Love or Ritual?

Following the Master is a great adventure. Looking at his Word each day and seeing how he lived seems always to leave me in amazement. Jesus was not like you and me. He lived with deep conviction based upon what he knew was true regardless of how others responded to him or his teaching. Jesus was God in the likeness of man! So, when I see him boldly confront the faulty thinking of the religious elite, he was not timid, he speaks as one who has authority.

One such illustration is found in Matt. 9:11-13 which says,

“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The Pharisees looked down on Jesus because they saw him eating with those whom they considered inferior and sinners! How could someone who claims to be a teacher from God do such a thing?

Jesus is not flustered in his response. He simply tells them that they do not understand the Law! Wow! Are you kidding me? The “great” teachers are shown by Jesus whom they considered uneducated, that they do not know the very Law they take such pride in? That must have been very hard for them to hear.

In his response, Jesus sites Hos. 6:6 which says, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Jesus shows them that they have completely missed the heart of the Law. They have replaced love with ritual and formality. Jesus reminds them that the expression of love to others is more important to God than sacrifices.

I love how the Bible Knowledge Commentary summarizes this exchange when it says,

“The Lord’s response demonstrated that His ministry is directed toward those who realize they have a need: Only sick people need a doctor. The Pharisees did not think they were sinners (sick) so they would never have sought out the Lord (the Physician). The Pharisees always brought the proper sacrifices, but they were totally lacking in compassion toward sinners. When mercy is lacking, then religious formalities are meaningless (cf. Hosea 6:6).”

Father, thank you for helping me see today that my efforts to love and follow you need to be expressed primarily by my love for others rather than legalism or tradition. Your work in my life should be seen by my tireless effort to help those who realize they are in need. I also should follow the example of Jesus and focus my ministry on those who see the need for you, rather than those who do not think they are in need of a doctor.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

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