Go and learn what this [Scripture] means: ‘I desire compassion [for those in distress], and not [animal] sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call [to repentance] the [self-proclaimed] righteous [who see no need to change], but sinners [those who recognize their sin and actively seek forgiveness].”
Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy [that is, readiness to help those in trouble] and not sacrifice and sacrificial victims. For I came not to call and invite [to repentance] the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin).
Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’ I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.”
Go and learn what this means: ‘I ·want [desire; require; am pleased by] ·kindness [compassion; mercy] ·more than I want [L not] animal sacrifices [Hos. 6:6].’ [L For] I did not come to ·invite [call] ·good people [the righteous; C meaning the “self-righteous” who feel no need to repent] but to invite [call] sinners [C those who recognize their need to repent].”
Later, as Jesus was in the house sitting at the dinner-table, a good many tax-collectors and other disreputable people came on the scene and joined him and his disciples. The Pharisees noticed this and said to the disciples, “Why does your master have his meals with tax-collectors and sinners?” But Jesus heard this and replied, “It is not the fit and flourishing who need the doctor, but those who are ill! Suppose you go away and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’. In any case I did not come to invite the ‘righteous’ but the ‘sinners’.”
Then he added, “Now go away and learn the meaning of this verse of Scripture, ‘It isn’t your sacrifices and your gifts I want—I want you to be merciful.’ For I have come to urge sinners, not the self-righteous, back to God.”
Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.”
Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
I am not here to attend to people who are already right with God; I am here to attend to sinners. In the book of the prophet Hosea, we read, “It is not sacrifice I want, but mercy.” Go and meditate on that for a while—maybe you’ll come to understand it.
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