I laughed upon seeing the title of this parable on my list. I did not even know what it was. So, I turned my Bible to where the parable was to be found and that has been my sermon preparation.
If you ever wonder how much preparation I have done, it includes many years of walking with Jesus. Most of the teachings I am doing on the parables of Jesus have been preached with no extra reading or commentary. They are all life- related coming from my personal experiences during a thirty five year relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Also they come from endless hours spent meditating on the Old Testament; on the Parables of Jesus and His other teachings as well as the Epistles in the New Testament.
Add to that, the fact that when you deliver a sermon for which you have no preparation, it leaves a lot of room for the Holy Spirit to use you. When people see some of my simple teachings and call them profound, rich and deep, all glory has to go to God, because it’s not me that is doing it: I am a simple person. If you find these teachings very deep, that is the Holy Spirit speaking through me onto the page.
I find it interesting sharing the parables of Jesus because they do not give the real meaning right away. You have to search for what it really means as intended by Jesus Christ.
So here we go. Jesus was known as a Jewish Rabbi and yet some of His closest associates and friends were tax collectors and known sinners. The religious leaders were appalled by His choice of company. Now we will start our parable:
Matthew 9:11-12: “And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick, but go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous but sinners, to repentance.’”
Have you ever had a major decay in your tooth? Some of my teeth, I have to confess, are not there any more. An infection came into my mouth from tooth decay so badly that I couldn’t sleep without pain killers. So, I finally went to the dentist. He said that I needed major root canal therapy which would cost nine hundred and fifty dollars or I had to have the tooth removed.
At that stage, I was still in my addiction and living on a disability pension in a Housing Commission flat, I opted for the extraction. Now, let me ask you this question, when you have a rotten tooth and the pain is unbearable, do you seek out the dentist? If you had the means to pay for the big job in order to save your tooth, would you do it? Or would you go for the cheaper option and be willing to lose you tooth? What about when you have a headache? Do you reach for a pain-killer to stop the headache? What about if you have a migraine? What if you develop a troublesome rash on your skin? Don’t you go to someone qualified and buy cream for it?
When we are sick, we seek out a doctor. When we have the solution to our sickness, like cold and flu tablets and basic cough medicines, we do not feel we need a physician because we already have our answer. When our sickness gets to a stage when we can no longer handle it, we look for a doctor’s help. Now, that is hard sometimes for people in America, if they do not have medical insurance: both medicine and doctors are so expensive. Here, in Australia you can basically receive medical or dental attention for free, if you are desperate enough.
So, bearing all that in mind, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick” (v.12b).
The Pharisees were people who had studied the Old Testament Law. But then, they had a whole lot of other rules and regulations in a separate book which contained their added on requirements and interpretations. But the Pharisees wrote those rules and conditions, in such a way that it was extremely difficult to obey all the man-made rules about God’s commandments. The Pharisees took pride in their own self-righteousness. They fasted, they tithed and they sacrificed. They always uttered pious public prayers and wore their long robes and their phylacteries on their arm or on their foreheads. (These were portions of Scripture placed in little leather cases which were prominently placed on them with leather straps.)
Essentially, they saw themselves as more important, more holy, more respectable and more loved by God. Because they never polluted themselves with sinners, they felt that they were perfectly acceptable to God. They were very self satisfied and opinionated. After all, they were “good” people who always kept the Law!
For Jesus—a holy Rabbi no less— to sit with a real sinner, someone who is blatantly sinning—the scum of the earth—was just an offense to them. It was a stench in their nostrils. It really annoyed them. So much so, that even in Jesus’ presence they complained of His choice. The Scripture records: “Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples” (v.10).
So, Jesus walks into this house, and right away he has a whole lot of tax collectors and sinners, come and sit down to eat a meal with Him and to enjoy His wonderful company.
To put this in a modern setting: Imagine Jesus was with us today in person. Jesus went and sat down in a certain house. Then many politicians, many drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes and pedophiles came down and sat with Jesus and started to break bread, have dinner with him and tell jokes.
Is that not offensive to you? Is it offensive to anyone?
What if I came round to your house? For example, you are having an open-air barbecue. I have just sat down. Imagine that I am an international public speaker of the Gospel. I have two hundred and fifty speaking engagements every year and I am in your city. I have been invited around to your house for a barbecue to meet you and to spend some time with you. When I get there, all the local pimps, prostitutes, homosexuals, drug addicts, drug lords, child sex offenders and slave traders arrive to greet me and join me for your barbeque. They all gate crash the party and sit down and say, “Hey Matthew, we have seen you on You Tube. You are so cool, man. Can we sit down here and have lunch?”
What if they gate crashed your party? How would you feel? Maybe you are not like the Pharisees. Maybe you are a beautiful Christian. In your daily life, you are mixing with people from all walks of life and you can handle these sorts of people at your party.
I live in a community. My church is a community of people like that. These are not offensive people to me. In fact, it’s hard for me to relate very well with some goodie-goodie Christians at times. I find it much easier to mix with sinners at my “street-level” church in inner Sydney. Jesus was the same way.
Imagine if Jesus had said to the Pharisees on that day, “These people are sick. They have a “spiritual toothache.” They need someone to do a “root canal” for them or they need someone to extract the tooth. Why are you getting on my case? They are the ones that need some help. You do not care! They are written off as sinners and tax collectors. They are scum of the earth to you. You will not lift a finger to help them with their sin, or make them more righteous or help them obey the Law. You just reject them outright. I am not going to reject them, because they need the truth. They have a toothache, can’t you see? They are messed up. They need some answers. You are the guys with all the answers. You obey the Law perfectly. You are not sick but they are and they need a physician.
“So, go and learn what this means. I desire mercy not sacrifice. I do not want your type of fasting two days a week. I do not want you to throw your coins into the poor-box and make a big loud ring so the people know how generous you are!”
The poor-box used to have a large opening in the top of it so that you could place your hand down into the poor-box really quietly and drop the coin in the bottom. Or, you could throw your coin in and it would make a big “Clang! Clang! Clang
The Pharisees were the so-called righteous and religious people of that day—people bound up with religion and self-righteousness. They were used to having their coins make a bang and a clang so that everyone would turn around and say, “Oh, he just gave some money to the poor!”
Jesus said, “When you give your alms, do not sound the trumpet.” Do not make that big clang that was called “sounding the trumpet.” Do not do that. Do not let your right arm know what your left arm is doing.
So the Pharisees used to sacrifice their money. They even used to sacrifice one tenth of their herbs almost down to the last leaf. They used to give their animal sacrifices to the priests. Also, they made their first fruits offerings. They used to do everything perfectly. But all these things they were doing to be righteous, were works of the flesh.
Jesus said, “I desire mercy and compassion.”
You see, dear reader, most people in Australia would pass by a heroin addict—someone who is putting a needle in their arm—and have no mercy on them. Do you know that approximately eighty two percent of Australians who have heroin addiction have been sexually abused as a child? They need help. I am not sure you understand what it feels like to be molested by someone twenty years older than you. I understand what that is like and I can assure you, it seriously messes with your head.
When you are living with any of the following, it seriously messes your head up: promiscuous relationships; addiction to prostitutes; addiction to pornography; or addiction to alcohol.
It has taken me a lot of work, help, counseling and much genuine understanding to become healed and into the place where I am now. I still have pain and hurt that needs to be healed, but I am well on the way to full restoration and I know God’s peace and forgiveness.
Jesus says we should have mercy on people like these. Don’t condemn these people and don’t write them off as someone who could never be saved by Jesus. This is the first time I have been so frank in this collection of parables, but it serves this parable well for you to know that, in my past, I used the services of prostitutes for twenty years. How many times did I sin then? I have slept with men, I have done all sorts of wicked things and here I am, sharing that I am free of those addictions.
Yet God is still using me. That is because Jesus had mercy on me. He is still the same. He is still showing love. He loves all the hurting and broken people in the world. He wants you to do the same. He does not want you to condemn all those sinners.
We look at this parable and think to ourselves how bad the Pharisees were for condemning Jesus and yet if we are honest—truly honest with ourselves—we do not think that people practicing addictions and sexual sins should be allowed to fellowship with all of the “clean and righteous” churchgoers.
We spend time in the Bible. We spend time at church and Bible studies and we spend our money giving to the work of the Lord. We make all these sacrifices and we think we please God, but if these things are not done in the right spirit they are worthless! God calls all of them acts of self-righteousness. (The Bible calls them “filthy rags.”) The only “work” that we can do to please God, is to live by faith in the Son of God.
Jesus wants us to show mercy to the broken and hurting, as well as sacrificing in the proper way, which is led by the Spirit of God and not ego! He wants us to be doctors to the people who have pain and suffering and to heal their emotional and spiritual lives through the power of the Holy Spirit and by His wisdom.