“But when he heard it, he said, those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick, go and learn what this means. I desire mercy and not sacrifice for I came not to call the righteous but sinners”.
– Matthew 9:12–13
Wow, what a statement. This is Jesus speaking right after he’s called Matthew, a tax collector, to follow him.
Matthew 9:12–13 Shows Jesus sharing with the spiritually sick.
And then he gathered at table in Matthew’s house with a bunch of other sinners and the Pharisees are critical of Jesus for gathering with this group. He then looks at them and he says, “those who are well have no need of a physician”. And he’s talking about them and not that they are actually well, but they think they’re well. They think that they are better than these tax collectors and sinners. And he says, “I’ve come for those who are sick”, for those who realize they have a sin problem and who see their need for a savior.
And he says, “go and learn what this means. I desire mercy and not sacrifice for I came not to call the righteous but sinners”. There’s so much that flows from this picture in Matthew chapter 9. But one particularly way I want to encourage and challenge us is to think about who we hang around with. Jesus was known for hanging around with sinners. He was criticized for hanging around with the spiritually sick. And if we’re not careful in our lives as followers of Jesus, we can become pretty insulated from the world around us.
And there’s a sense in which this is good to be around brothers and sisters in Christ who are spurring us on toward Christ in order to be in the world, but not of the world. We have to be careful about the people in the world who are influencing us. The Bible says at different points, come out of the world, be separate, be set apart.
Matthew 9:12–13 Encourages us to follow Jesus’ Example
So yes, let’s be holy at the same time. Jesus was holy. Yet here he is spending time at table with sinners, with people most in need of God’s mercy. And are you and I spending time at table? Are we spending time hosting? Are we spending time around those who are most in need of God’s mercy? Could we be criticized in our lives for spending too much time with those who are spiritually sick? And then think about your church. Is your church, is my church reaching this kind of people? Does our church have a reputation for reaching those who are sick in sinners with the gospel? Are we seeing people come to faith in Jesus? Are we seeing people’s lives radically transformed? Like Matthew’s life was radically transformed here. So we prayed according to Matthew 9:12–13.
Jesus, help us to follow your example in this way. Help us to love and live for the spiritually sick. God keep us, we pray from becoming like the Pharisees focused on our righteousness and just spending all of our time with others who are focused on their righteousness in such a way that we grow cold toward and distant from people in need of your mercy. And even as we say that God, we know we are people in need of your mercy, we are sick and we need you as our savior.
Help us to constantly remember that. Deliver us from all self-righteousness. Help us to come to you as the sinners we are daily, and experience your grace and your mercy in the process to find ourselves reaching out to loving, hosting, bringing other sinners around us to you. God, we pray this in our lives every day. We pray this in our churches right around us.
Praying for the Unreached
And God, we pray this when it comes to the spread of the gospel around the world. When we think about 3 billion people today who have little to no knowledge of you, Jesus, they are sick. There’s spiritually in desperate need of you. So help us to go to them. Help us to boldly pray and give and go until the gospel spreads to every sinner in the world, to all 3 billion unreached people in the world. Oh God, may we be criticized for our love for sinners. May we be criticized even for extravagant steps that we take to reach people in need of your grace and your mercy. We pray all of this Jesus, according to your word in Matthew 9:12–13, in your name, amen.