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.” (Matthew 9:10–13 (ESV)
Following Jesus’ conversion and call of Matthew (Matt. 9:9; Mark 2:13-14; Luke 5:27-28), the new disciple hosted a meal in his house (Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29). Luke describes the gathering as a great feast (Luke 5:29). It included a large company of tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29).
The religious leaders grumbled at Jesus’ disciples. They said, ““Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” It is interesting that the Pharisees did not directly come to Jesus. The religious leaders are not interested in information as they are in making an accusation.
“Consorting with outcasts on any level—even merely speaking to them—was bad enough. Eating and drinking with them implied a level of friendship that was abhorrent to the Pharisees (cf. Luke 7:34; 15:2; 19:7),” explains Dr. John MacArthur.
What was Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisees’ criticism? How did He respond to such an obvious cultural faux pas, which is a significant or embarrassing error or mistake? The Pharisees reasoned that Jesus could not truly be a godly teacher, or a righteous man, since He associated with sinners.
Jesus said three things to the religious leaders. First, He replied, ““Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” It is often more difficult to share the Gospel with successful, morally upright and religious people than it is with addicts, the poor and diseased. Why? It is because the latter can at least understand they need help and assistance while the former, at least on the surface, believe themselves to be self-sufficient. The irony is that both people groups need Christ’s imputed righteousness before God the Father.
Second, Jesus said, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’” What Jesus wants is for people to be compassionate to other people and not just concerned about religious rituals.
Third, Jesus replied, “For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus’ mission was to invite sinners unto salvation. Salvation is not for the self-righteous because they are convinced they do not need a Savior.
“In the parallel passage, Luke 5:32, sinners are called “to repentance.” The repentant person—the one who recognizes he is a sinner and who turns from his sin—is the object of Jesus’ call. The person who is sinful but thinks he is righteous refuses to acknowledge his need to repent of his sin,” states Dr. MacArthur.
“Samuel Rutherford once said that you and I are “at the worst” sinners, and sinners are “nothing to Christ.” The reason that sinners are “nothing” to Christ is because He came specifically to call sinners to Himself, to heal us of our spiritual “disease,” to work in us that which is pleasing to Himself. No matter how dark our sins may be, we know that Jesus really is able to wash us whiter than snow,” concludes Dr. R. C. Sproul.
Thank you, Lord, for your salvation.
Soli deo Gloria!