Go Ye and Learn

“But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Matt. 9:13

There is much to learn from our Lord. The way He walked before men, the words He spoke, even the simple acts He performed. Everything was holy unto His Father. He did not “try” to do things before men. He just kept in tune with His Father – what He saw the Father doing, what He heard the Father saying, where He saw the Father going.

For whatever reason, He sets apart this little event, this snippet of a vignette, and wants us to concentrate some thought on it. He wants us to reflect on this scene and its little drama so we might, “learn what that meaneth”.

Here is the setting for the passage to bring the perspective into a meaningful context:

“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Matt. 9:9-13.

“As Jesus passed… he saw a man… sitting” I bet you have seen men sitting before too. There they are, just busy with the work of the hour. How did Jesus see him? He saw him there and somehow knew that His Father had chosen him. Jesus did not pick him out, nor did He randomly choose Matthew. God was doing something in Matthew and Jesus saw him.

Jesus always does what He sees the Father doing. Wouldn’t you like to see what the Father is doing? Not nearly so much as He would like you to. Learn what that meaneth.

But Matthew was a “sinner” in the eyes of the Pharisees and Pharisees don’t associate with sinners. Their eyes are purer than can behold evil (at least that is the gist of it). They have set a distinction between their righteous behavior and the behavior of those who would collect taxes. There is within us and them the temptation to the thinking — “We are righteous, they are sinners.” Learn what that meaneth.

The Pharisees had a certain contempt for “sinners” that Jesus never had. Have you noticed that Jesus never condemned sinners for being sinners? There is something about having a low, humble, accurate opinion of yourself when you see yourself as a sinner that makes you approachable to hear the gospel. There is something amazingly attractive to God about a broken and contrite heart. These God will not cast out, “a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Psalm 51:17. Learn what that meaneth.

Where the Pharisees openly displayed their contempt and lack of mercy for sinners, Jesus showed mercy. What is noteworthy is that Jesus had compassion on sinners and not the righteous. Rather, His greatest contempt and display of righteous anger was directed at the “righteous”. Learn what that meaneth.

Who were the Pharisees? They were the evolutionary products of what was once a group of men called to serve God and represent His Kingdom interests in administering grace and mercy through a system of sacrifice. They were a tangible example of what the perversion of the heart does to the will of God when corrupted by the thinking and traditions men. Learn what that meaneth.

The Pharisees considered themselves righteous by their actions and condemned those who did not display the same external conformity to the Law as sinners. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” 2 Tim. 3:5. They had ritualized the internal righteousness of God’s mercy, shown outwardly in the sacrificial system, into a system of external conformities. Learn what that meaneth.

Here is the point that God in Christ is making: “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” It is the knowledge and acceptance by confession before God that you are sinner, that keeps you on the mercy seat, unable to judge others. God desires mercy, not sacrifice. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Micah 6:8. Learn what that meaneth.

Have we come so far from this today? Are there not large groups of men and women that put robes on each week and join in the procession of the sacrificial system, conforming to a mesh of man made traditions and thinking far from the intent and purpose of the original design? A kind of us and them attitude that permeates all of it? I believe our righteousness is a stench in the nostrils of God. Learn what that meaneth.

There are those who are seeking God’s mercy and those who are not. The (self)-righteous do not need a physician, but the sick. I see my Father showing mercy to the sick and having a certain contempt for the righteous. I only do what I see my Father doing.

I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Learn what that meaneth.