Jesus Urges Compassion

“‘But go and learn what this means: “I desire compassion, and not sacrifice”’” (Matthew 9:13).

Jesus never shied away from speaking directly and bluntly if the situation demanded such talk. Here He pins the Jewish leaders to the wall by quoting from their own most honored scriptural authorities. Their own prophets rebuke them for their spiritual ignorance and their lack of obedience to God’s clear commands.

Jesus paraphrases Hosea’s prophetic and divinely inspired words: “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hos. 6:6). The perfect Word of God should have been the Pharisees’ supreme concern, as it should be ours, rather than the flawed words and ideas of humanity. Without true and godly compassion, all the Pharisees’ rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices were worth nothing to God. The person who is indifferent toward other people verifies that he or she is also indifferent toward God, no matter how correct their theology or impeccable their morality.

Ritual separated from righteousness and a concern for the downtrodden and lost has always been an affront to God. Through the prophet Amos, the Lord declared, “Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:23–24).

Ask Yourself
In what ways have you let duty and religious reputation become elevated in importance beyond genuine love and compassion for others? What is so empty about the former . . . and so rejuvenating about the latter?

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610

The Sick Need a Physician

“When Jesus heard this, He said, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick’” (Matthew 9:12).

Basic human logic and common sense tells us that physically sick people need treatment from a doctor. Here Jesus simply answers the Pharisees’ cynical question with the plain statement that the spiritually sick also need treatment. It’s as if He said to the Jews, “If you’re really so spiritually healthy, you don’t need a spiritual physician. But if by their own confession, the sinners I’m eating with are the spiritually needy who must have the gospel presented, then that’s why I’m ministering to them. I’m the Great Physician who can bring spiritual healing—salvation—to those who recognize their desperate need.”

By analogy, no credible physician would spend all his or her time among healthy people and refuse to be with the sick. By implication, Jesus was asking the Pharisees if they—the self-proclaimed theological and religious “experts” who had all the answers for the unenlightened—were refusing to give them that medicine. This was an incredible indictment of the self-righteous, hard-hearted religionists.

The Pharisees were hypocrites who carefully fussed about the most minute matters of the law but neglected the bigger issues such as “justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matt. 23:23). They loved themselves but hated others and revealed themselves to be without the compassion and mercy God’s law requires.

We have to ask, How could the Pharisees resent the healing of those sinners God Himself desired to heal? With such an attitude they proved themselves to be sickest of all—actually dead spiritually.

Ask Yourself
How are we guilty of spending an undue percentage of our time providing care and attention for the spiritually sound? What is this an indicator of? What can you do to avoid this imbalance in your church and personal ministry?

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610