February 22, 2017: Jesus Has Homework for You

Morning: Matthew 9:9-13; Noon: Leviticus 25; Evening: Psalm 34:9-22

When Jesus says, “Go and learn,” that means you better sit down and do your homework. The original word translated “learn,” is the same root word in the Greek from which is derived “disciple,” i.e. a student, a pupil. Jesus was telling this well-studied sect of Judaism in Matthew 9:9-13 to go back to school! They had not graduated properly. They had a certificate, but their transcript had all F’s.

Where do we go and learn the meaning of this perplexing statement, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”? An excellent place to start would be observing the days following the Garden of Eden. Cain was said to have brought an offering of the fruit of the ground, and his brother an animal sacrifice. Abel was accepted. Cain was rejected. God did not respect Cain’s offering, because Cain did not respect God! God wanted His respect. He wanted Cain to offer a sacrifice in accordance with His will (See Romans 10:17 and Hebrews 11:4). Cain’s rebellious attitude had finally reached its climax when he killed his brother. How fitting the words, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” God wants the heart and body, not just the body and no heart, or the heart and no body.

If the Pharisees had done Jesus’ homework, they would’ve soon found that they were just as guilty as the tax collectors and sinners. The sinners and tax collectors were obviously guilty of external transgressions, but the Pharisees and Sadducees were guilty of internal transgression. They cleansed the outside of the cup, but inside they were full of extortion and neglected the weightier matters of justice, mercy, and faith (Mat. 23:25). “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” is about the “why,” “purpose,” and “reason,” for doing what we do. Paul said, “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk.”

When you stray from the purpose of the law, you stray from the law altogether no matter how much you may exercise the flesh and bones in even a religious show of great prowess! Embracing Matthew the repentant tax collector was a shining star of Jesus’ heart and obedience to the law. You can model Jesus’ example by doing the same. Pray for your enemies in the secret places. Associate with the sinners and love them both with firmness and patience. Don’t just check the boxes, and put on a good show in the public spaces. Love mercy, and sacrifice out of the joy of your heart.

Keep doing your homework. Your test is not over!

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