“Emmanuel’s Associates” – Matthew 9:9-13

July 5th, 2015

Matthew 9:9-13 (Mk 2:13-17; Lk 5:27-32)

“Emmanuel’s Associates”


Service Orientation: Honestly answer this question:  “How badly do you need the Great Physician Jesus?”  Your honest answer will either provide you with great assurance of your salvation or allow you to see your current precarious status.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.  — 1 Timothy 1:15


Background Information:

  • (v. 9) His name would indicate that he sprang from the priestly line, but he had fallen far below his privileged heritage.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 52)
  • (v. 9) At this time in their history, the Jews were under Roman occupation. However, whereas Judea was under a Roman governor, Galilee was governed by Herod Antipas, a puppet king appointed by the Romans, so taxes in the north were paid to his administration.  Among other taxes, Herod imposed a heavy tax on goods that were imported, and that tax was especially burdensome in Capernaum, which was not only a crossroads for the commercial routes on land but the chief place where goods that were brought across the Sea of Galilee were unloaded.  Matthew had his tax office on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and there he collected these custom taxes, which ran anywhere from two percent to twelve and a half percent.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 270)
  • (v. 9) The problem of the Roman government was to devise a system whereby the taxes could be collected as efficiently and as cheaply as possible. They did so by auctioning the right to collect taxes in a certain area.  The man who bought that right was responsible to the Roman government for an agreed sum; anything he could raise over and above that he was allowed to keep as commission.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 329)
  • (v. 9) The tax collectors were among the most despised people in the community.  They were regarded as collaborators with the enemy.  Even though they had wealth, their social status was at the bottom of the barrel.  They were so despised they were not permitted to participate in the synagogue.  They were regarded as so disreputable they were not permitted to give testimony in the law courts of that day.  So, the phrase “tax collectors and sinners” became an epithet for the dregs of society.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 272)
  • (v. 9) The mokhes (tax collectors) had almost unlimited latitude in their taxing powers and could attach a tax to virtually any article or activity. They could, for instance, levy a tax on a person’s boat, on the fish he caught with it, and on the dock where he unloaded it.  They could tax a traveler’s donkey, his slaves and servants, and his goods.  They had authority to open private letters to see if a taxable business of some sort might be related to the correspondence.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 61)
  • (v. 9) Jesus was to the Jews what Aristotle was to the Greeks–a peripatetic philosopher, one who taught while walking around. Jesus constantly moved about, and as He walked, His disciples, who were His students, followed closely behind Him and listened to His teaching, trying to memorize what He said.  One of the reasons why Jesus spoke in parables and in aphorisms was because those kinds of statements could be easily committed to memory.  So, to be a disciple in the band of a peripatetic rabbi was literally to follow him around from place to place.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 271)

(v. 9) When Jesus called Peter and his brother Andrew, along with James and his brother John, they were fishermen.  They knew that if things did not work out in their new vocation and they had a falling-out with Jesus, they could go back to the Sea of Galilee and resume their trade in the fishing industry.  Matthew had no such safety net.  Once he left his job as a tax collector, there were fifty men waiting in the wings to apply for that position.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 271)

  • (v. 9) Why did Jesus not call Matthew at the same time as he called Peter and John and the rest? He came to each one at a particular time when he knew that they would respond to him.  He came at a different time to call Matthew when he was assured that Matthew would surrender to his call.  Similarly, he called Paul at a different time when he was vulnerable, after the resurrection, something like a hunter going after his quarry.  For he who is acquainted with our inmost hearts and knows the secrets of our minds knows when each one of us is ready to respond fully.  Therefore he did not call them all together at the beginning, when Matthew was still in a hardened condition.  Rather, only after countless miracles, after his fame was spread abroad, did he call Matthew.  He knew Matthew had been softened for full responsiveness.  (Chrysostom, The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 30.1)
  • (v. 9) As a tax collector, experienced in writing and in keeping records, and of necessity versed in more than one language, the services of Matthew would be very valuable to Jesus and to the cause of the gospel.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 422)
  • (v. 10) The presence of “many tax collectors” (v. 10) indicates that Matthew did not work alone, so that his abrupt departure would not leave the customs booth unguarded. Mk 2:13-14 indicates that it was by the lakeshore, where boats would land their cargoes.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 351)
  • (v. 10) Matthew does not tell us that he made the feast, but Luke does. It was the natural expression of his thankfulness and joy for the new bond.  His knowledge was small, but his love was great.  How could he honor Jesus enough?  But he was a pariah in Capernaum, and the only guests he could assemble were, like himself, outcasts from “respectable society.”  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 21-2)
  • (v. 10) They (the Pharisees) intended to undermine the faith of the disciples. (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 84)
  • “Publicans and sinners” had at least this in common that none of them paid much attention to the rules and regulations by which the rabbis had been superimposed upon the law of God. Of these “traditions” Pharisees and scribes made everything.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 423)
  • (v. 11) The words “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax-gatherers and sinners?” were more a rebuke than a query. In the Pharisees’ own minds the question was largely rhetorical, and because they did not believe a satisfactory answer could be given, they were not asking a sincere question but were venting their hostility.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 63)
  • (v. 13) The expression he uses to introduce the quotation, “go and learn,” was a rabbinic formula used in a slightly sardonic way to administer a gentle rebuke to those who needed to go and study the text of Scripture further. Jesus’ opponents, who prided themselves in their knowledge of Scripture and their own conformity to it, needed to “go and learn” what it meant.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 208)

(v. 13) He quoted from the book of Hosea, which is all about mercy, to show that His behavior should be the norm for all of God’s people.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 273)

  • We receive the impression from the very brevity with which Matthew records his call, omitting any mention of the cost to himself, that he was modest and humble. He may well have been a man of few spoken words.  Nowhere in the four Gospels is he ever introduced as saying anything.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 422)


The question to be answered is . . . Why is Jesus risking so much to hang out with the cultural misfits, the losers, and those that are really sick and lost?


Answer:  Because Jesus is forcing everyone to realize that all of humanity is in the same boat.  In God’s eyes, we are all misfits, losers, sick and lost and in need of His salvation.


It is not enough to build your church and stand in your pulpit and say, “Come.” You have to go out and seek, if you would save. When the passion for souls dies out, then all sense of reality of religion perishes. It is when we see Him healing men that we have faith in the great Physician; it is when we see the lost being saved that we believe in Christianity. When the passion for the lost dies out in the pulpit, men will shiver around its cold ashes instead of warming their souls at the blaze of a light which was kindled in the Heavens. —Charles L. Goodell  (C. John Miller, Powerful Evangelism for the Powerless, 80)


The Word for the Day is . . . Authority


What does this passage teach us about Jesus’ mission on earth?:

I-  Jesus calls sinners to be born again into a new life with a radical transformation.  (Mt 9:9-10, 13; see also: Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 36:24-28; Jn 3:1-7; Rom 8:28-30; 12:1-2; 1 Cor 15:42-54; 2 Cor 5:17; Phil 3:20-21; 1 Pt 1:23)


Matthew recognized that Jesus was not inviting him; Jesus was calling him.  So Matthew got up and followed him.  Matthew’s radical obedience would cause a great change in his life.  Already ostracized by fellow Jews, Matthew’s decision to follow Jesus would make no difference in this regard.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 178)


The point of “calling sinners,” of course, is not that they should remain sinners but that they may find true righteousness.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 355)


To the leper Jesus says, “Be clean,” and he is immediately clean.  To the paralytic he says, “Rise,” and he immediately rises.  And to Matthew Jesus says, “Follow me,” and he immediately follows.  Is this not as much of a miracle as any miracle we have seen in chapters 8, 9?  Jonathan Edwards said it well:  “I am bold to say, that the work of God in the conversion of one soul…is a more glorious work of God than the creation of the whole material world.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 241-2)


This may be considered a kind of farewell banquet, arranged by Matthew and at his house, in honor of Jesus, bidding farewell to the old life, ringing in the new, and beckoning all to become spiritual followers of the Lord.  Many “tax-collectors and sinners” (thus literally) attended and were reclining at table with Jesus and those disciples who by this time had become his steady followers.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 423)


God doesn’t call the qualified,

He qualifies the called.


He lost a comfortable job, but found a destiny.  He lost a good income, but found honor.  He lost a comfortable security, but found an adventure the like to which he had never dreamed.  It may be that if we accept the challenge of Christ, we shall find ourselves poorer in material things.  It may be that the worldly ambitions will have to go.  But beyond doubt we will find a peace and a joy and a thrill in life that we never knew before.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 331)


As with their many other questions to and about Jesus, their motive was not to learn the truth but to entrap and convict this presumptuous upstart who was turning their religious system upside down.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 63)


II-  Jesus came and has authority to make well the sick. Restoration, renewal, reconciliation, and redeeming should be all of humanity’s agenda.  But especially for the Church.  (Mt 9:12; see also: Lv 19:18; Ps 1:1; Hos 12:8;  Mt 5:43-45; 11:19; 19:18-19; 22:1-10; 37-40; Mk 12:28-34; Lk 10:25-28; ch 15; 12:42-48; 19:10; Rom 3:10-23; 13:9-10; Gal 5:14; 2 Cor 8:9; 1 Tm 1:15; Jam 1:27; 2:8)


Our first instinct should never be to condemn the sinner; our first instinct should be to help him.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 334)


A man may diligently go through all the motions of orthodox piety, but if his hand is never stretched out to help the man in need, he is not a religious man.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 335)


Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve.  Sometimes the high and powerful are served because that will ensure a certain advantage.  Sometimes the low and defenseless are served because that will ensure a humble image.  True service is indiscriminate in its ministry.  It has heard the command of Jesus to be the “servant of all” (Mk 9:35).  Brother Francis of Assisi notes in a letter, “Being the servant of all, I am bound to serve all and to administer the balm-bearing words of my lord.”

Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims.  It can serve only when there is a “feeling” to serve (“moved by the Spirit” as we say).  Ill health or inadequate sleep controls the desire to serve.  True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need.  It knows that the “feeling to serve” can often be a hindrance to true service.  The service disciplines the feelings rather than allowing the feeling to control the service.  (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 129)


No one can be a doctor unless he is willing to get his hands dirty, because disease and the treatment of it is a dirty business.  Jesus declared Himself willing to get His hands dirty to save some filthy sinners.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 273)


Of course, He could have ministered among sinners equally well by associating with Jewish high society, but the difference was that those people did not know they needed to repent, whereas the tax collectors and other despised people knew they needed a Savior.

In effect, Jesus told the Pharisees:  “You don’t like the people gathered around Me?  These are the people I came to redeem.  These are the people I came to call to repentance.  I’m not involved with sinners because I want to be amid sin.  I’m here because I care about them, because they’re lost and they’re dying, and I’ve come to be their Savior.”  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 274)


“Are you doctors,” He implied to the Pharisees, “who diagnose but have no desire to cure?  Will you tell a person what his disease is and then refuse to give him medicine for it?”  What an indictment of their self-righteous hardheartedness!  Those whom they diagnosed as sinful they were quite willing to let remain sinful.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 64-5)


He invited many publicans and sinners to meet him.  This was the chief thing Matthew aimed at in this treat, that he might have an opportunity of bringing his old associates acquainted with Christ.  He knew by experience what their temptations were, and pitied them; knew by experience what the grace of Christ could do, and would not despair concerning them.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 117)


Plutarch quotes a similar saying of the Spartan king Pausanias when he was criticized for neglecting his own people:  “It is not the custom of doctors to spend time among people who are healthy, but where people are ill.”  The philosopher Diogenes is quoted as saying that as a doctor must go among the sick, so a wise man must mix with fools.  The point is obvious:  any effective “healer” must expect to get his hands dirty.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 354)


Evangelist D.L. Moody is reported to have said something to this effect; “You’ve got to get people lost before you can get them saved.”  He was saying that only those who  recognize they are lost will turn to the Savior.  The Lord Jesus stated the same principle:  “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13).  (Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 92-3)


The difference between Uncle Sam and Jesus Christ is that Uncle Sam won’t enlist you in his service unless you are healthy, and Jesus won’t enlist you unless you are sick.  “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2:17) Christianity is fundamentally convalescence (“Pray without ceasing” = Keep buzzing the nurse). (John Piper; Desiring God, 146-7)


I find almost invariably when people come to me in a state of spiritual depression, that they are depressed because they do not know these things as they should.  They say: ‘I am such a miserable sinner, you do not know what I have been or what I have done’.  Why do they say that to me?  They do so because they have never understood what He meant when He said:  ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance’.  The very thing they are saying in self-condemnation is the very thing that gives them the right to come to Him and to be certain that He will receive them.  (D. Martyn Lloyd- Jones;  Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, 156)


The church is the only cooperative society in the world that exists for the benefit of its non-members. —The Arch Bishop of Canterbury William Temple  (Chuck Colson, Loving God, 191)


He says:  ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief’, as if to say there are big sinners and lesser sinners and little sinners. He did not mean that, however; he cannot possibly mean that, for that would be to contradict his essential doctrine.  What he does mean is that the nearer a man gets to God the greater he says:  ‘I am the chief of sinners’; and it is only a Christian who can say that.  The man of the world will never make such a statement.  He is always proving what a good man he is.  But Paul seems to be saying more than that, as I have just been saying. (D. Martyn Lloyd- Jones;  Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, 70)


Diogenes was one of the great teachers of ancient Greece.  He was never tired of comparing the decadence of Athens, where he spent most of his time, with the strong simplicities of Sparta.  One day someone said to him, “If you think so much of Sparta and so little of Athens, why don’t you leave Athens and go and stay in Sparta?”  His answer was, “Whatever I may wish to do, I must stay where men need me most.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 333-4)


The gospel is not at all what we would come up with on our own.  I, for one, would expect to honor the virtuous over the profligate.  I would expect to have to clean up my act before even applying for an audience with a Holy God.  But Jesus told of God ignoring a fancy religious teacher and turning instead to an ordinary sinner who pleads, “God, have mercy.” Throughout the Bible, in fact, God shows a marked preference for “real” people over “good” people.  In Jesus’ own words, “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 54)


They were like doctors who refused to visit the sick lest they should be injured by some infection.  They shrank away in fastidious disgust from the sinner; they did not want anything to do with people like that.  Essentially their religion was selfish; they were much more concerned to save their own souls than to save the souls of others.  And they had forgotten that that was the surest way to lose their own souls.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 334)


When he associates on intimate terms with people of low reputation he does not do this as a hobnobber, a comrade in evil, “birds of a feather flocking together,” but as a physician, one who, without in any way becoming contaminated with the diseases of his patients, must get very close to them in order that he may heal them!  Moreover, it is especially the Pharisees who should be able to understand this.  Are not they the very people who place their trust in their own righteousness while they despise all others (Lk 18:9)?  If, then, in the eyes of the Pharisees, publicans and sinners are so very sick, should they not be healed?  Is it the business of the healer to heal the healthy or the sick?  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 424)


If pushed he would doubtless have affirmed the universal sinfulness of man (cf. 7:11).  Therefore he is not dividing men into two groups but disavowing one image of what Messiah should be and do, replacing it with the correct one.  His mission was characterized by grace, a pursuit of the lost, of sinners.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 225)


Readers of the Gospels marvel at Jesus’ ability to move with ease among the sinners and outcasts.  Having spent time around “sinners” and also around purported “saints,” I have a hunch why Jesus spent so much time with the former group:  I think he preferred their company.  Because the sinners were honest about themselves and had no pretense, Jesus could deal with them.  In contrast, the saints put on airs, judged him, and sought to catch him in a moral trap.  In the end it was the saints, not the sinners, who arrested Jesus. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 274)


They [Pharisees] thought that their salvation would come from segregation.  They sought to keep themselves clean by avoiding any contact with the dregs of human society.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 272)


It was probably because of this banquet that Jesus first gained the reputation among His opponents as “a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners” (Mt 11:19; cf. Lk 15:2).  Most religious Jews, and especially the proud and self-righteous scribes and Pharisees, could not conceive of any Jew socializing with such a group of sinners unless he were one of their own kind.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 62)


They were outraged that this Teacher who claimed to uphold standards of righteousness even higher than their own (see Mt 5:20) would willingly sit down and eat with such a flagrantly sinful group.  No doubt they were also resentful and humiliated that Jesus had never shown them such favor.  If He were really a man of God, they reasoned, why had He not given a banquet for them, the exemplars and self-appointed custodians of religious purity?  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 63)


The presence of a sinner at the feast was no more a scandal than the presence of a patient at a surgery (12).  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 52-3)


It discloses His motive, and thereby sweeps away all insinuations that He consorted with sinners because their company was congenial.  It was precisely for the opposite reason, because He was so unlike them.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 23)


At Matthew’s house there gathered a crowd that Jesus could not reach in the synagogues.  The tax collectors had been excommunicated.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 178)


That Jesus does not think the righteousness of the Pharisees to be adequate is made clear elsewhere in this book, when Jesus insists that to enter the kingdom one must possess righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law (Mt 5:20).  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 209)


The great missionary C. T. Studd (I suppose if you are to be a great missionary you should have a name like that) once wrote, “Some want to live within the sound of Church or Chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 245)


Here is Jesus, the Messiah of Israel sharing meal fellowship (the most intimate social custom in Jewish society) with unclean Jews and Gentiles, extending “to them fellowship with God.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 245)


Paul had written several epistles before he wrote, “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing” (Rom 7:18).  In one of his earliest writings he rated himself as number twelve or thirteen, saying, “I am the least of the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:9).  Later in his ministry he classified himself as number 500,000 or thereabouts, writing, I “am less than the least of all saints” (Eph 3:8).  But as an old man in prison and about to die, he wrote to young Timothy, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Tm 1:15).  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Remedy/God’s River, 202)


I am the least of the apostles. 1 Corinthians 15:9

I am the very least of all the saints. Ephesians 3:8

I am the foremost of sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15

Humility and a passion for praise are a pair of characteristics which together indicate growth in grace. The Bible is full of self-humbling (man bowing down before God) and doxology (man giving praise to God). The healthy heart is one that bows down in humility and rises in praise and adoration. The Psalms strike both these notes again and again. So too, Paul in his letters both articulates humility and breaks into doxology.  Look at his three descriptions of himself quoted above, dating respectively from around A.D. 59, 63, and 64.  As the years pass he goes lower; he grows downward!  And as his self-esteem sinks, so his rapture of praise and adoration for the God who so wonderfully saved him rises.

Undoubtedly, learning to praise God at all times for all that is good is a mark that we are growing in grace.  One of my predecessors in my first parochial appointment died exceedingly painfully of cancer.  But between fearful bouts of agony, in which he had to stuff his mouth with bedclothes to avoid biting his tongue, he would say aloud over and over again:  “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1).  That was a passion for praise asserting itself in the most poignant extremity imaginable.

Cultivate humility and a passion for praise if you want to grow in grace. (James Packer, Your Father Loves You)


No creature that deserved Redemption would need to be redeemed.  They that are whole need not the physician.  Christ died for men precisely because men are not worth dying for; to make them worth it.  (CS Lewis, The World’s Last Night, 86)


III-  The Kingdom of Heaven is open for those who understand, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”  (Mt 9:13; see also: 1 Sm 15:22-23; Jer 7:21-23; Hos 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Mic 6:6-8; Mt 5:1-10; 18:21-35; 23:23; Lk 18:9-14 )


Did you know that the Christian church is the only organization in the world where the only qualification for membership is that you are not qualified?  Not only that, properly understood, the Christian church is the only organization in the world where the only qualification for maintaining your membership is not being qualified to maintain your membership.  (Stephen Brown, When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough, 122)


The rituals and ceremonies were only as valid as the contriteness of the worshiper.  And the person who sacrificed to God in genuine reverence would serve his fellow man in genuine compassion.  Conversely, the person who is cold toward other people proves he is also cold toward God, no matter how orthodox his theology and how impeccable his external moral standards.  The person who sees obvious sinners as those only to be condemned proves himself to be a greater sinner than they.  Those who are furthest from giving mercy are furthest from receiving it (see Mt 6:15; 18:23-35).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 65-6)


The only way to become a Christian is not by pointing to your qualifications, but by admitting you have no qualifications.  Which is the only qualification.  Until you admit you have no qualifications you are not qualified.  — Tim Keller


This verse must have been a favorite with Jesus, for he cites it again in 12:7.  In that passage, as well as here, Jesus is saying that if the leaders of the people were really right with God, they would show mercy to the lost and seek to call them to repentance and faith, as Jesus was.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 151)


The manifestation of “goodness” with respect to both God and man was what God desired, rather than merely burnt-offerings.  That is the essence of the Hosea passage (6:6) quoted here in Mt 9:12.  When without a genuine change of heart and conduct sacrifices were nevertheless brought, this amounted to dead ritualism, loathsome to the Lord (8:13, 14).  “Religion” without goodness or kindness is worthless.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 425)


The reference to Hosea was appropriate, for that book deals with spiritual adultery and harlotry.  The burden of the book grew out of the tragedy in Hosea’s family life, and the prophet’s task was to show Israel the heart of God, broken over their hardness and sin.  God was saying to Israel, “You bring Me sacrifices as though I had some need for them.  What I want is to show you mercy.”

Jesus, talking to those who thought they were teachers, was saying, “Go and learn the heart of God.  Then you will understand why I sit with publicans and sinners.”  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 163)


Righteousness is not of course in itself a bad thing; indeed, properly understood it is the goal of discipleship (6:6, 10, 20; 6:33).  But the sort of “righteousness” which puts sacrifice before mercy is not the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven (see on 5:20), and those who rely on such correctness of behavior are not likely to find their way through the narrow gate.  It is hard for the “righteous” in that sense to recognize their need for a Messiah whose role is to “save his people from their sins” (1:21).  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 355)


To the Pharisees, a sinner is a person who has violated the law according to their interpretations.  But to Jesus, a sinner is any person who remains opposed to God’s will.  The Pharisees consider themselves to be righteously healthy before God because they define righteousness by their observance of the law–their “sacrifice.”  But they are blind to their real sinfulness before God.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 367)


Today even many Christians read and say “forgive us our trespasses” as “give me a break.”  In the typically late-twentieth-century manner, this saves the ego and its egotism.  “I am not a sinner, I just need a break!”  But no, I need more than a break.  I need pity because of who I am.  If my pride is untouched when I pray for forgiveness, I have not prayed for forgiveness.  I don’t even understand it.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 264)


They could see no defects in themselves and no good in those who were not like them.  They were so pleased with themselves that they considered their enemies to be God’s enemies.  They were so convinced of their own doctrinal rightness that any belief or standard contrary to their own was by definition heretical and ungodly.  They were so convinced of their own moral and spiritual righteousness that anyone who questioned their holiness questioned God’s.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 63)


By these words he does not absolutely reject burnt-offerings, but places them in a rank inferior to piety and faith.  We ought to hold, that faith and spiritual worship are in themselves pleasing to God, and that charity and the duties of humanity towards our neighbors are in themselves required; but that sacrifices are but appendages, so to speak, which are of no value or estimation, where substantial truth is not found.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 403)


If a person’s heart is far from God, ritual will become empty mockery.  God did not want the Israelites’ rituals; he wanted their hearts.  Jesus challenged the Pharisees to apply Hosea’s words to themselves.  The Pharisees’ rigid guidelines had created an artificial distinction between the “righteous” and “sinners.”  As a result, the religious leaders, who should have guided and taught the people, had instead separated themselves.  Thus, the “worship” of the religious leaders was as empty as a sacrifice given without thought of God.  God wants a heart attitude that includes a right relationship with him and with others, an attitude that reaches out to those in physical and spiritual need.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 181)


The only qualification you need to enter the Kingdom of Heaven is to know that you are disqualified.


A religion that tithes mint, dill, and cumin but leaves undone the weightier matters of the law:  justice, mercy, and fidelity, is nothing but a sad distortion of the genuine article.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 425)


“Go ye and learn,” the Lord added, applying a well-known rabbinic formula used by Jewish teachers when confronted with superficial knowledge.  His critics thought they knew so much about the law, and Jesus said, “Go ye and learn”!  He directed them to Hosea 6:6 and repeated the gist of it: “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.”  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 163)


The quotation, possibly translated from the Hebrew by Matthew himself, is cast in Semitic antithesis:  “not A but B” often means “B is of more basic importance than A.”  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 225)


IV-  The question Jesus is forcing you to answer is, “How badly do you need the Great Physician Jesus?”  (Ps 51:16-17; Mt 5:1-10; 10:37-38; 13:44-46; 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 5:8; 9:23, 47-50; 14:26-27, 33; 18:9-14; Jn 6:60-69; 9:40-41; Phil 3:7-10; Rv 3:17)


In Tournier’s words: . . . believers who are most desperate about themselves are the ones who express most forcefully their confidence in grace.  There is a St. Paul. . . and a St. Francis of Assisi, who affirmed that he was the greatest sinner of all men; and a Calvin, who asserted that man was incapable of doing good and of knowing God by his own power. . .

“It is the saints who have a sense of sin.” as Father Danielou says; “the sense of sin is the measure of a soul’s awareness of God.”  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 183)


Christian living, therefore, must be founded upon self-abhorrence and self-distrust because of indwelling sin’s presence and power.  Self-confidence and self-satisfaction argue self-ignorance.  The only healthy Christian is the humble, broken-hearted Christian.  (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 196)


The Law is a divinely sent Hercules to attack and kill the monster of self-righteousness and to show us every day just how desperate we need God’s grace. (Martin Luther as quoted by  Tullian Tevidgjian; Life Without God – Pt 7)


When a man is humbled by the law, and brought to the knowledge of himself, then follows true repentance (for true repentance begins at the fear and judgement of God), and he sees himself to be so great a sinner that he can find no means how he may be delivered from his sin by his own strength, endeavor and works.   (Martin Luther; Galatians, 94)


Did you ever think that when you became a Christian you made an announcement to the world that you are screwed up, desperately needy and weak, and horribly sinful?   Jesus didn’t come for well people . . .  He is only the Great Physician for really sick people.  That’s why we ran to him.  And Luther said that the definition of sanctification is “getting used to being forgiven.”  (Steve Brown; Key Life Newsletter: July 2007)


He was saying, “It is only those who know how much they need me who can accept my invitation.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 334)


The first thing needed in order to have an interest in Christ is to feel deeply our own corruption, and to be willing to come to him for deliverance.  We are not to keep away from Christ, as many ignorantly do, because we feel bad and wicked and unworthy; we are to remember that sinners are those he came into the world to save, and that if we feel we are sinners, that is good.  Happy is he who really comprehends that one principal qualification for coming to Christ is a deep sense of sin!  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 65)


Contrary to popular opinion, genuine Christians do not think of themselves as better than other people.  Indeed, many converts discover, within a few short weeks of their conversion, that their hearts are more deceptive and sinful than they ever thought possible.  That is a common aftermath of conversion:  the euphoria (if there was any) gradually dissipates, to be replaced by a puzzling and growing sense of sin.  The reason is obvious to more mature Christians:  growing conformity to Jesus Christ, the powerful work of the Spirit within us, soon shows up the level of our self-centeredness.  Attitudes and reactions we display that never troubled us in the past now appear as abominations.  But there is an immense benefit.  Our growing awareness of the magnitude of our sin can only result in growing thankfulness for the richness of the pardon we have received.  When we are reminded that Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners,” far from being offended, we are relieved.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 210)


In the Parable of the Great Feast (Mt 22:1-10; Lk 14:15-24) we well remember how the invited guests refused their invitation, and how the poor, and the lame, and the halt, and the blind were gathered together from the highways and the byways and the hedgerows to sit at the table of the King.  It may well be that Jesus is saying, “When you make a feast you invite the coldly orthodox and the piously self-righteous; when I make a feast I invite those who are most conscious of their sin and those whose need of God is greatest.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 333)


The passage makes clear that not to those who consider themselves worthy but rather to those who are in desperate need the invitation to salvation, full and free, is extended.  It was sinners, the lost, the straying, the beggars, the burdened ones, the hungry and thirsty, whom Jesus came to save.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 426)


There are multitudes who fancy themselves to be sound and whole, who think they have no need of Christ, but that they can shift for themselves well enough without him, as Laodicea, Rv 3:17.  Thus the Pharisees, desired not the knowledge of Christ’s word and ways, not because they had no need of him, but because they thought they had none.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 119)


The more sensible any sinners are of their sinfulness, the more welcome will Christ and his gospel be to them; and every one chooses to go where his company is desired, not to those who would rather have his room.  Christ came not with an expectation of succeeding among the righteousness, those who conceit themselves so, and therefore will sooner be sick of their Savior, than sick of their sins, but among the convinced humble sinners; to them Christ will come, for to them he will be welcome.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 119)


The Pharisee had never seen the need of forgiveness and there is no more terrible sin than that.  I know of nothing worse than the person who says:  ‘You know I have never really felt that I am a sinner’.  That is the height of sin because it means that you have never realized the truth about God and the truth about yourself.  Read the argument of the Apostle Paul and you will find that his logic is not only inevitable, but also unanswerable.  ‘There is none righteous, no not one.’  We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God.’  If you have never realized your guilt or guiltiness before God you will never have joy in Christ.  It is impossible.  ‘Not the righteous; sinners Jesus came to save.’  ‘They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick.’  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression:  Its Causes and Cure, 31)


The worst sinners often make the ripest candidates for God’s mercy because unlike the “righteous”–the religious person with no blemishes on his background check–the sinner knows his need and longs for a cure.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 245)


How could the young ruler understand his sinfulness if he completely misunderstood God’s law?  How can today’s sinners, who are totally ignorant of God’s holy law and its demands upon them, look at themselves as condemned sinners?  The idea of sin is strange because God’s law is foreign to their minds.  (Walter J. Chantry, Today’s Gospel:  Authentic or Synthetic?, 37)


Augustine pleaded, “Lord, save me from that wicked man, myself.”  John Knox, perhaps the greatest preacher in the history of Scotland, confessed, “In youth, in middle age and now after many battles, I find nothing in me but corruption.”  John Wesley wrote, “I am falled short of the glory of God, my whole heart is altogether corrupt and abominable, and consequently my whole life being an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit.”  His brother Charles, who penned so many great hymns, confessed, “Vile and full of sin I am.”  Augustus Toplady, who wrote the beloved hymn “Rock of Ages,” said of himself, “Oh, that such a wretch as I should ever be tempted to think highly of himself.  I am myself nothing but sin and weakness, in whose flesh naturally dwells no good thing.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 58)


John Newton, a minister, once wrote a letter to a man who was very depressed.  Take note of what he said:

You say you feel overwhelmed with guilt and a sense of unworthiness?  Well, indeed you cannot be too aware of the evils inside of yourself, but you may be, indeed you are, improperly controlled and affected by them.  You say it is hard to understand how a holy God could accept such an awful person as yourself.  You then express not only a low opinion of yourself, which is right, but also too low an opinion of the person, work, and promises of the Redeemer, which is wrong.  You complain about sin, but when I look at your complaints, they are so full of self-righteousness, unbelief, pride, and impatience that they are little better than the worst evils you complain of.  (John Newton, The Works of the Rev. John Newton, Vol. VI, 185)  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 90)


Kaleō (to call) was often used of inviting a guest to one’s home for food and lodging.  The inference here is clear.  Jesus did not come to call the self-righteous to salvation for the same reason He did not call the Pharisees to recline with Him at the dinner in Matthew’s house.  They were too good in their own eyes to condescend to such humiliation.  And because they would not identify themselves with fellow sinners, they could not be identified with Christ, who offers salvation only to sinners who willingly acknowledge they are sinners.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 66)


The Jews were to see their inability to keep the Law and, because of this, look to the Messiah all the more.  God designed the Law this way.  Moreover, even if by some miracle a Jew was able to keep EVERY SINGLE tenet of the Law, he would likely still fail in one—his attitude.  The Law, after all, creates a horrible “Catch-22” almost by necessity.  The better you “keep” the Law, the more you think yourself basically “good” and the less you humble yourself before God.  You quickly become self-righteous and prideful.  Thus, though you may be able to keep many outward tenets of the Law (as the Pharisees did), your motivation for doing so would have shifted from love of God to love of self.  All the outward piety in the world cannot cover a sick and twisted heart.  Period. — Chris Scripter


You will not find a verse in Scripture where people are told to “bow your heads, close your eyes, and repeat after me.”  You will not find a place where a superstitious sinner’s prayer is even mentioned.  And you will not find an emphasis on accepting Jesus.  We have taken the infinitely glorious Son of God, who endured the infinitely terrible wrath of God and who now reigns as the infinitely worthy Lord of all, and we have reduced him to a poor, puny Savior who is just begging for us to accept him.

Accept him?  Do we really think Jesus needs our acceptance?  Don’t we need him?  (David Platt, Radical, 37)


“If,” He was saying to the Pharisees, “you are really as spiritually and morally perfect as you claim to be, you do not need any help from God or other men.  If you are indeed spiritually healthy, you do not need a spiritual physician.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 64)


Sinners we are in the day we first come to Christ.  Poor needy sinners we continue to be so long as we live, drawing all the grace we have in the hour of our death, and shall die as much indebted to Christ’s blood as on the day when we first believed.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 65)


If in the presence of human superlativeness your self image comes crashing down around your ears, then even if you got into the presence of God who is pure love you would hate yourself.  You would say, I’m so cruel, I’m so unloving, I used to think that I loved people but now I know that I have never loved anybody.

Think about it.  If in the presence of human superlativeness your self image comes crashing down around your ears, how could it be different with God?  How could it be otherwise with God?   Here’s how you know when you have begun to get into the presence of the real God, that you’ve begun to have God move into reality.  You see that you are a sinner.  You think you’re lost.  You see you are more capable of cruelty, more capable of evil, more selfish, more petty, more small minded, more impatient than you ever thought you were.  And you know you are a sinner and you know you need to be rescued by grace.  And if you say, “O that’s real negative.”

Come on, I just said to you, “If there is a real God (who is holy ) it would have to feel like that.”  How could it be otherwise?   It couldn’t be otherwise.

And if you say, “Well I just don’t believe, that you know, that people should feel sinful.”  Well then you haven’t been near God.   (Tim Keller sermon, “The Gospel and Yourself”)


We creatures, we jolly beggars, give glory to God by our dependence.  Our wounds and defects are the very fissures through which grace might pass.  It is our human destiny on earth to be imperfect, incomplete, weak, and mortal, and only by accepting that destiny can we escape the force of gravity and receive grace. Only then can we grow close to God.

Strangely, God is closer to sinners than to “saints.”  (By saints I mean those people renowned for their piety—true saints never lose sight of their sinfulness.)  As one lecturer in spirituality explains it, “God in heaven holds each person by a string.  When you sin, you cut the string.  Then God ties it up again, making a knot—and thereby bringing you a little closer to him.  Again and again your sins cut the string—and with each further knot God keeps drawing you closer and closer.”  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 273)


“In sports you have to be good enough in your athletic skill to make the team.  In business you have to perform according to agreed-upon standards in order to keep your job.  In society you have to be a winner in order to merit recognition.  In Jesus Christ, you do not have to be good enough, you do not have to perform, you do not have to be a winner.  Ironically, to be in Christ means exactly the opposite—it is to admit that you are not good enough, that you cannot perform, that because of sin’s grip on your life you are a loser—and to admit, for that very reason, that you need a Savior, a Savior whose unconditional love transforms you life.” (Patrick Morley; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, 176)


Worship Point:  Only King Jesus has the authority to undo all the damage that we have created.  Worship will come naturally to anyone who understands the work and heart of Jesus. (Mt 1:21-23; Lk 19:10; Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12; 2 Cor 5:17-21; Rv 21:5)


Right now 100 million angels are begging to get close to God to worship him.  Why do we find it so hard to worship ?   We’re sick.   —Francis Chan


It was the intention of Christ to choose simple and ignorant persons to that rank, in order to cast down the wisdom of the world, (1 Cor 2:6).  But this publican, who followed an occupation little esteemed and involved in many abuses, was selected for additional reasons, that he might be an example of Christ’s undeserved goodness, and might show in his person that the calling of all of us depends, not on the merits of our own righteousness, but on his pure kindness.  Matthew, therefore, was not only a witness and preacher, but was also a proof and illustration of the grace exhibited in Christ.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 399)


LUTHER: If we see ourselves as a little sinner, we will see Christ as a little savior

If we see ourselves as a big sinner, we will see Christ as a big savior.


Gospel Application:  We can only experience the restoring,  renewing, reforming, revitalizing, rebirthing, resurrecting, reconciling, and redeeming authority of Jesus when we forsake all others and follow Jesus.  He alone has the way and the words to eternal life.   (Jn 6:68; 14:6; Acts 4:12)


Of all the disciples, Matthew doubtlessly made the greatest sacrifice of material possessions, yet he himself makes no mention of it.  He felt with Paul that “whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil 3:7).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 62)


Spiritual Challenge:  See your desperate need for Jesus.  See Jesus as the only One Who has the authority to make your life better.  He alone has the ability to make you well.


Let us not forget that it is broken and contrite hearts which God will not despise; therefore, any ministry which fails to produce them, no matter how acceptable, is nevertheless in the sight of God a failure.  (John D. Drysdale; The Price of Revival, 33)




It stands to reason, then, that God’s rewards are given to those who work hard at being obedient, religious, and pure.  Right?

No!  That lie is from the pit of hell and smells like smoke.  Therein is the reason so many miss God’s love.  The church is the one organization in the world where the only qualification for membership is not being qualified.  The less qualified you are, the more qualified you become.

Now, that’s crazy.  And it would make us more comfortable if God got it right.  In fact, the church–God have mercy on us–has been working hard at trying to remedy God’s error.  Jesus came for the sick…but if you get well, he’ll like you a whole lot more.  Jesus came for the sinners…but if you want to be blessed by God’s love, repent of your sin and get rid of it.  Jesus came for the outcasts, the rebels, and the lost…but we, in our effort to fix God’s mistake, turn them away.

The most important and difficult truth of the Christian faith is:  “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tm 1:15).

For a long time, I believed the lie that if one is good enough, one can be loved by God.  I still struggle with it.  But when I believe that lie, I miss the incredible and unconditional love of God.  (Steve Brown; “Love is a Lot Stronger Than I Thought It Was”, Key Life Magazine, Fall/Christmas 2006)



The Great Physician

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply