before, "Hey, that SOUNDS great and it should be a motto for all Christianity and true service, but WHAT DOES IT MEAN?"
The context in the passage shows that Christ was comparing the Pharisees with the priesthood from Hosea’s time. In that same paragraph (Hosea 6), Hosea charged, "And as the troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent; for they commit lewdness" (6:6-9). Hearing this, the Pharisees must have been infuriated, due to the fact that they were every bit as wicked as the Lord indicated. His words continued to be ironic when He said, "I came not to call the righteous"; for he really did CALL the righteous…or those that were TRULY righteous, and, for that matter, even the Pharisees; but they would not really be called.
The Pharisees had never learned the meaning of this passage, which teaches that kind hearts and helpful deeds are more pleasing to God than outward ceremonial. Sacrifice is right, but mercy is first in importance. Our mission in the world is to save sinners. upon you to teach others. I will have mercy and not sacrifice - That is, I will have mercy rather than sacrifice. I love acts of mercy better than sacrifice itself. Some time after his call, Matthew sought to bring his old associates to hear Christ. He knew by experience what the grace of Christ could do, and would not despair concerning them. Those who are effectually brought to Christ, cannot but desire that others also may be brought to him.
Those who suppose their souls to be without disease will not welcome the spiritual Physician. This was the case with the Pharisees; they despised Christ, because they thought themselves whole; but the poor publicans and sinners felt that they wanted instruction and amendment. It is easy, and too common, to put the worst constructions upon the best words and actions. It may justly be suspected that those have not the grace of God themselves, who are not pleased with others' obtaining it. Christ's conversing with sinners is here called mercy; for to promote the conversion of souls is the greatest act of mercy.
The gospel call is a call to repentance; a call to us to change our minds, and to change our ways. If the children of men had not been sinners, there had been no need for Christ to come among them. Let us examine whether we have found out our sickness, and have learned to follow the directions of our Great Physician.