Text: Matt 9:9-13
Summary: Jesus is our Great Physician. Go to Him, receive healing from Him, and learn from Him 2 things — steadfast love and mercy.
9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Father, thank you for sending Your Son and we know that one title for the Son is Great Physician. And all of us in this room are sick. And we need a Savior. And we go to this Great Physician and we pray that He would teach us steadfast love and mercy. That we would receive it and we would practice it. Steadfast love and mercy. Teach us now, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen
One thing that you’ll see throughout the gospel of Matthew is Jesus interacting with religious people and they just don’t understand the heart of God. And today, I want to expose the religious heart the religious mindset and why it does not lead to salvation. And why it does not actually connect with the heart of God.
After Jesus calls Matthew, a tax collector. There’s a party and I bet Matthew is throwing it. And his friends are invited. And the Pharisees are observing the scene of Jesus celebrating with Matthew and his friends. And their question is — why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? And Jesus answers in Matt 9.
12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.
And in some translations, it says, go and learn what this means, I desire STEADFAST LOVE and not sacrifice. In my Bible, it says, I desire MERCY. And this is from Hosea 6.
6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
The word here is steadfast love, it is covenantal love it, it is loyalty. Depending on the context, it can also be translated — mercy. Do this, show this, and don’t merely show up to sacrifice.
And in the the book of Hosea, God calls a prophet and the prophet is given an unusual task of marrying a prostitute. And he brings her in, she becomes his wife. And she stays in her waywardness and she leaves her husband and chases after her lovers.
And God instructs Hosea. You must go after her. You must woo her. You must pursue her. You must express covenantal love toward her. Steadfast. Love. You must show her mercy. You must pay off her debts. And bring her back home. And this was a picture in the physical realm of what is happening in the spiritual realm with the nation of Israel. They, too, were shown covenantal love and what did they do? They were wayward in their hearts. They prostituted themselves with pagan gods. They engaged in idolatry. And all the while, they were sacrificing in the temple.
And it isn’t enough to come to God once a week and offer a sacrifice. Many people in the church think, I believe and I show up at church once a week. That’s all I need. I offer my sacrifice. I give my tithe. I spend my time on a Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon. That is not what God wants.
What does God want from us? He wants steadfastness. He wants love. He shows us steadfast love and we receive it. And He wants us to exercise steadfast love toward Him.
3 Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” 4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.
And showing up for a Sunday is like dew. It’s there in the morning and lasts for an hour or two hours. And then, later that day, certainly by Monday morning, the dew is gone. And a religious person thinks, it’s enough that I just show up on Sunday and offer my sacrifice. It’s like the dew. There’s no love. There’s no steadfastness. No steadfast love.
And Hosea paints a picture of Israel during this time. Whether they are experiencing some prosperity and peace, or they’re experiencing periods of imminent threat from enemies, they are turning away from the Lord. They’re turning to pagan gods. They’re turning to pagan armies to protect them from their enemies. All the while, they are going to the temple to offer sacrifices.
And how many Christians today live like this? When their life is busy, the love for God is like the dew. It’s there in little spurts. Maybe on a weekly basis, but for the most part, it dries up. If they’re in a period of prosperity, they’re so busy with their lives. They’re chasing after things. Their love is like the dew. It comes out only in little spurts.
God wants steadfastness He wants a love that is real. Like if you are to love your spouse, is it enough to just sprinkle some love once a week? But for most of the week, you’re neglecting them? We would say, there’s something wrong in this relationship. The same way that Hosea chased after Gomer, his wayward wife, God is doing that for us.
What does Hosea want from his adulterous wife? He wants the love to be reciprocated. He wants the love to be steadfast. Likewise, God wants steadfast love from His people. First we pass through our Great Physician. We go to Him because we recognize our sickness. We acknowledge that if it wasn’t for the steadfast love of God expressed through the Son, we would be forever cut off from Him. But thank goodness that God sent His Son. And He forgives us our sins and He keeps inviting us to return.
And that’s what repentance is. It is returning to the Lord. And when we return to the Lord in the midst of our sickness, He heals us and He shows us mercy. That is probably the biggest gift that He gives us. He gives us mercy. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. He gives us mercy and what does He want us to do? He wants us to practice mercy toward others.
Obviously, we don’t show mercy to God. We only show steadfast love to God. But toward people, we are to show mercy.
Going back to Matthew 9. What are the Pharisees doing over and over again? They’re not showing mercy. Instead, they are expressing criticism. They’re testing Jesus. They’re angry with Jesus. I mean, they don’t care about the person that Jesus healed on the Sabbath. They care more about the fact that the law was broken than the person who was healed. That is a heart totally devoid of mercy.
And we go through life and so many times, we get offended so people. And it’s like we get surprised that the world is the world and they mistreat us. Or we are shocked that immature Christians are the way they are and they sin against us. We get surprised that our little children are sinning all the time and we get annoyed at them. Bottom line — we lack mercy.
And these moments are invitations from God to recognize the sickness that is within. We have to recognize that we are sick. That will be the trigger point to go to our Great Physician. And our Savior reminds us that we are in dire need of God’s steadfast love and His mercy. And you and I must receive this healing, His steadfast love, and His mercy on a daily basis.
What does God want from us? He wants us to express steadfast love back to God. Also, He wants us to show mercy to those around us.
And these Pharisees, they cannot do it. They are just like Israel in Hosea’s day. They’re lacking steadfast love. They’re lacking mercy. They’re covering up their idolatry by going through the motions of offering sacrifices.
When I look at my own heart and I look back on every week, if I had a bad week, I can recognize two things that did not happen that week. One, I did not show God steadfast love.
If I had a bad week, it’s clear. I can locate the problem. I did not show God steadfast love. I was too busy. I was too bored. I was too stressed. I was too frustrated. Whatever the reason, I look back on a bad week and I did not show God steadfastness in my love toward Him. I might have had a devotion time in the morning, but it was like the dew in the morning. After a few hours, whatever I received from Him just evaporates. And for the rest of the day, there’s no love for God. You come on on Sunday. You offer a sacrifice. It’s nothing more than a little dew in the morning. By afternoon, it’s gone.
God wants a steadfastness. And it’s our awareness that we’re sick that will move us to God. It’s our sickness that actually cements the relationship with God. Because we go to Him out of our brokenness. And we ask the Lord for his healing and mercy.
And if I look back on a bad week one, I did not show God steadfast love. The second thing that I did not show is mercy toward others. I was harsh. I was moody I was impatient.
And God never asked me to do anything that He didn’t do first. God shows me steadfast love. So what does he want from me? He wants me to show Him steadfast. Love. God shows me incredible mercy. What does God want from me toward other people? He wants me to show them mercy.
If we did these two things, God would be so pleased. God shows us incredible steadfastness of love, His covenantal love toward us cannot be broken. He is pursuing us to the end. Religious people say, I don’t need it. I’ll just offer a sacrifice. God pours out His love. We reciprocate with a little bit of dew.
Our love is not enough. Let’s match God. The way He loves us, He wants us to love Him with steadfastness, persistence, and perseverance. And then God shows us mercy. So much mercy. And we forget how much mercy He shows us.
In my earlier years of being a Christian. I knew I was a sinner. I knew it. I knew I was sick. That’s why I was in tears all the time. I knew I needed His mercy. But over the years, in my mind, I think I am becoming righteous. And what happens? The “righteous” — they don’t need a Physician. They don’t need mercy. They are content in their self-righteousness. Therefore, they don’t go to Jesus anymore.
And it’s my false sense of “righteousness,” thinking that I’ve gotten better at Christian life, and thinking I’ve learned some things, which causes me to stop going to our Great Physician. No wonder the mercy dries up. The tears dry up. My invitation to you is to recognize your need for the Physician, Jesus Christ.
It’s a miracle if you recognize that you’re sick. It is a miracle if you recognize that you are not righteous and that is because God’s covenantal love. God Himself is moving toward you the same way that Gomer would have never returned if it were not for the covenantal love of Hosea. She would have never returned if not for Hosea and Hosea moving toward her and paying off her debts. And inviting her back into the home continuously. The reason why we can recognize our sin and go to the Savior and ask for forgiveness is because of God’s covenantal love toward us.
Once you recognize your sickness and sin, simply express your need for mercy. You need to be forgiven. Your heart has to be cleansed, transformed, renewed, redeemed. And then as you go to our Physician for healing and forgiveness, what’s being kindled is a steadfastness of your love toward God.
This steadfast love cannot form without you crying out for mercy. The Pharisees who think, I don’t need mercy. They have no steadfast love. The two things must go hand in hand. We cry out for mercy because we recognize our sin, and through it, we’re cementing our relationship with God. Our love for Him is becoming steadfast.
God is steadfast toward us. He wants us to be steadfast toward Him. God shows us mercy. He wants us to show mercy to other people.
Father, You gave us a simple word. You asked us to learn what this means, that you desire steadfast love or mercy, not sacrifice. You want us to know You, not about You, but know You personally.
Father, now we want to learn this. Not in our head only, but we also want to receive it in our heart. We know that we can only understand our need for You because of You. Your steadfast love toward us never changes. Your covenantal love never changes. You’re always pursuing us. That’s the only hope that we have. The same way that Gomer had no hope apart from the covenantal, steadfast love of Hosea, her husband.
Jesus, You are the Great Physician. You are the Shepherd. You look for the lost sheep. And Lord, we confess that we can easily become lost. Even though we were found years ago, we can become spiritually lost and self-righteousness. And we forget that we need your mercy every moment.
We’re sick. You came to save the sick. And we agree with you. We are sick. If we don’t see it, Lord, help us to see it. Help us to see it the same way that we saw things so clearly when we first met You.
I pray that as the years go by, we would not get hardened to this truth that You came to save the sick. And we are sick. Our lack of mercy toward other people, our impatience — these are clues that we have forgotten our sickness. We’ve forgotten to ask for mercy. And you say in the Lord’s Prayer, if we do not forgive other people, we will not be forgiven.
So Father, we want to receive Your mercy so that we can be merciful. We receive the gift of your steadfast love. May we express that steadfast love towards You. It’s just these two things. If we can understand that You are the Great Physician who heals us and forgives us and redeems us, if we can just do these two things — the steadfast love that we express toward You because You first expressed it toward us and the mercy we receive from You is a mercy that is expressed to our fellow man — if we can do these two things, you will be so pleased.
Teach us these two things, Lord. We want to learn from Hosea. The difficult assignment You gave to him was a picture of Your relationship with an adulterous people. And Lord, we confess our idolatry. We admit that we chase after other gods. We are so busy, and therefore, we have no time to invest in our relationship with you. Therefore, there’s no steadfastness towards You.
Lord, help us. We’re in need of Your mercy. Touch us, Lord. Give us understanding of these things spiritually so that it would change our approach toward You. We want to become more and more steadfast toward You. And in terms of the way we interact with with non-Christians in the world who wrong us, or other Christians who act immaturely toward us, or our spouses and our family who may sin against us, we want to show more mercy.
Teach us, Lord. We need to learn these things. Help us. As we partake in this Lord’s Supper, we come not as healthy, self-righteous Pharisees. We come as sickly sinners. We pray that You would heal us. We pray that You redeem us. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for dying on the cross and shedding Your blood so that we can learn the steadfast love of God and we can express back to You our steadfast love. And we can receive mercy and express mercy. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen