19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19–20, NKJV)
Jesus respected and obeyed the Law of Moses, and, He taught those who lived under it to do the same. But, Jesus speaks here to more than faithfully keeping the Law of Moses. He drives to the heart of righteousness in the kingdom of heaven (the Son’s kingdom, which is His church, Matthew 16:18-19; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 12:22-23, 28). The scribes and Pharisees hypocritically strained at gnats and swallowed camels by emphasizing parts of Moses’ law while abandoning “justice and mercy and faith” (Matthew 23:23-24). That was their form of righteousness. But, righteousness in the kingdom is not about selecting some commands and ignoring others. It is not about displaying ourselves so others will praise us (Matthew 6:1, 5, 16). Greatness in the kingdom of heaven is about a heart and life that “does and teaches” all of God’s commands (Matthew 5:19). That is how we “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 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.” (Matthew 9:11–13, NKJV)
Did Jesus condone sin by eating with sinners? No. A careful reading of today’s text shows Jesus knew these people were sinners, because He alluded to their need for a physician. Was He “judging” them? No. They were sinners – “sick” in sin. Far from condoning sin or “judging” people unjustly, Jesus showed mercy by calling sinners “to repentance” while eating with them (Luke 15:1-2). Those who complained against Jesus for doing so had no mercy in their hearts for sinners. Why? Because they did not see their own sin and their own need for mercy. All have sinned, but not all sinners see their sin and how much they need mercy. These self-righteous complainers had no compassion toward sinners because they refused to deal honestly with their own sin (Luke 18:9-14). We learn to be merciful toward others by learning we need mercy, too. Mercy does not ignore sin, it calls on sinners to face their sin and to repent. That is what Jesus did. The Pharisee offers his sacrifices to God, yet forgets to be merciful (Matthew 23:23-24). And, he complains against those who shows God’s mercy to sinners. What a dreadful place to be!
26 Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” (John 9:26–27, NKJV)
Some people do not want to believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Put another way, some people do not want to believe the truth even when it is staring them in the face. The blind man whom Jesus healed had already told the Pharisees and Jewish leaders what happened and how he could now see (John 9:8-17). His parents agreed their son, who was born blind, could now see. But, instead of accepting the evidence of a great miracle and believing in Jesus as the Son of God, the Pharisees and Jewish leaders resisted and argued. They were not listening, nor did they care to listen. Their minds were made up. The evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God is abundant (John 20:30-31). May it never be that we reach a point where we prefer to defend ourselves and our opinions (which is what they were doing, John 9:14-16) instead of humbly yielding to Jesus Christ and His truth (John 8:31-32). If we do, we have joined hands with the enemies of Jesus, and will die in our sins (John 9:39-41; 8:23-24).
45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. 46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet. (Matthew 21:45–46, NKJV)
How do you react when the Scriptures pierce through to your heart and you know they are addressing your life? Are you receptive and humbly responsive to God’s call of repentance, redemption and spiritual renewal in Jesus Christ? Or, do you castoff its rebukes and promptings like these priests and Pharisees did? They knew Jesus had been addressing their rejection of Him and God’s punishment for doing so (Matthew 21:42-44). But, they obstinately tried to silence God’s Son instead of accepting His message of truth. And, so it goes today. The truth of God’s word melts the tender heart even as it hardens the prideful heart of unbelief. Receive its indictments of sin and offerings of redemption. God’s warnings and rebukes bring life in the Son to those who are corrected by them. Those who oppose the word of Christ will be ground to powder (Matthew 21:44). Those whose hearts are broken by it will not be put to shame (Romans 9:33).
23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24, NKJV)
Jesus did not pronounce this stinging condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees because they were careful to tithe herbs (this was commanded in God’s law to Israel, Leviticus 27:30). He pronounced woe upon them for abandoning the principles and motives that characterize acceptable obedience to God. They strained out a gnat and swallowed a camel with their minute correctness while failing to obey God out of justice, mercy and faith. They “passed by justice and the love of God” in their zeal to keep the law (Luke 11:42). Unfortunately, this passage is frequently used as an “either, or” proposition to justify disobedience in the name of justice, mercy, faith and the love of God. Jesus did not say that. He taught that careful obedience is useless unless it genuinely expresses faith, mercy and justice. Obeying God does not contradict justice, mercy, and faith. While being faithful to obey God, be just and merciful to others. Do not “pass by the love of God” lest you fall into condemnation (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3).
1 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1–2, NKJV)
Yes, Jesus ate with sinners (including Pharisees, Luke 7:36-50). On this occasion, the Pharisees and scribes charged Jesus with giving credence to sin by being with sinners. With a contemporary twist on this worn out accusation, people today say that since “Jesus ate with sinners” we should have no problem doing so. They fail to see why the tax collectors and sinners drew close to Jesus. They came to listen to the teaching of Jesus (verse 1)! It is not uncommon for worldly people to try to draw Christians into compromising situations by saying, “Jesus ate with sinners – why won’t you?” When you offer Christ’s teachings as your topic of conversation with them, they refuse. Why? Because that is not what they want. They are not like the sinners with whom Jesus ate. Instead, they want you to accept them in their sin (or at least, they want you to say nothing about it to them). If you agree to such a silent, social interchange you weaken your godly influence and give the worldly person an opportunity to claim your approval, merely because you ate with them. When Jesus ate with sinners He talked with them about their souls, repentance and salvation (Lk. 15:3-7). That should be our topic of conversation with sinners, too.
39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” 40 Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.” (John 9:39–41, NKJV)
Jesus is a decision point in your life. When you are presented the evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, you must decide what you will do with Jesus (see John 9:35-38 and the decision made). That is the judgment for which Jesus came into the world (v. 39). He came to give spiritual sight to the spiritually blind. Yet, His truth also blinds those who refuse Jesus and trust in themselves for spiritual guidance. Jesus is the light of the world who brings enlightenment to those who are blinded by sin (John 8:12). Those who pridefully believe they do not need Jesus remain blinded in their sins. Admitting your spiritual blindness enables you to see Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, but you harden yourself in sin by refusing Him. What decision are you making about Jesus? Is pride causing you to refuse Jesus? If so, you remain blinded in your sins. Or, have you decided to believe and follow Jesus in the light? Your decision has eternal consequences (Rom. 2:1-11).